For the most part, many cases in family law deal with divorce. However, there are some instances where someone asks to obtain a “legal separation,” which although it is similar to a divorce, isn’t one because the individuals remain married to one another, unable to marry anyone else.
While there is no official separation requirement in Missouri, a couple may enter into legal separation agreements where the court resolves the same issues addressed in a divorce—establishing child custody and parental contact with the children, entering orders of child and spousal maintenance, and dividing the property–yet the marriage is not dissolved. Ironically, the couple is not required to live apart.
Why then choose legal separation over divorce? Most often it has to do with preserving an economic benefit such as health insurance coverage or social security benefits that would be eliminated if the couple were to divorce. However, read the fine print because some insurance plans have recently closed these loopholes. Another reason couples opt for legal separation is that their religious and moral convictions prohibit divorce.
Regardless of the reason for filing a legal separation, it is important to understand that a legal separation can be converted into a divorce without your consent if the other spouse petitions the court to do so. This can occur as early as 91 days after the separation is granted.
In a divorce, after a legal separation agreement has been put in place, the terms of the separation agreement often have a significant impact. That is why it is critical to take separation agreements seriously. Those decisions can have ramifications far into the future.
At Stange Law Firm, PC, we have experienced attorneys who know Missouri separation laws and can help you make well-informed decisions. Contact us at St. Louis Legal Separation Attorneys or at 314-963-4700 to schedule a free and confidential half-hour consultation.