The choice to end a marriage is often a difficult one. In some cases, a married couple may feel that their relationship is no longer working, and they may be looking at their options and considering whether to go ahead with a divorce. However, legally terminating a marriage will involve multiple types of complex legal, financial, and personal issues, and one or both spouses may be worried about how the lives of themselves, their children, or others may be affected by this drastic change. In Illinois, legal separation may be an avenue available to couples who are not ready to take the final step of divorce but need some distance and independence. By understanding the potential benefits and drawbacks of legal separation, couples can determine whether this may be a solution that will work for them.
Understanding Legal Separation
In many cases, spouses may choose to separate on a trial basis as they determine whether they want to get a divorce. One spouse may move out of the family’s home, or the spouses may continue residing together while taking steps to be independent of each other, such as sleeping in different rooms and handling certain expenses individually. However, a couple will not become legally separated until they take steps to address certain issues in court and establish a separation agreement.
In a legal separation, couples will remain legally married while living separately and apart from one another. Formal legal separation cases are handled in family court, and they address many of the same issues that will play a role in a divorce. A couple may negotiate a legal separation agreement, and it must be approved by a judge before it is considered valid. The agreement may address issues such as child custody, parenting time, spousal maintenance (alimony), division of property, and other matters related to the marriage. If the couple cannot agree on certain issues, they may ask the judge to make the final decisions about how these matters will be handled. However, a judge cannot decide matters related to property division in a legal separation; they can only approve an agreement reached by a couple or rule that a proposed agreement is unfair and inequitable. Once a separation agreement is approved by the court, the spouses are considered legally separated, and they will be bound by the terms of the agreement.
The Benefits of Legal Separation
There are several benefits associated with legal separation when compared to divorce. One of these benefits is that a separation can allow a couple time to decide if they want to stay together or end their marriage without having to go through the process of filing for divorce right away. In some cases, legal separation can allow couples who have religious or cultural objections to divorce or who wish to remain married for health insurance purposes a way to maintain the benefits of marriage. A separation agreement can also address many of the issues that a couple would need to resolve in a divorce, so if they choose to legally terminate their marriage in the future, they may be able to avoid conflict and complete the process more quickly and efficiently.
The Potential Downsides of Legal Separation
The process of getting legally separated requires spouses to reach agreements on how certain issues will be handled, and this can be difficult when they have incompatible goals. In cases where reconciliation is not possible or when spouses are unable to agree on certain matters, it may be better to pursue a divorce, which will allow both parties to move forward and live lives that are separate from each other. Even if spouses agree on the terms of a legal separation, it is important to remember that they will continue to be legally married. If either spouse begins a relationship with a new partner, they will be unable to remarry until they legally terminate their marriage through divorce.
Contact Our Lombard Legal Separation Lawyers
While legal separation can be beneficial for certain couples, it comes with its own set of challenges. It is important for people considering this option to weigh all pros and cons carefully before making any final decisions. At [[title]], our Bloomingdale family law attorneys can provide guidance to those who are considering legal separation or divorce, and we can assist with the negotiation of a separation agreement or represent our client’s interests in court. To set up a free consultation and get the legal help you need in these situations, contact our office at [[phone]].