Contemplating divorce is a serious decision, and it may be one that you or your spouse aren’t quite ready to make. However, often, when the question of divorce comes into play, there may be some aspects that need to be worked on in a marriage in order to make it work. For this reason, some couples choose to file legal separation in Missouri rather than divorce right off the bat. 

Whether you’re filing a divorce or legal separation in Missouri, it’s critical to the outcome for both spouses that you discuss your options with a family attorney in Springfield, MO. There isn’t much difference between a legal separation and divorce (which will be discussed further) except for the finality that comes with divorce. Continue reading to learn more about what legal separation is in Missouri, why a couple may choose to file for legal separation, and the legal process of filing for separation. 

What is Legal Separation in Missouri?Boy holding his hands like scale choosing between his parents

Legal separation or separate maintenance, as it’s referred to in Missouri, says that a Missouri court may enter an order that would legally separate the parties while retaining their legally-recognized marital status, according to Much like a divorce, a legal separation can provide for similar issues like:

  • Custody
  • Visitation
  • Division of Property
  • Child Support and Spousal Maintenance 

In Missouri, a legal separation can be dismissed and set aside by the court if the couple decides to reconcile their marriage. If the couple decides to move forward with a divorce, following a legal separation in Missouri, the process is relatively simple. But the petition for divorce must be filed within 90 days after the order for separate maintenance was issued. 

Why Choose Legal Separation?

There are many reasons that a couple may choose legal separation over divorce in Missouri. Insurance, children, or even religious reasons are some of the factors that come into play when a couple is headed towards divorce. Furthermore, a couple may decide to enter into a legal separation arrangement if they believe that their marriage can be reconciled. In fact, many couples who file for separate maintenance in Missouri will also attend counseling during their separation. Counseling and time apart may help to resolve their issues and keep their marriage together. 

The Legal Separation Process in Missouribusiness woman show a businessman to sign a agreement

Missouri is a state that encourages legal separation as opposed to divorce. Because of this, the process is pretty straightforward and quick, especially when working with an experienced divorce attorney. While some couples may be able to file separate maintenance without the assistance of an attorney, if there are property, alimony, or child custody issues that must be sorted out, it is always in the best interest of both parties to consult with a Springfield divorce attorney first. 

To file for legal separation, one or both parties need to file a petition to their circuit county court. Once the petition is filed, the court will enter a judgment of legal separation if it finds a reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be saved and that the marriage is not irretrievably broken. At this time, custody and visitation judgments will be passed along with considerations for alimony, child support, and property division.

Missouri Revised Statutes Section 452.310 states that the petition for separate maintenance must include the location and date of the marriage along with the date of physical separation. Additionally, it must include the names and ages of any children from the union as well as any agreements the couple has made regarding financial support and custody of the children

Missouri doesn’t require a couple to prove grounds for wanting a legal separation. However, if one of the spouses refuses to grant the requested separation as filed by the petitioner, grounds will need to be proven to proceed with the separation. Just like a divorce, these grounds include:

  • One of the spouses committed adultery
  • One of the spouses finds it intolerable to live with the other
  • One or both spouses have been involved in criminal activity
  • Both parties have been living separate and apart for at least 24 months
  • One spouse abandoned the other for a continuous period of at least six months before filing the petition
  • Both parties have lived separate and apart by mutual consent for a sustained period of 12 months immediately preceding the filing of the petition
  • The irretrievable breakdown of a marriage

As previously mentioned, a separate maintenance order can be dissolved if both parties reconcile their marriage. Conversely, a request for divorce may be filed within 90 days of the court issued legal separation in Missouri. 

Get Legal Help Today

Before you take the plunge and file for divorce, you may want to consider legal separation first. More often than not, a legal separation doesn’t hurt either the petitioner or the respondent financially, and it may allow the marriage to be saved. Whether you decide to reconcile your marriage after separation or move forward to divorce, separate maintenance will allow both you and your spouse time to make the best decision for both of your futures. Contact Missouri Legal today to schedule your no-obligation consultation to discuss your options for the most effective outcome.