IL family lawWhen you feel as though your marriage is reaching its end, deciding what to do can be difficult. Is there hope for reconciliation? Do you really want something as final as a divorce? Legal separation and divorce are both processes that couples use in Illinois to end a relationship. They are similar in some ways, but they have fundamentally different outcomes: A divorce completely ends the marriage under the law, but a legal separation does not.

Legal Separation

Legal separation is different from a couple merely deciding to break up or live in different homes; legal separation involves petitioning an Illinois court with formal filing for separation. A legal separation enables couples to navigate issues like child support, visitation rights, and property division in a way that is legally binding but does not dissolve the relationship.

Legal separation also allows couples the chance to begin separate lives while still having the opportunity to reconcile. At the end of a legal separation, a couple may ultimately go forward with a divorce; but in the meantime, they have more time and space to tackle problems in the marriage, attend therapy, or do anything else before they are completely sure the relationship has irretrievably broken down.

For example, couples might use legal separation as a test period to see if divorce is really in their best interests. Splitting into two households may create a more stable environment for children. Couples may also want to see if they get along better living separately while avoiding any social stigma that can come with divorce. A legal separation has no time limit, so spouses have plenty of time to negotiate what they really want.


Divorce is permanent – it is a final, binding order from a court that ends a marriage. All assets must be discovered and divided, parties must abide by prenuptial agreements, child support and visitation must be agreed upon, and spousal maintenance must be settled by order of a judge.

Unlike a legal separation, divorce proceedings must eventually come to an end. If a divorce is complex or contentious, it can take years and be very costly. When spouses cannot agree, lawyers will work to negotiate on their clients’ behalf, and the court may have to intervene and help make decisions. Custody evaluators or guardians ad litem may be involved.

The major advantage of getting a divorce is that, if both parties are certain the marriage is over, the process is only done once. With a legal separation, spouses will negotiate everything from child support to property division, and then may need to do it all over again in a divorce.

Do We Have to Live in Separate Housing?

Spouses do not have to live in different houses in either divorce or legal separation proceedings. Illinois judges recognize that moving and/or maintaining two homes can be difficult and expensive. Some couples may not wish to take on such an expense or may wish to prolong the physical separation until the divorce is formally over.

Regardless of whether spouses live together or not, at least one spouse must live in Illinois for at least 90 days in order to file for either a divorce or legal separation.

Speak with a Burr Ridge, IL Divorce Attorney

If you are unsure whether you want a divorce or legal separation, you should speak with a knowledgeable DuPage County divorce lawyer about your situation. At Botti Marinaccio, LTD, we work with a variety of couples in different situations. Our skilled team of attorneys can help you discover what you want, and then help you achieve it. To schedule a consultation, contact us online or call our office today at 630-575-8585.



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