THE PROCESS OF LEGALLY SEPARATING IN MO
Posted: January 19, 2018
As an alternative to divorce, Missouri revised statutes set forth a procedure for legal separation, which is formerly referred to as “separate maintenance” in the state. Separate maintenance does not terminate the marriage, but instead issues orders that are similar to those involved in a divorce, such as property division, alimony, custody, visitation, and child support.
In Missouri, the grounds for legal separation are the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage that may also include adultery, separation caused by misconduct in the year prior to filing, abandonment, living apart and separate for two years, and spousal behavior that the other partner cannot reasonably be expected to live with. One of the spouses must live in Missouri for at least 90 days before filing.
The process starts when one spouse files a petition his or her county’s circuit court. The court enters a judgment of legal separation when it finds that the marriage is not irretrievably broken and there is a reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.
Similar to a petition for dissolution, the petition for legal separation must include the name and residence of each spouse, the length of time each spouse has lived in the state and in the county, the date of the marriage, the date of separation, information about each child, and where each child has resided immediately before the petition is filed. Additionally, it must also include the last four digits of the Social Security number of each spouse and each child. Lastly, it needs to describe the arrangements between the spouses about child custody and family support.
From the time of the filing, 30 days must elapse before the court grants a legal separation. This ruling grants the couple all of the legal protections related to a divorce without actually ending the marriage. If a couple holds out hope of reconciliation, separate maintenance is an appropriate action. Since the couple remains married, the legal separation ruling needs only to be dismissed to allow full reconciliation.