Photo of a couple signing document

The term, “legal separation” is often misunderstood. A person might think that if their spouse moves out of the house and into their own apartment, it constitutes legal separation. In other cases, a person might think a legal separation is one that the courts mandate as a prerequisite for a divorce. Neither of these things are true. Legal separation is an actual court-ordered arrangement, but it is not necessary to get one before a divorce.

What Is the Point of a Legal Separation?

There are many reasons for people to choose a legal separation. People who get legally separated are often considering divorce. They may want to see how they feel living apart from their partner, how things will work out financially on their own or they may want to get their children used to the idea of living in a single-parent family. 

Another reason that people sometimes get legal separations is when their religion prevents them from getting a divorce. 

Some people choose legal separation because otherwise they might lose certain benefits. Both spouses are still legally entitled to the other’s pension, health insurance, and social security benefits as long as they are still married and a legal separation will not affect these benefits. Some couples stay married and choose legal separation in order to get spousal benefits under Social Security, which has a 10-year minimum marriage requirement. Another reason why some people choose legal separation is because they are still legally entitled to an inheritance if their spouse dies.

Is a Legal Separation the Same as Living Apart from Your Spouse?

They are not the same. A physical separation from your spouse is not a legal proceeding. It is just that – living separately. There are no courtrooms or judges involved if you and your spouse decide to live apart. It is something that a couple may consider before starting a legal proceeding for a legal separation or a divorce.

Should You Hire an Attorney?

Because the conditions of a legal separation can have a serious effect on your life, you should get an attorney to assist you. An attorney can inform you of what rights you have under Illinois law. If you have children with your spouse, then you probably have questions about parenting time and parental responsibilities and decision making. Our attorneys can answer your questions and help you decide on a plan of action that is best for you. Oftentimes people ask about spousal support, what to do if their spouse doesn’t live in Illinois and how the court can help them divide property.

The lawyers at Swietkowski & Swietkowski, P.C. have years of experience in divorce law and legal separations. We understand that this is a significant life change, which is why we are here for you every step of the way.

How Does the Process of Legal Separation Work?

If you and your spouse have decided to get a legal separation, then there are certain steps you will want to take. First, since you cannot live in the same household while legally separated, one or both of you need to move. Second, you must file a Petition for Legal Separation in the correct circuit court, which is usually the one you both lived in, but it could be yours if your spouse moves out of state.

Photo of a woman putting off a ring

What Are Some Drawbacks of Legal Separation?

There are a few reasons why some couples decide that legal separation isn’t for them and instead choose a conventional divorce. First, neither partner can get remarried if they remain legally separated. A legal separation does not end a marriage, which is required to get remarried. 

Many people who get legally separated will eventually get a divorce, which means that they spend money and time on two different legal proceedings, once for the legal separation and again for the divorce.

Taking this next step in life might be anxiety-provoking. Swietkowski & Swietkowski, P.C. can help make this process easier. If you are thinking of getting legally separated, call a Chicago family law attorney today.