Marriage, Separation, and Divorce: what is the difference?

Couples sometimes enter in pre-nuptial agreements or separation agreements to avoid disputes in the event of divorce. Such contracts can deal with property rights, support, child custody and visitation. You may be able to enter into such agreements before or during marriage.

Unmarried couples living together sometimes use a contract to specify their expected rights and responsibilities, and may enter into agreements similar to the ones used by married couples.  If you have any questions regarding such agreements, or if your spouse if not a U.S. citizen, you should call an immigration lawyer.

Separation agreements routinely specify who, in the event of divorce, will have custody of children, and stipulate the frequency and duration of visits by the other spouse. Pre-nuptial and separation agreements can also address various contingencies such as selling your home and valuing one another’s interest in pension plans. Such contracts might also require that a spouse pledge property to be forfeited for failure to comply with the agreement, which could also result in criminal contempt.

Unfortunately, most divorces involve more than the simple breaking of the marriage contract. People have children when they marry. 

Sometimes they even have them before they marry (or sometimes even when they don’t marry.) Child custody issues can be extremely complex and very emotionally trying for all parties concerned. Support is a legal responsibility which can become financially burdensome even when it is fairly applied.

Under the law, support is not only available for the children but support may also be available for a spouse who is without resources to maintain themselves until the marriage is dissolved and possibly for some time after the divorce is final.   

Such support may cover a short period of time after the divorce is granted to allow the receiving spouse to recover financially by either getting a job or obtaining training or education which will enable the spouse to support him or herself.   Missouri does not allow for permanent support (alimony).

Property issues may also be quite difficult to determine. 

Which party receives what items of property takes a great deal of negotiation between the parties and often can only be finally resolved by the court.  Increasingly, couples are utilizing no fault divorce provisions as a manner of simplifying matters and cutting the costs of securing a divorce. Many times the parties are able to agree on the collateral issues we’ve discussed and avoid lengthy and expensive hearings.