Legal separation—also known as separate maintenance under Missouri law—is an alternative to divorce. While these orders contain many of the same details as a divorce decree, they do not bring a marriage to a formal end. Instead, these agreements provide divorcing spouses with terms on things like property division and child custody.
The process for legal separation in Missouri is similar to filing for divorce. The court will consider a petition for separate maintenance to ensure all formal requirements are met under the law. If you have questions about separate maintenance, the J. Rench Law Firm, LLC is here to help.
Filing for Legal Separation in Missouri
When one or both spouses believes that their marriage is not irretrievably broken but that separation would be beneficial, it could be appropriate to seek a legal separation. Courts generally prefer to issue orders of separation as opposed to divorce decrees, given that it gives the married couple the opportunity to repair the marriage.
The process for filing for legal separation in marriage is similar to that in a divorce case. These cases begin with a petition. Before a couple can seek a legal separation, at least one of the spouses must have resided within the State of Missouri for 90 days consecutively. This could be either party, not just the one filing the petition. This filing must be made in the circuit court where one spouse lives. If the spouses both live in Missouri but reside in different counties, it is possible for the court to transfer the case to the county where the respondent resides. The respondent is the party that did not file the petition for separate maintenance.
Unlike divorce, there are not always grounds for legal separation. This is the case when both spouses jointly seek an order of legal separation. However, there are some other requirements that must be met before the court will grant the petition. Specifically, the petition must state when the couple was married as well as the date the two separated.
How Long Does the Process Take in Missouri?
How long these cases take can vary to a degree. Some legal separations are relatively simple. In cases where a couple has no minor children and limited assets, there are often a few issues that must be resolved before the court will issue the order.
There are also cases that can take much longer to resolve. When minor children are involved, the court must determine the appropriate custody arraignment based on the best interest of the child. This process can take time, especially when the parents are not in agreement. The same is true in cases where there are disagreements over spousal support or other financial issues.
Finally, there is a minimum amount of time these cases must take. Under the law, the court must wait at least 30 days to issue a final ruling in a legal separation case.
What if Both Parties Disagree?
Many legal separations occur when both parties jointly petition the court for an order of separate maintenance. However, that is not always the case. It is important to understand that you could seek legal separation from your spouse even if they oppose your efforts. While this is possible, the process includes some additional steps.
In order for you to secure a legal separation without the consent of your spouse, you will need to establish to the court certain grounds. These are the same grounds you would rely on if you were seeking a fault divorce under the law. Some of those grounds include:
- Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage
- Criminal activity
- The relationship has become intolerable
Talk to an Attorney About Legal Separation in Missouri
If you are pursuing legal separation, you deserve an attorney that understands what is at stake. There are benefits to separating under the law as opposed to going through a divorce, but it is vital you protect your rights throughout this process.
The team at J. Rench Law Firm, LLC is here to help you protect those rights. Contact us right away for a confidential consultation.
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