The Disadvantages of Legal Separation in Missouri
If you and your spouse have decided to split, it’s important to weigh all of your options. Get the facts on the disadvantages of legal separation here.
Understanding the Disadvantages of Legal Separation
According to statistics from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, in 2019, there were about 17,840 marriage dissolution decrees statewide, comprising 17,698 divorces, 100 legal separations, and 42 annulments. Legal separation and divorce are among the possible options to end a marriage in Missouri. While getting a divorce ends your marriage legally, getting a legal separation keeps you legally married, although you will be living separately and apart from your spouse.
In the state of Missouri, legal separation (or separate maintenance) offers another alternative to separating a couple without dissolving the marriage. In a legal separation, the family court will issue a court order stating that the spouses are physically separated. The court will also issue orders and legal protections, which are normally issued in a divorce proceeding. Legal separation still leaves room for possible reconciliation. This may also be the right choice for individuals who have personal or religious beliefs that are against getting a divorce.
Attorney Summer Masterson-Goethals of Masterson Law has been offering experienced legal guidance and advocacy to individuals and families in the legal matters of family law, including divorce and legal separation, for more than 20 years. As a knowledgeable Missouri family law attorney, she can evaluate your personal situation and help you understand your possible marriage dissolution options. Whether you are considering getting a divorce or legal separation, she will help you understand the benefits and risks and help you navigate important decisions.
What is a Legal Separation?
A legal separation can be described as a court-ordered arrangement that allows married couples to live separately while they remain legally married. Under the Missouri legislature, this is known as “separate maintenance.” Pursuant to Missouri Revised Statutes section 452.325. 1;
“To promote the amicable settlement of disputes between the parties to a marriage attendant upon their separation or the dissolution of their marriage, the parties may enter into a written separation agreement containing provisions for the maintenance of either of them, the disposition of any property owned by either of them, and the custody, support, and visitation of their children.”
Like most family law matters, legal separation is a complex area of the law, so it’s best to consult an experienced family lawyer to understand how it may apply to your case. Your attorney can provide a more detailed explanation of the legal separation process so you can make a fully informed decision.
Pros and Cons of Legal Separation Versus Divorce
Both divorce & legal separation have their benefits and drawbacks, and the option that’s right for one family may not be right for another. Below are some advantages and disadvantages of legal separation compared to divorce to help you weigh your options.
- Legal separation allows married couples to retain eligibility for social security benefits, life insurance, health insurance coverage, and tax benefits, as well as military, retirement, and other benefits. On the other hand, getting a divorce will terminate such benefits, which may present substantial challenges when one or both spouses reaches retirement age.
- Legal separation helps to preserve the legal rights of each spouse to inherit the other spouse’s property, upon death. In contrast, a divorce decree will terminate such rights.
- In a legal separation, both spouses are considered “married” for tax purposes and can file joint tax returns. This may help reduce the total tax liability.
- Legal separation may also allow you to maintain your immigration status in a case where one spouse is not a citizen.
- Legally separated couples are able to preserve cultural and religious beliefs that are against getting a divorce.
- The grounds for legal separation and divorce in Missouri are almost the same. You may need to go through the same process.
- Legal separation is as complex and stressful as divorce. All issues handled in a divorce case, including alimony, child custody, child support, and property division, are handled in a similar way as in a legal separation.
- In a legal separation, the parties remain legally married and cannot remarry. Conversely, a divorce agreement terminates or dissolves a marriage, and the parties can remarry once it is finalized.
- In a legal separation, you may still be responsible for the other spouse’s debts and liabilities. On the contrary, liabilities and debts will be divided during the divorce process (property division).
- Legal separation involves the same amount of cost, stress, and time as a divorce does. Unless you believe in possible reconciliation, it may be needless for your relationship.
Purpose of Legal Separation
Getting a legal separation allows both spouses to resolve personal issues, financial matters, and relationship differences that may be affecting their marriage. There is also the possibility of preserving the marriage or potential reconciliation.
If you are considering filing for legal separation in Missouri, our team can offer you the comprehensive guidance you need throughout the entire legal process. We will help resolve relationship differences and other issues and make your transition as smooth as possible. Reach out to Masterson Law today to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of divorce & separation with experienced attorneys and get the legal advice and advocacy you need.
Grounds for Legal Separation
Pursuant to Missouri Revised Statutes section 452.305. 2, the court shall enter a judgment of legal separation if:
- The court finds that one of the parties has been a resident of this state, or is a member of the armed services who has been stationed in this state, for ninety days immediately preceding the commencement of the proceeding and that thirty days have elapsed since the filing of the petition.
- The court finds that there remains a reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved and that, therefore, the marriage is not irretrievably broken.
- The court has considered and made provision for the custody and the support of each child, the maintenance of either spouse, and the disposition of property.
If you believe that your situation falls under the grounds for legal separation, our law firm can help you begin the process.
Disadvantages of Not Filing for Divorce After Legal Separation
While some people choose legal separation as a final option to end the romantic, social, and emotional elements of their marriage, its true intent is to be a temporary solution, so there are some disadvantages of not filing for divorce after legal separation.
If you already have a legal separation decree, that means that you have a formal agreement on all marital dissolution issues, such as property division, spousal support, child custody, support, and parenting time. However, not filing for divorce after legal separation means that your marital status will remain as “married.” As such, you cannot remarry.
Also, if you pass away, your estranged spouse would still have the legal rights to inherit your assets. Therefore, if you want to change your marital status or prevent your ex-spouse from inheriting your assets, you may need to file for divorce after legal separation.
Work With an Experienced Springfield MO Family Law & Divorce Attorney
Deciding whether to file for legal separation or divorce in Missouri can be confusing. To make the right decisions, you need to understand the emotional ramifications and legal impact of both marital dissolution options. Attorney Summer Masterson-Goethals of Masterson Law, an experienced Missouri family law attorney, can educate you about your possible options and help you navigate crucial decisions.
Contact Masterson Law today to schedule a one-on-one consultation with our experienced divorce attorneys. Our team can offer you the comprehensive legal guidance, support, and strong advocacy you need to make an informed decision about your family’s future. We are proud to serve clients in Springfield, MO, and surrounding areas throughout southwest Missouri. Call our firm today to discuss with our attorneys and receive proper guidance.