Frequently Asked Questions About Legal Separation

It is not uncommon for people to use the word “separation” when referring to a stage in their divorce process, but very few people ever actually obtain a legal separation. What most people refer to as a separation is considered by Illinois law to be spouses who are simply “living separate and apart” and requires no legal action on the part of either party. A legal separation, however, is much different and usually much more complex.

What is Legal Separation?

Legal separation includes being physically separated from your spouse but it is much more than just this physical separation. In Illinois, a legal separation is a binding agreement between two spouses or a judgment issued by the court. A decree of separation can spell out how assets are divided—if the spouses choose to do so—whether spousal support will be awarded, and how parental responsibilities for children will be divided.

Must A Couple Be Legally Separated Before They File for Divorce?

According to Illinois law, legal separation is an option for couples prior to divorce but it is not required. In practice, legal separation is used by couples who are not prepared for the finality of divorce or have reasons that do not wish to divorce.

How is Legal Separation Different From Divorce?

Individuals who are separated can still maintain health insurance and other spousal benefits that they would not be able to keep if they divorced. You can still file taxes jointly while legally separated. Divorce is permanent, but, depending on the circumstances, a legal separation may not be. This means that although it is complicated and can take time and negotiation, a separation can be undone. Only individuals that are divorced are able to remarry someone else. Individuals who are legally separated are technically still legally married to one another.

Why Would a Couple Choose a Separation in Lieu of a Divorce?

There are many reasons a couple would choose to obtain a legal separation. For some, their religion or personal beliefs may not allow divorce. For others, they may not be fully prepared for divorce but wish to clarify property rights or other concerns in advance. Still others may choose legal separation over divorce for social security, retirement, or military benefits.

Whatever your reasons may be, if you are considering a legal separation or divorce, contact an experienced Orland Park family law attorney for guidance. Call 708-518-8200 for a free initial consultation at Kezy & Associates today.