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Missouri Legal Separation
Legal Separation in Missouri

Missouri revised statutes set forth a procedure for legal separation as an alternative to divorce. In Missouri legal separation is called separate maintenance. In separate maintenance the court does not terminate the marriage, but issues orders that are the same as those that would be issued in a divorce.

A legal separation case in Missouri begins when one spouse files a petition for separate maintenance. The court enters a judgment of legal separation when it finds a reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved and that the marriage is not irretrievably broken. The action also means that to the extent it has jurisdiction, the court has considered and made provision for the custody and the support of each child, the maintenance of either spouse and the disposition of property.

From the time of the filing, 30 days must elapse before the court grants a legal separation. A separate maintenance ruling grants the couple all of the legal protections associated with a divorce without actually ending the marriage. If a couple holds out hope of reconciliation, a legal separation is an appropriate option. Because the couple remains married, the legal separation ruling needs only to be dismissed to permit a full reconciliation.

Separation Agreement

A separation agreement is a legal binding contract signed by spouses, which is intended to resolve property, debt and child related issues. This can be a very complex and detailed document depending upon the unique situation of the marriage. Many spouses consult an attorney to provide this or they decide to prepare their own.


The petition is filed in circuit court in the county where either spouse resides. The action may be transferred to the county where the respondent resides if that county was the residence of the children during the 90 days immediately before the filing; or the best interest of the children will be served if the proceeding is transferred to the county in which the Respondent resides because the children and at least one parent have significant connection with the county and there is substantial evidence concerning the present or future care, protection and personal relationships of the children in the county.

According to Missouri Revised Statutes Section 452.310, the petition must include the date and location of the marriage as well as the date of physical separation. It also must identify the names and ages of any children and any agreements the couple has made regarding custody and financial support of the children. A petition does not request dissolution of the marriage.


In Missouri, the grounds for a legal separation are the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage that may also include adultery, abandonment, separation caused by misconduct in the year before filing, spousal behavior that the other partner cannot reasonably be expected to live with, and living apart and separate for two years.


One of the spouses must live in Missouri for 90 days before filing.

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