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What Is a Legal Separation in Missouri and St. Louis?

The term “legal separation” means different things in different jurisdictions. So exactly what is a legal separation in Missouri and St. Louis? In some places, a legal separation involves little more than a married couple living apart. That is not the case under Missouri law. In Missouri, a legal separation is a formalized separation that is recognized by the courts. A separated couple could divide property or owe spousal support while remaining legally married.

The reasons a couple opts for legal separation as opposed to divorce can vary. For some people, this option is ideal to completely severing the marital relationship. If you are considering separation or divorce, let the J. Rench Law Firm, LLC advise you on your legal options.

The Difference Between Separation and Divorce

There are similarities and differences between legal separation and divorce. Both of these result from final court orders, but only divorce permanently ends the marital relationship. While a separation agreement could dramatically alter the relationship between spouses, it does not bring the legal marriage to an end.

There are a number of ways that separation could impact a married couple. Once the separation order is signed by the judge, both spouses are prevented from remarrying, incurring substantial debt, or selling marital assets. This differs from a divorce, which allows spouses to do these things following the termination of a marriage.

There are important similarities between separation and divorce as well. One of the most important similarities between the two is the potential for alimony awards. Alimony payments involve one spouse providing monthly spousal support to another. The court also has the power to divide property similar to a marriage.


If the couple have children together, a separation order will also set out the terms for child custody and visitation. As is the case with divorce, the court must decide during a separation proceeding whether to award physical and legal custody of the children to one or both parents. These orders will also determine visitation rights for parents that do not have full custody.

Reasons for Choosing Separation in St. Louis and Missouri

There are many different reasons why a couple may prefer a separation instead of a divorce. Some couples may feel that reconciliation could be possible and simply use legal separation as an opportunity to reevaluate their marriage. Other couples choose separation for religious reasons, as their faith prohibits divorce.

There are also financial reasons for choosing separation instead of divorce. When it comes to employment-based health insurance coverage, divorce might prevent one spouse from remaining on the other spouse’s coverage. Choosing separation could allow both parties to save unnecessary expenses related to healthcare. Separation also allows a couple to continue filing joint tax returns, which could have substantial financial benefits in some cases.

How a Separation Agreement Could Impact Divorce Proceedings

For many couples, a legal separation is a useful precursor to divorce proceedings. A separation agreement is a legal order entered by the court, and its terms typically reflect what to expect should the spouses opt to divorce. It is rare that the courts will deviate dramatically from the terms set out in the separation agreement during divorce proceedings.

It is possible to convert a separation agreement into a divorce case after a 90-day waiting period expires. When this happens, it is not uncommon for the court to apply the terms of the separation agreement to the divorce decree. For that reason, it is important to fight for fair terms regarding property division, spousal support, or child custody during the separation agreement process.

Discuss Your Legal Separation Options with J. Rench Law Firm, LLC

Legal separation is something short of divorce, but it can offer many of the same legal protections. This process could allow you and your spouse to test the waters of ending your relationship without formally dissolving the marriage. It can also provide financial benefits for couples who benefit financially from remaining married even though the relationship has broken down.

If you are considering separation or divorce, the J. Rench Law Firm, LLC is here to help. Our firm understands that the end of a relationship can be difficult, and we are prepared to guide you throughout this process. Contact us right away to learn more.


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