It’s common for married couples to have arguments and even experience significant tension throughout their marriage. In some cases, however, couples cannot resolve these issues effectively, and their marriages break down. While it may seem like this kind of situation should end in divorce, this is not the only option available if your marriage is troubled. Springfield, MO couples can take advantage of legal separation for several reasons. Separation may give them time to reflect and determine the best option available for handling their current circumstances.

Legal separation offers the benefits of divorce without ending the marriage. Separation thus allows the spouses to retain the benefits of remaining legally married. Since legal separation involves addressing many of the same issues the couple would need to address in divorce, some couples use legal separation as a “trial” period before going through with divorce. Others use it in lieu of divorce when a formal divorce is not an option. It’s also possible for a couple to use legal separation as a “cooling off” period before coming together to resolve their differences and fix their marriage.

Why Should I Consider Legal Separation in Springfield, MO?

Divorce is final. Once a Springfield, MO family court judge has approved your divorce agreement, your marriage is over and there is no way to rescind the divorce order. While you can remarry your ex-spouse if you decide to try again in the future, legal separation provides more flexibility to a couple experiencing marital problems. If a couple completes legal separation and later decides to resume their marriage, they can revoke the separation order and carry on as a married couple. However, completing the legal separation process is almost as involved as a divorce. The couple should prepare to address many difficult issues while securing their legal separation.

While legal separation proceedings are very similar to divorce and will require an equivalent amount of time to complete, it’s worth considering legal separation in several situations, including:

  • If you believe your marriage is salvageable. Sometimes a couple needs space and time apart to cool off, so they can address their marital struggles with clearer heads. Legal separation can serve as a trial period for divorce or show both spouses they desire to see the marriage work.
  • If you have no intention of remarrying. If neither you nor your spouse plan to remarry, legal separation can allow the two of you to establish separate lifestyles while retaining the practical benefits legal marriage offers. You’ll still be able to file joint tax returns to claim marriage-related tax benefits and share employer-provided healthcare coverage.
  • If you need to resolve personal issues before divorcing. Legal separation can help a couple resolve some of the many issues divorce entails before going through with the actual divorce. Every couple has a unique situation, and separation may be the best possible solution to a couple’s circumstances. The time legal separation provides can allow both spouses to better prepare for a future divorce. For example, a couple may wish to wait to finalize their divorce until after their kids leave for college or reach other milestones.
  • If your religious beliefs prohibit divorce. Many religions do not allow divorce. If you and your spouse are devout followers of your faith, legal separation can allow the two of you to establish separate living arrangements while adhering to the rules of your religion.

Couples in Springfield, MO opt for legal separation for many reasons. You likely have various personal issues that require consideration as you weigh your choice between divorce or legal separation. If you are unsure which would best suit your situation, it’s important to know what legal separation entails.

What You Must Address During a Legal Separation

Legal separation may help you streamline a future divorce. To do so, you must address many of the same issues you would need to face in divorce proceedings. However, legal separation provides the opportunity to resolve marital problems and reconcile while divorce does not. If you plan to pursue legal separation, you and your spouse must be prepared to address:

  • Property division. The Springfield, MO family court requires you to resolve property division under the state’s equitable distribution law. You must complete financial disclosures and establish separate property ownership rights before dividing marital property and determining liability for outstanding debts.
  • Child custody and support. If you have children, you must develop a custody and support order. The court has the final say when it comes to child custody, and the judge handling your separation case will carefully review several factors to determine the type of custody arrangement that best suits your child’s needs. Child support terms follow custody arrangements, so a noncustodial parent will likely owe child support to the custodial parent.
  • Alimony/spousal support. Some couples will need to settle alimony or spousal support. If one spouse was entirely financially dependent on the other, the higher-earning spouse may need to pay alimony for the duration of the separation. If the couple later divorces, they can adjust their alimony terms accordingly.

Once you and your spouse have addressed these issues, the court will grant a legal separation, and the two of you can begin living your separate lifestyles. If you later reconcile and decide to continue your marriage, you can rescind the separation order. If you both determine that permanently ending your marriage would be best, you can proceed with a divorce.

Is Separation for You?

Every married couple has unique concerns and problems, but legal separation can be appealing to a wide range of couples in Springfield, MO. If you are unsure whether you and your spouse are ready to finalize a divorce, a legal separation could provide much-needed breathing room for the two of you. During separation, you can take time for yourselves before attempting to resolve your marital issues.

It is best to approach any legal separation case with legal counsel you can trust. If you need more information about legal separation, or if you are unsure whether it would be the best option for your situation, contact an experienced Springfield, MO divorce attorney to discuss your case.