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Legal Separation in Chicago- What you need to know

Learning about Legal Separation in Chicago – What you need to know

By M. Scott Gordon

What is legal separation in Illinois, and how does it differ from divorce? There’s one major difference between divorce and legal separation: when you’re only separated, your marriage isn’t over, and thus you’re not free to marry someone else.

In both situations, however, an Illinois court can make determinations about child custody, visitation, child support, and spousal maintenance, as well as separating debt and assets. These two options are never mutually exclusive. In other words, if you decide to get a legal separation, you can file for divorce at a later date.

Becoming Legally Separated

How can you get a legal separation? First, it’s important to understand that a legal separation doesn’t just mean living apart from your spouse. For many Chicagoans who want to live apart from their spouses, legal separation can be a good option to prevent a spouse from arguing abandonment during a later divorce proceeding. And a legal separation can also be useful for having a court divide your property or for entering a child custody order.

In order to be legally separated, Illinois law says that you must be living apart from your spouse, and the court requires that you have been living in Illinois for more than 90 days. The court will also want to make sure that you’re not at fault for the legal separation. In Illinois, fault can be determined in situations where one spouse abandons the other or commits adultery.

Once you’re living apart from your spouse, you can apply for a legal separation in Cook County as long as you’ve been living in Illinois for more than 90 days. Even if your spouse has moved to another state, you can still get a legal separation in Illinois. You should keep in mind, however, that your children must have lived in Illinois for at least 6 months before a Cook County court can make a decision about child custody.

Benefits of Legal Separation versus Divorce

One of the primary reasons that couples apply for a legal separation involves the length of time that spouses need to be living apart. Unless you have grounds for divorce in Illinois, such as mental or physical cruelty, you’ll need to be living apart from your spouse for at least 6 months before you can file for divorce. Before you’ve reached that time marker, you won’t have the benefit of a court order for spousal maintenance, child custody, and other issues that come up during a divorce. Also, some couples may have religious objections to divorce, or want to stay on the same health plan (which is impossible if you are divorced but may be possible under legal separation; you’ll need to check the insurance plan).

Here’s the bottom line: legal separation can be a very helpful option for couples who are living separate and apart, and who want the court to make a decision about maintenance, support, and/or custody issues. In effect, the procedures for a legal separation look a lot like those involved in a divorce. However, you can get a legal separation sooner, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t apply for a divorce later on.

When you’re having problems in your marriage, it’s important to discuss your situation with an experienced Chicago divorce lawyer at M. Scott Gordon & Associates. In particular, if you’re not sure whether you should be seeking a legal separation or a divorce, you’ll need an advocate on your side who knows the law and can discuss your options with you. Contact us today.