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What Is a Legal Separation in Missouri?

Not every major dispute in a marriage will necessarily lead to a divorce. For some couples, a legal separation could provide an opportunity to assess the future of a relationship without permanently terminating the marriage under the eyes of the law.

A legal separation is a type of final order issued by the courts. While there are some similarities between separation orders and divorce decrees, there are also important differences to be aware of. Our firm could help you evaluate your options and make a decision that is best for you.

How Legal Separation Works in Missouri

Not all states formally recognize legal separation. In some jurisdictions, the courts will not get involved when spouses separate without filing divorce proceedings. In those jurisdictions, the decision to separate is an informal one made between spouses that remain married.

That is not the case in Missouri. Missouri law recognizes formal legal separation. These separation agreements are made as a final order by the court. While not permanent, many of the terms of these agreements cover the same issues laid out in divorce proceedings.

When a judge decides issues related to legal separation, they do so while considering the same factors as a divorce case. When issues of child custody are considered, the court is required to act in the best interest of the child. There are numerous factors that could weigh into determining a child’s best interests, including their relationship with each parent, their age, and their developmental needs.

Separation vs. Divorce in Missouri

The major difference between separation and divorce in Missouri is the finality of divorce proceedings. While a separation agreement is considered a final order under the law, the courts have the power to change that order in the future. With a divorce, the marriage comes to a complete end. Once a marriage is terminated, it may not be revived.

While separation and divorce differ in important ways, one can have an effect on another. Many people go through legal separation prior to filing for divorce. For starters, the terms of a legal separation order are often a precursor to the terms of a final divorce decree. Remember: these orders cover most of the same issues as divorce decrees. From spousal support to child visitation, these important issues are largely address prior to a divorce.

The courts rarely change the terms of these orders without a compelling reason. If a judge determines that a specific child custody arrangement is in the child’s best interest, they are unlikely to change their mind without a reason to do so during the divorce proceedings. Given that the terms of a separation agreement often become the terms of a divorce decree, it is vitally important to ensure your rights are protected during this process.

Common Reasons for Separation in MO

There are numerous reasons why a couple might consider separation over a divorce. The most obvious reason is that it gives a couple going through difficult times the opportunity to test the waters of living apart. For some, a separation agreement is a step towards reuniting as a couple. For others, it is a precursor to divorce.

There are other reasons for a couple to choose separation. Some couples choose separation over divorce for religious reasons. When a couple’s religious beliefs forbid divorce, legal separation could provide an opportunity for both spouses to move on from the relationship while remaining within the bounds of their religion.

There are also financial issues that could make a separation agreement a good option. If one spouse is on another’s health insurance through their employment, remaining married could drastically reduce the healthcare costs each spouse is responsible for.

Discuss Your Options With Divorce Mediation Lawyers in St. Louis MN

If you are considering legal separation, you might find that this option suits your needs in ways a traditional divorce cannot. A separation agreement could provide you with clarity on issues like child support, spousal support, and visitation while allowing you to avoid the termination of your marriage.

You have your own reason for considering separation. Regardless of that reason, the J. Rench Law Firm, LLC is here to help. To learn how we could assist you throughout the separation process, contact us right away for an initial consultation.


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