An Illinois legal separation should not be confused with a physical separation or a divorce. It is a specific legal change in marital status with accompanying consequences. It starts with a petition requesting a change in legal status from “married” to “legally separated.” The parties must be living apart and the individual filing must have lived in Illinois for at least 90 days, along with making a claim of no fault. The judge will then decide the responsibilities and obligations of each partner with regard to such issues as spousal and child support, living arrangements, and child custody and visitation. However, neither spouse will have claim to property acquired by the other after the date of legal separation, as a legal separation essentially creates two financial estates.
Legal separation is a way for couples to avoid jumping straight into a dissolution of marriage action, if this is what they want. Reasons for doing so can be financial or sometimes religious. Partners are not allowed to remarry during a legal separation; however it can be converted into a divorce at any time. Because an Illinois legal separation is legal change in marital status, and can mean substantive changes in living arrangements and financial status for both parties, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney so that your rights and responsibilities are respected.