Ending a marriage is very difficult, both from an emotional standpoint and a practical one. No matter what the underlying reason for the breakdown of a marriage might be, it will be emotionally stressful for both spouses to endure the divorce process. When it comes to practical matters, divorce is likely to influence both spouses’ financial lives in many ways. For some couples, remaining married becomes untenable, but divorce isn’t a practical solution, either. It’s vital for couples in St. Louis, MO who are considering divorce to know the potential benefits of legal separation.

This alternative to divorce can potentially provide significant benefits to both spouses. Essentially, legal separation involves addressing most of the issues the couple would need to handle in divorce—however, at the end of the legal separation process, the spouses remain legally married. Through legal separation, it is possible to take advantage of some of the benefits of both divorce and marriage. This process can be beneficial to people in various situations.

What Is Legal Separation?

Legal separation allows married spouses to live separately and settle many of the issues they need to address in divorce while remaining legally married. Some couples will use legal separation to address most aspects of their divorce proceedings before finalizing divorce at a future date. This method can provide some breathing room for spouses who aren’t sure whether divorce is the best option for their situation. Other couples use legal separation as a preparatory step for future divorce, and their divorce proceedings are expedited by their legal separation.

Still other couples choose legal separation instead of divorce for practical reasons. For example, if a couple no longer wishes to remain romantically attached to one another but need to stay married for tax purposes or to share employer-provided health insurance, legal separation allows them to enjoy the best of both worlds. Legal separation can also be a suitable alternative to divorce for couples whose religious beliefs prohibit divorce. Finally, if a spouse refuses to sign divorce papers, legal separation may be a more agreeable alternative for them.

What Does Legal Separation Entail?

If you believe legal separation may be preferable to divorce in your situation, you should understand that legal separation is still a lengthy and difficult process. This is because the legal separation process requires participants to cover most of the same issues as divorce. The couple must settle:

  • Property division. Both spouses will be allowed to keep their separate property, but they must establish separate living arrangements and divide their marital assets and debts. Property division in Missouri unfolds under the equitable distribution rule.
  • Child custody and child support. If the separating spouses have children together, they must develop a custody and support order for separation. The court will need to evaluate several factors to determine the most suitable custody arrangement for the children. A child support determination will follow custody, and one parent will likely owe child support to the other on a regular basis.
  • Spousal support. Equitable distribution laws tend to discourage spousal support, often leading to lower-earning spouses receiving greater shares of marital property to eliminate the need for ongoing support. However, it’s possible for legal separation to require a spousal support agreement between the separating spouses that ensures the supported spouse can manage living expenses without undue hardship.

Every couple experiences a unique situation, and the legal separation process will unfold differently for every couple that chooses to navigate it. Reliable legal counsel from an experienced St. Louis, MO family law attorney is an invaluable asset if you are preparing for legal separation. Your legal team can help you gather the documentation you will need to complete the process and help you make informed decisions about every phase of your separation.

Why Is Legal Separation a Good Idea?

Divorce is the end of a marriage contract. Once a divorce is finalized, there is no way to revoke the divorce order. While the divorced spouses may decide to eventually remarry if they wish, this can create a very complex series of legal proceedings that take quite a while to resolve. The main benefit of legal separation is that it allows a couple to try the divorced lifestyle before committing to it entirely. The couple can take advantage of additional space and time apart to reflect on their marriage and decide whether divorce is really the best course of action in their situation.

If the couple ultimately decides to go through with divorce, legal separation can serve as an effective method of cutting the time required to complete dissolution. While the couple must navigate many of the same issues divorce would require in legal separation proceedings, legal separation can space out these issues. In this way, separation may help to create a much more manageable schedule.

Some couples want to end their relationships without sacrificing the practical benefits marriage offers, namely the ability to file taxes jointly and share employer-provided healthcare insurance. If neither spouse intends to remarry, legal separation will allow them to establish their respective independent lifestyles while allowing them to legally retain the financial benefits of marriage.

Do I Really Need an Attorney for Legal Separation in St. Louis?

While it is technically possible to complete a legal separation without an attorney, doing so would be much harder than it would be with the help of an experienced St. Louis family law attorney. Legal separation offers several tangible benefits, but the average person may not be able to recognize all the available options. Unfortunately, some people in this situation may make critical errors when it comes to important decisions regarding property division, child custody, or other aspects of the legal separation process.

Your St. Louis family law attorney can guide you through each phase of legal separation so you can approach this situation with confidence. Whether you’re using legal separation as a preliminary step toward divorce or taking advantage of legal separation for practical reasons, the right attorney can have a tremendously positive influence on your experience. If you believe legal separation could be suitable for your situation, contact an experienced St. Louis, MO family law attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.