Legal Separation vs. Divorce

Legal separation and divorce are two similar legal procedures that can resolve many of the same issues, with one major difference. Divorce legally ends a marriage, while legal separation does not.

How is it different to be legally separated than to be divorced?

Like divorce, legal separation allows you to live physically and financially separate from your spouse. You are not responsible for your spouse’s debts and no longer share property with your spouse. The main difference is that divorce terminates the marriage, so you are both legally free to remarry. In a legal separation, you would not be free to remarry as the marriage has not been dissolved. Also, while a divorce is final, there is no time limit on legal separation in Illinois. It can continue indefinitely.

How do you get a legal separation in Chicago or the Chicagoland area?

A party seeking a legal separation must file a petition with the court, in the same way a petition must be filed for divorce. The petition must state that either both spouses agree to the legal separation, or the spouses are now living separate and apart (even if it is in the same residence). It must also provide information including the date of the marriage, the age, occupation, and residence of each spouse, the date of separation, and whether there are children of the marriage.

What is a separation agreement?

The separation agreement is the contract signed by the spouses and the judge at the end of the legal separation procedure. It is a court order, similar to a divorce decree, stating the negotiated terms of the separation in matters such as:

  • Division of marital property
  • Allocation of parental responsibilities
  • Allocation of parenting time
  • Child support
  • Spousal support

What are the advantages of legal separation over divorce?

Legal separation may be the best option for couples who are unsure of whether to divorce. It may serve as an alternative to divorce for individuals who practice a religion that prohibits divorce. For some couples, a legal separation makes more sense financially, as it may allow for health insurance benefits that would otherwise terminate, tax advantages, or social security or other federal benefits.

Can a legal separation be reversed?

A marriage is not dissolved with legal separation. Although it can continue indefinitely, many couples choose to divorce and incorporate the legal separation agreement into the divorce judgment.

Beermann LLP in Chicago and Bannockburn is the family law firm that cares. Every divorce or legal separation is different, with its own unique facts and issues. We have the resources to customize a thoughtfully selected legal team composed of family law attorneys, paralegals, and staff for each client we represent.