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St. Charles family law attorney legal separation

People often use the term “separated” to refer to married couples who have decided to end their marriage but are not yet divorced. Many people also use the term synonymously with living separately. However, there is a major difference between living separately and being legally separated. An Illinois legal separation involves a court order that binds spouses to certain terms involving property, financial support, and parental responsibility. Couples that are legally separated are still technically married and may not remarry until they get divorced.

Being Legally Separated Involves Much More Than Living Separately

There are a few reasons why a married couple may wish to be legally separated instead of divorced. Some couples simply want to avoid the finality of divorce. They may have serious marital issues to resolve but are hoping that they will be able to eventually reconcile. Other people choose to avoid divorce for religious or cultural reasons. There may also be certain financial and tax-related benefits associated with staying married. For example, an individual may wish to remain married so that he or she can continue to have access to his or her spouse’s health insurance plan or retirement benefits.

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Kane County divorce attorneysIf you are in the midst of a tumultuous marriage—or a marriage that lacks the warmth and contentment for which you were hoping—you may have given some thought to a trial separation. In fact, you may have already spent several weeks staying with a friend or family member as you considered whether to file for divorce.

These situations occur frequently enough that they are practically formulaic in today’s culture. A married couple grows apart, one spouse moves out, and, in many cases, a divorce eventually ensues. Common practices, however, are not equivalent to statutory requirements. The fact that most people do something a certain way does not mean that you must do the same in a similar situation. Such is the case with a period of separation prior to divorce, at least according to Illinois law.

The Difference Between Legal Separation and Living Separate and Apart

When most people talk about a separation, they are usually referring to a married couple no longer sharing the same household. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act considers such an arrangement as “living separate and apart,” which is very different from a legal separation. A legal separation, by comparison, is a court-issued judgment that formally declares the couple to be separated. Legal separations are sometimes used by couples who do not wish to divorce for personal or religious reasons or those who are not quite ready to divorce. Following a legal separation, orders may be entered for spousal and child support, parental responsibilities, and, if the couple chooses, the division of property.

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