Should I Pursue a Legal Separation Before Divorcing My Spouse in Illinois?

legal separation, Arlington Heights family law attorneyIf you and your spouse are considering ending your marriage, you may have questions about legal separation. Although divorce is the most common way a married couple splits, it is not the only option Illinois couples have. A legal separation is a special court order that dictates the rights and responsibilities of a couple. A legal separation does not technically end a marriage, but it functions very similarly to a divorce. Although legal separations are less common than divorce, they can be a beneficial legal tool for spouses who have personal or financial issues upsetting the marriage. There are advantages and disadvantages to both divorce and legal separation. A qualified Illinois family law attorney can help you further understand which option is best for your unique family and financial situation.

Differences Between Divorce and Legal Separation

The most important difference between legal separation and divorce is that a legally separated couple remains legally married whereas a divorced couple is no longer legally married. Some couples choose a legal separation instead of a divorce specifically because this option allows them to stay legally married. Remaining legally married is important to some for cultural or religious reasons. A separation also preserves most healthcare and social security benefits that are generally terminated through a divorce. Divorce ends spouses’ rights to property benefits upon the death of the other, but couples with a legal separation still have property rights.

Spousal Maintenance, Child Custody, and Parental Responsibilities

As a part of the separation process, a court can decide the allocation of parental responsibilities (formerly called child custody), parenting time (visitation), child support, and spousal maintenance (also called alimony or spousal support). Some couples find that a legal separation can help them provide a stable child custody and visitation schedule while they consider the possibility of divorce. The courts are not authorized to divide marital property during a separation unless the spouses agree on how marital property should be distributed.

Illinois couples seeking a separation will be asked to sign a “separation agreement.” This legally binding contract includes directives regarding:

  • Child custody and the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities;
  • Child visitation and parenting time;
  • Child support;
  • Marital property division and sharing of debts, if the couple chooses; and
  • Spousal maintenance and spousal support.

Contact an Experienced Rolling Meadows, Illinois Family Law Attorney

For more information about legal separation, divorce, child custody, spousal maintenance, or other aspects of family law, contact the knowledgeable Arlington Heights divorce lawyers at Cosley Law Office. Call our office today at 847-253-3100 to schedule your cost-free initial consultation.



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