What is the Difference Between Divorce & Legal Separation?
Posted: December 25, 2018
Strictly speaking, the difference between a divorce and legal separation is that at the end of a divorce, a couple is legally separated or no longer married. Whereas at the end of a legal separation, a couple is still lawfully married.
So how do I know what to file for?
When filing for divorce under Missouri law, a spouse must allege that a marriage is “irretrievably broken”, that is, that there is no reasonable likelihood that a marriage can be preserved, in order to obtain a dissolution of the marriage. However, in order to obtain a legal separation, a spouse must allege the opposite; that there is a reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved and, therefore, that the marriage is not “irretrievably broken”. There are several reasons why a spouse may be interested in legal separation over divorce. Some of those motives could be for religious reasons, practical (i.e. continued insurance coverage), or for emotional purposes.
Is legal separation the easier route?
If considering a legal separation, a spouse must contemplate the following. First, if either spouse believes that the marriage is “irretrievably broken”, then as a practical matter, a court will grant a divorce instead of a legal separation. Second, if a spouse can obtain a legal separation then the other spouse can seek to have the separation converted into a judgment, that will dissolve the marriage; meaning the couple will no longer be married.
Third, when going through a legal separation, one would do everything you would typically do in a divorce. Such as: setting an order for child custody, visitation, and support; dividing property, and debt; and setting an award of maintenance.
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Written by: Daniel D. Brogdon