The end of a relationship is never easy. If you are like many other couples, you may want to spend some time apart before you make the final decision to divorce. For some of these people, a legal separation was a solution.
A legal separation is different from a divorce and may not be right for you. A New Lenox lawyer can explain separation agreements and help you determine whether it may be the right solution for you.
A legal separation is not necessarily the end of a marriage. Unlike a divorce, if you enter into a legal separation, you remain legally married and cannot remarry. The spouses can still file joint tax returns and maintain many of the rights and privileges as other married couples, pursuant to the restrictions of a legal separation agreement.
A legal separation allows a couple to stay married but live separately. Additionally, parties may be ordered to pay child support or spousal maintenance. A separation may also include schedules for visitation and child custody.
A separation agreement can also divide or distribute a couple’s property. Unlike in a divorce, a court will generally not step in and divide property if you cannot agree. Instead, the judge will sign an order distributing property if both parties agree and the agreement is not unreasonable. The property division agreement cannot be modified later unless you both agree.
According to Illinois Statutes Chapter 750, Families § 5/402, an action for legal separation must be brought in the county where the couple last lived together, and the couple must be currently living apart. At least one spouse must have resided in Illinois for 90 days prior to the action. For a court to have jurisdiction over any children, however, the child must have lived in the state for at least six months.
Spouses tend to choose legal separation over divorce for two main reasons – the hope of reconciliation and religious or cultural concerns. In both of these cases, couples may need legal help to separate their lives but may not want the finality or stigma of divorce.
Legal separations may also help people working through serious marital problems. Since a separation is not a divorce, it gives you time to live separately and assess if the marriage should continue. You can later agree to dismiss the separation if you reconcile or can file for divorce and make the separation permanent at any time.
Additionally, many religions and cultures frown on divorce. A separating couple may not be able to live with each other any longer but may also not want to be ostracized from family or their religious community. Legal separations in these cases provide the benefits of a divorce without a change your marital status.
Finally, legal separations are helpful when one spouse has a problem with money. Generally, anything acquired during a marriage is marital property. This means both the good (assets) and the bad (debts/liabilities) belong to the marriage when a couple is married. Marital property is subject to equitable distribution, which means that the judge will divide the property based upon what is fair in the circumstances, which is not necessarily equal. A legal separation can protect you from your spouse’s spending or behavior by establishing clearly who is liable for future transactions.
A legal separation can be as complicated and messy as a divorce, especially if you have children. An attorney can provide guidance on the pitfalls of a separation agreement and can help you understand the process in New Lenox. Call Reidy Law Office LLC to learn more about how we can help.