Divorce is not always the preferred option for two spouses who do not get along on a personal level and no longer want to live under the same roof.
There are numerous reasons these individuals seek to end the relationship and still remain legally married, such as religion, health insurance, children, taxes, or business interests. Missouri law addresses such a situation by allowing spouses to complete the steps for a legal separation. You do not officially dissolve the marriage through this process, which is termed separate maintenance.
However, you are able to take advantage of important protections for your personal interests, children, finances, and property through a separate maintenance proceeding. The judge issues orders regarding these issues in a similar fashion to a divorce case, but the court stops short of ending the marriage.
Because legal separation shares many common elements with divorce, retaining skilled representation is just as crucial. You have reasons to avoid divorce, and there are advantages to working out your relationship through separate maintenance. With a St. Louis legal separation attorney on your side to assist with negotiating an agreement and advocate for you in court, you are better able to develop solutions that serve your needs. Plus, you may benefit from reviewing some background on how to get legally separated in Missouri.
Steps for Legal Separation in Missouri
The Missouri statute on legal separation states that the court will enter a separate maintenance order once the parties comply with the requirements of the process. An initial consideration is timing since one of the parties must be a resident of the state for at least 90 days prior to filing documents with the court. Keeping this factor in mind, the steps for obtaining a legal separation include:
- Filing the Petition: You start the process by filing a petition for legal separation, though you do not need to plead grounds like you would for divorce. In fact, the law anticipates that there is a possibility that the marriage can be preserved.
- Address Separate Maintenance Issues: The parties must consider custody and support of minor children, spousal support, and property division when going through a legal separation. They may work out the details by agreement, and the court will rule on disputes.
- 30-Day Mark: A judge cannot issue a separate maintenance order until at least 30 days have elapsed since the petition was filed. You may have to wait until this date to finalize the legal separation.
Legal Effect of Separation
A separate maintenance order will contain provisions on property division, alimony, and children, but it will not dissolve the marriage. The parties continue to hold their legal status as spouses, so they cannot remarry. However, the court’s order is legally binding on the issues it does cover. The parties are required to comply or face consequences for violations, and there are legal remedies if you need to enforce the order.
A legal separation order also plays an important role if the parties do decide to take the next step and officially divorce. After 90 days have passed following filing the petition for legal separation, either party can file the petition for divorce. At this point, it is possible to request that the judge convert the separate maintenance order into a final divorce decree. This order would include the same provisions that were part of the legal separation order, including terms on property division, alimony, and custody, visitation, and support for children. However, if you are not satisfied with the separate maintenance order, you would resolve these matters through the traditional divorce process.
If the parties take advantage of the legal separation process and decide to reconcile, they can dismiss the case. Because you were never divorced, you continue on with your marriage.
Consult with a Legal Separation Attorney in Missouri to Explore Your Options
It is important to ensure that a legal separation in Missouri is the best course of action for your situation before proceeding. While the aforementioned guide provides valuable information on the process, it is advisable to seek the guidance of a seasoned attorney to assist you in making informed decisions regarding your future. Consulting with an experienced lawyer can help you evaluate whether a formal divorce may be more beneficial due to legal or financial considerations. To explore your options further, we recommend reaching out to St. Louis Divorce & Mediation to arrange a case review. Alternatively, you can book an appointment with a Missouri legal separation lawyer online.
Related Content: What Is a Legal Separation in Missouri and St. Louis?