What is the Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce?

In News by YKF Law

The decision to end a marriage is never easy. Whether you’ve been together for decades or are newlyweds who can’t reconcile your differences, it can be difficult to admit that your marriage is irreparable. Most couples who conclude that divorce is their only option dissolve their marriage, however, some choose to legally separate rather than or before choosing to divorce.

Whichever is best for your relationship, legal separation and divorce can be confusing to navigate. Having an experienced and reputable family law attorney in Kansas City or a divorce lawyer in Leawood, Kansas assist in your divorce or legal separation can make all the difference in understanding the legal process. 

If you’re contemplating dissolving the marriage or separating, we want to help you understand the differences so you can make an informed decision as to which is best for your unique situation. The family law attorneys at The Law Office of Young, Kuhl & Frick, LLC are dedicated to the practice of family law and are skilled in all family law matters. Continue reading as we explain the differences between legal separation and divorce and a little about the legal process.

What is Legal Separation?

To understand the differences between legal separation and divorce, let’s first explain what legal separation is. Legal separation is when a couple formally separates and that separation is recorded by the court. When a couple legally separates, a court order or written agreement is established and filed with the court.

Much like divorce, when a couple legally separates, the court order or written agreement filed will outline financial obligations like child custody, property division, spousal support, and child support. While some couples choose to separate without getting the court involved, some choose to hire a family law attorney to file for legal separation to protect their assets. 

What is Divorce?

Divorce or dissolution of marriage is when the marriage is legally dissolved and therefore the marriage no longer exists. Unlike legal separation, the marriage is dissolved, meaning the parties are no longer considered married by the court, whereas in a legal separation, the couple is still married in the eyes of the court. The divorce process will still address other issues such as child custody, property division, spousal support, and child support.

How do Legal Separation and Divorce Differ?

Legal separations and divorces are similar in some ways as previously mentioned. Both actions will determine issues such as property division, maintenance, child custody, and child support. While there are many similarities, there are drastic differences between the two.

First, the marriage is still recognized by the court when a couple legally separates. While couples may start to live separate lives during their legal separation, they’re still legally married. The only way they won’t be recognized as married by the court is if they dissolve the marriage. If a couple chooses to legally separate then they can’t remarry since their marriage hasn’t been dissolved. They would need to wait until their existing marriage is dissolved before remarrying.

Next, when a couple is legally separated rather than married, benefits that apply within marriage would still exist such as inheritance and health insurance. A family law attorney can help you understand how legal separation affects these benefits as they pertain to your case.

It’s best to communicate your goals with a family law attorney to see which action would be best for your situation. Every case is different, so be sure to tell your attorney everything that pertains to your unique situation and how you’d like to see your marriage in the long run. There are 6 things your divorce attorney needs to know to prepare your divorce case.

Is Legal Separation Required Before Divorce?

While it’s true that some states legally require married couples to separate for a period of time, there are no legal separation time requirements for either Missouri or Kansas. A couple can divorce when they decide to and don’t have to show proof of having legally separated for “x” amount of months before filing for divorce.

Although it’s not a requirement to be separated for a period of time before filing for divorce, it is required to record a legal separation in Kansas. Legal separation is allowed in Missouri, and both states prefer that couples legally separate to see if their differences can be reconciled before choosing to dissolve a marriage.

Choosing to legally separate or dissolve a marriage is never an easy decision. The family law attorneys at The Law Office of Young, Kuhl & Frick, LLC are dedicated to the practice of family law and can help guide you through the entire legal separation or divorce process keeping your best interests in mind. With over fifty-three years of combined legal experience, our family law firm is comprised of a team that’s skilled in both negotiation and litigation, handling family law matters from the most complex to the most straightforward.

We have offices in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and Leawood, Kansas (consultations by appointment only). In addition to our two physical locations, our firm’s family and divorce attorneys have practiced in Jackson, Clay, Cass, Lafayette, and Platte County, Missouri as well as Johnson County, Kansas. Contact our family law firm today to schedule a consultation – we’re able to meet in person or face-to-face via Zoom.