5 Pros and Cons of Legal Separation vs. Divorce

In Missouri, divorce is the only method for spouses to end a marriage. A less common option is legal separation, in which the couple remains married. How does a couple choose one over the other?

When one or both spouses decide a marriage is irretrievably broken, filing for divorce typically starts the legal process of dissolving the marriage and leading separate lives. Sometimes, however, there are religious or financial reasons for remaining married. Or they believe their marriage is not truly over and want the chance to reconcile at some future date.

Legal separation does not mean simply living apart. The couple remains married, but still must work through all of the same issues they would if they were getting divorced, including property division, child custody, child support, and maintenance (alimony). The terms of separation must be formalized in an agreement, filed with the court, that both are expected to follow. Here are five main differences to consider:

  1. Health Insurance Benefits: Legal separation means one spouse may continue to receive health insurance coverage, social security and other benefits through their spouse. Divorce ends those rights. 
  2. Property Rights: Married spouses may have rights to property benefits upon the death of the other, even when legally separated. Divorce ends spousal property rights.  
  3. Remarriage: People who are legally separated are not free to marry someone else.
  4. Reconciliation: Once finalized, divorce cannot be reversed. However, in a legal separation, estranged spouses wish to live apart now but think they might reconcile later could choose legal separation.  After 90 days after the legal separation is granted, both spouses may ask the court to reverse the legal separation and reinstate their marriage.
  5. Divorce:  After 30 days after the legal separation is granted, either spouse may file with the court to convert the legal separation into a divorce.  There is no paperwork required other than the request that the court take this action.

Understanding the advantages and disadvantages can help spouses decide which option is right for them. Still not sure? Ask an attorney. At Jones Family Law Group, we will work closely with you to make sure that you have all of the information you need to make informed decisions.

With a combined 30 years in family law, the attorneys at Jones Family Law Group, LLC, will provide the legal guidance you need. Contact Jones Family Law Group, LLC today for any questions or to set up a consultation.