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How do legal separations work under Missouri family law?

Two stories emerged this week that have created some buzz on the entertainment pages of news outlets nationwide. One report indicates that Dina Ruiz says that she and her husband, Clint Eastwood have separated and have been living apart. Eastwood’s manager has denied having any knowledge of the purported separation.

The Eastwood-Ruiz separation comes after reports surfaced that famed couple Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones have separated. There are no reports suggesting that either of the celebrity couples have filed for divorce, and it is also not clear whether either of the separations include legal paperwork in family court. The couples have children in their respective marriages. In the Douglas and Zeta-Jones case, sources say that the couple still hopes to work out their issues.

While the buzz about the separations does not include details of whether or not the splits involve any legal framework, our Missouri readers may be interested to know that it is possible to seek a legal separation in our state. A legal separation may generally involve most of the issues addressed in a divorce proceeding. The one big exception is that a legal separation order does not include dissolution of the marriage itself.

People may choose to separate for a variety of different reasons. For instance, some people may have religious reasons to seek a separation instead of divorce. However, the issues in a separation can mimic the same issues in a divorce, and a judge can later order that the separation decree be converted to divorce, should a spouse later decide to dissolve the marriage.

Legal separation can involve dismantling the financial and property issues, just as in a divorce. The family court can address child custody, support and visitation issues in a separation, just like a divorce. Again, the major distinction is that the decree does not dissolve the marriage contract itself.

Source: The Star-Ledger, “Dina Ruiz confirms separation from Clint Eastwood,” Vicki Hyman, Aug. 30, 2013

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