The concept of divorce means the same across all US states, in which the laws define it as an official end to the marriage. However, while legal separation also affects the marital relationship, there are significant differences if you compare various jurisdictions.
Legal separation in Missouri is a type of judgment that a court enters when the parties could conceivably reconcile, but they need to resolve certain matters between them while they decide. Though the process could be a lead-up to divorce, legal separation is not the same as the waiting period of separation that might apply in other states.
An order of legal separation has critical implications for your rights, in many of the areas that you would address in a divorce case. Though the arrangement is not intended to be permanent, you are bound by the order. Plus, you still carry certain risks for not going through a full divorce. These and other important issues make it essential to retain a St. Louis legal separation attorney for assistance. Some general information about what it means to be legally separated in Missouri is also useful.
Basics of Legal Separation
In sum, separation is resolving some of the issues that you would face if you go through a divorce, but you stop short of actually ending your marriage. Under the Missouri statute on legal separation, a judge can enter an order if all of the following conditions have been met:
- At least one of the parties has been a resident or member of the military stationed in the state for at least 90 days before starting the proceeding.
- At least 30 days have elapsed between the date of filing a petition for legal separation and the date the court will enter the order.
- It may be possible for the parties to reconcile, so the marriage is not irretrievably broken.
- The court has made findings on property division, alimony for one of the parties, and custody of minor children.
Topics for Legal Separation Orders in Missouri
The property will be a primary issue to resolve through legal separation, and an initial consideration is when and how it was acquired. Assets owned before the marriage belongs to each spouse individually, while all property and debts after the wedding are part of the marital estate. Under Missouri law, all marital assets are subject to equitable distribution between the parties. This means a fair split, but it may not be exactly 50-50.
A legal separation order can also include provisions on alimony, which may be appropriate when there are financial disparities between the parties. There are numerous statutory factors used to determine the amount and duration of spousal support.
If the parties have minor children, custody, parenting time, and support will be important topics for legal separation. The child’s best interests are paramount when determining these issues.
What Happens Next in Missouri
The next steps with legal separation will depend on how the parties decide on their ability to reconcile and resume their marital relationship. If the period of time convinces you that divorce is the best decision, the legal separation order streamlines the process. Under the statute, you can convert the legal separation order into a divorce decree, as long as 90 days have elapsed since entry of the order on separation. The assumption is that very little could have changed in that time, so the arrangements in the legal separation order should stand.
If parties decide to stay together, they can petition the court to set aside the legal separation order. They are legally married, retaining all rights and obligations as spouses and parents.
Solutions for Legal Separation in Missouri
Just as with divorce cases, state law encourages parties to reach an agreement on the issues involved with legal separation. With guidance from your respective St. Louis legal separation attorneys, you might reach a compromise on property division and alimony. Parents can also address child custody, visitation, and support by agreement. The benefits of entering an agreed legal separation order include:
- You know the outcome because you agreed to the terms.
- You will not have to go through a trial, in which the judge decides disputes.
- Legal separation agreements may be negotiated and finalized within weeks, while a contested hearing could take months.
- Parents are more likely to avoid disputes over children when they work together to create a co-parenting agreement.
Consult with a Missouri Legal Separation Lawyer for Additional Details
Even if you are unsure about divorce, you should be sure to protect your rights through a legal separation order. There are benefits for your situation right away, and you gain an advantage with divorce if you eventually decide to make things permanent. To learn more about how the laws apply to your specific circumstances, please contact St. Louis Divorce & Mediation. You can also book a consultation with a legal separation attorney who can provide personalized advice.
Related Content: How Do You Get Legally Separated in Missouri?