A separate maintenance and support action is available for those individuals/couples who do not have fault-based grounds for divorce, but cannot afford to live separate and apart for one year without a resolution of their rights and obligations arising out of their marriage. The parties by agreement, or the court in a contested proceeding, can address all the issues found in a normal divorce action, and award all of the same relief, except for the actual entry of the decree of divorce. A decree of separate maintenance and support is also permanent relief, such that an individual should not enter into discussions regarding the same without the advice of competent counsel.
Typically, one of the parties in a separation will ultimately go back after the one-year period of separation has run and get a simple divorce, addressing only the issue of divorce, since all other issues were resolved by the decree. However, there is no requirement that the parties ever obtain a divorce, such that some people for religious or other reasons choose not to pursue an actual divorce after the entry of a decree of separate maintenance and support.