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Why some couples choose legal separation

Sometimes married couples who are splitting up decide to go the route of legal separation instead of divorce. In some cases, this is to give each spouse time to think about next steps, but in others it is a more long-term arrangement that can have both good and bad ramifications.

Many couples choose legal separation instead of divorce for financial reasons. For example, maybe running two separate households is just not feasible right now, so the husband and wife decide to live separately, but under the same roof. Of course there are some potential benefits to this, but there are also some risks involved, like alimony not being tax deductible.

Others also get legally separated in order to meet the 10 year requirement for social security benefits from their spouse. This reasoning is more common among spouses who have been married for seven or eight years, and are closing in on the eligibility requirement.

Outside of financial reasons, both saving money from pooling resources and social security benefits, some also decide to go with a legal separation in order to retain military benefits from their spouse, and to continue to be on their spouses health insurance policy -- although this is not a guarantee.

Lastly, the choice to legally separate can also be fueled by religious reasons.

Overall, it's important to remember that while some states require a legal separation in order to even get divorced, others do not. Some states also don't even recognize a separation.

In Missouri, there is no law requiring a legal separation as a requirement for filing for divorce. However, couples can still choose to separate instead of divorce. If you are considering a divorce or legal separation, a family law attorney can provide information on how either choice would affect your situation.

Source: Forbes, "Legal Separation or Divorce: Which is Better Financially?" Jeff Landers, Jan .10, 2012

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