Your Family Matters

What is legal separation in Illinois?

On Behalf of | Aug 2, 2022 | family law

Like many other states, Illinois has a formal process of legal separation.  A legal separation involves a married couple who wishes to part ways going to court and asking for legal separation, rather than divorce.

Unlike some states, in Illinois, legal separation does not just refer to the first step in the divorce process, where a couple decides to set up two separate households. The big difference between a legal separation and a divorce in Illinois is that, after a legal separation, the couple will remain legally married. Thus, they are not free to marry someone else.

Getting a legal separation does not prevent a couple from deciding to divorce later. In fact, if one of the spouses wants to go forward with a divorce instead of a legal separation, Illinois courts will generally grant the divorce.

Another difference between legal separation and divorce in Illinois is that courts hearing a legal separation case may only address allocation of parental responsibilities; that is, custody and parenting time, child support and spousal support. The court may divide a couple’s property for them as well, but only if the couple comes to an agreement on how they want to do so and ask the court to approve that agreement.

Why would I want to get a legal separation instead of a divorce?

There are residents of the Springfield area who have moral and religious reasons for not getting a divorce. Legal separation offers them a chance to follow their consciences while at the same time getting important legal protection for themselves and their children.

Others may just not be ready to divorce and want some more time to think about that decision. Again, legal separation offers protection to people so they can have this time. In some cases, there are financial or other reasons a couple might wish to stay legally married.

Do I need an attorney to help me obtain a legal separation?

It is important for Springfield residents who are contemplating a legal separation to remember that in most respects, legal separations work just like divorces. Divorce can many times be a complicated and contentious process.

For example, as in a divorce, if a couple cannot agree, a court will have to listen to each person’s case on important issues like child custody and make a decision that may not be in a person’s favor.