Legal separation may be a viable alternative to divorce for some couples. Our St. Louis divorce attorneys at Rogers Sevastianos & Bante, LLP will work directly with you to move through the process, ensuring that you are fully informed of your rights and options. We look to resolve cases sensibly with the ultimate goal of having you move on with life at the end of the domestic litigation process.
What Is Legal Separation?
A legal separation is a formal separation of spouses recognized by the court. Under Missouri law, couples are not only allowed but encouraged to legally separate before filing for divorce. Legal separations are designed to give couples an opportunity to gain perspective on their problems and encourage efforts to resolve their differences.
The process begins when one spouse files a petition for separate maintenance. If the court finds that the marriage is not irretrievably broken, it may enter a judgment of legal separation, providing for child custody and support, maintenance of either spouse, and property disposition.
What Is the Difference between Legal Separation and Divorce?
Unlike a divorce, a legal separation does not dissolve or annul a marriage. Under legal separation orders, both spouses are restrained from remarrying, incurring major debts, or selling off assets. Although legal separation deals with some of the same issues as divorce, you will have to go back to court to convert your separation order into a divorce if you decide to dissolve the marriage.
How Does Legal Separation Impact Divorce?
In most cases, the elements of a legal separation order become the basis for future divorce orders. Unless family circumstances have changed drastically during the period of separation, the terms of your divorce decree are likely to mirror the terms of your separation order. When at least 90 days have lapsed from the date of a legal separation, either spouse may petition the court to convert the separation order into a final divorce decree or, alternatively, to set aside the legal separation order.
What Are the Advantages of Legal Separation?
There are a number of reasons to consider legal separation first. Our legal separation lawyers at Rogers Sevastianos & Bante, LLP in St. Louis can help you determine if this is the right step for you.
- Cooling off period: After a period of separation, spouses may reevaluate their priorities and reconsider separation or take a more reasonable approach to divorce.
- Establishing financial independence: The separation period may give one spouse an opportunity to find a job and become established financially.
- Saves time and money: State law makes converting a legal separation into a divorce decree a simple process. The separation period gives couples time to sort out their differences and determine what they want in a divorce.
- Financial benefits: Legal separation allows spouses to file joint tax returns or deduct spousal support payments on their taxes if not filing jointly. It allows couple to maintain certain insurance coverages that would not be permissible if they were divorced. Spouses may wish to stay married for a minimum of 10 years to be eligible for certain military and Social Security benefits.