Legal Separation, How Is It Different Than a Divorce?

Grounds for Divorce

What is a Legal Separation?

“Divorce like”,… but not actually Divorced

     So what’s the difference between Legal Separation and Divorce (Dissolution)?  Not to point out the obvious, but in the end, you are still married, not divorced.  At the end of a divorce, you are no longer married.  That’s the most obvious difference, but the minutiae are plentiful.

Divorce a.k.a. Dissolution

In St. Charles County like in all of Missouri, they mean the same thing.  There is no difference.  This is not the case in other states where there are actual differences between the two terms. 

What Can a Legal Separation do for me?

Not unlike in a dissolution (divorce), orders of child custody, child support, maintenance, and orders dividing Reaffirmation Agreementof property and debts may be granted by the judge in a legal separation, just like a divorce, except for the fact, you’re not really divorced of course, nope, you’re still technically married.

Can I Turn a Legal Separation into a Divorce?

Absolutely yes.  At some point after filing and confirming the separation, either the husband or wife may say to themselves, “I’m sick of the legal separation nonsense, I just want a good old fashioned divorce”.  It’s easy to convert.  If one party later wants to turn the case into a divorce, then that can be done in the same legal action (same case number).  This could be the case when one party decides for whatever reason that just being legally separated is not good enough, and wants the marriage over, maybe they’ve found a new squeeze, or who knows, the reasons are many. 

In the alternative, if both parties want out of the legal separation because they are getting back together, realizing that separating was a mistake, maybe neither found what they thought they thought they were looking for being separated, then they can file a dismissal with the court, and the break-up is no more; just like that – Poof, they’re happily married again, or at least married again.  

Why Would Anyone Seek a Legal Separation?

The reasons one may seek a Legal Separation over a Divorce generally surround the permanent nature of the dissolution.  Perhaps you believe that with some time, maybe you’ll be able to work things out.  Maybe you just need this time away from your spouse.  Maybe you’re not really ready to cut the ties that bind, not entirely anyway. 

Other reasons may include your religious beliefs, wherein some religions frown or outright prohibit divorce, so the parties will take this route because at their house of worship, this don’t really count.  Lastly, some people want this option to preserve insurance or other benefits, though many exclusions now prohibit this, or they want to protect certain property.  All in all, they want to be divorced right now, but cannot have the “D” word for some other reason, so they go with what I called above, “Divorce like”


Markwell Law, LLC
1031 Peruque Crossing Ct, Ste. B
O’Fallon, MO 63366
Phone: 636-486-1093
Fax: 636-634-3462