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
custody, visitation, and
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.
If you are interested in filing for separate maintenance in Missouri,
request a free consultation with our
Springfield family law attorney at
Worsham Law Firm today.