How Are Legal Separations Handled in Illinois?
No marriage is perfect, and married couples may encounter relationship issues for a variety of reasons. Some common factors that can lead a couple to grow apart include disagreements about finances or how to raise children, changing priorities that cause a couple to be incompatible, or extramarital affairs. For those who believe that they can no longer make their marriage work, divorce may be the best option. However, many couples are not ready for this permanent, final step, and they may first wish to separate on a trial basis. In other cases, a couple may prefer to stay legally married, even if they no longer wish to have a close relationship or live in the same home. This will allow them to maintain certain benefits and avoid the stigma of a divorce. In these situations, legal separation may be the ideal option.
The Process of Legal Separation in Illinois
For married couples who live in Illinois, a legal separation is handled in a very similar manner as a divorce. The process begins when one spouse files a petition for legal separation with the court in their county of residence. Once the paperwork is filed, the other spouse will be served with the petition and given 30 days to file a response. If both spouses agree on the terms of their legal separation, they can sign a separation agreement that will be submitted to the court.
A separation agreement will need to address multiple issues related to the couple's marriage and separation, including:
Child custody - If the couple has minor children, they will need to determine how they will share legal and physical custody. As with a divorce, parents will usually be able to share legal custody (known as the allocation of parental responsibilities), and they may divide physical custody (known as parenting time) in whatever manner they choose. If the couple cannot agree on how these issues will be handled, they may ask the judge in their case to make decisions based on what would be in the children's best interests.
Child support - The parent who has the minority of the parenting time with the couple's children will typically be required to pay child support to the parent with the majority of the parenting time. Formulas defined in Illinois law will be used to calculate the amount of these payments. Parents may also be required to divide various child-related expenses, such as costs related to medical care, education, and extracurricular activities.
Spousal support - One spouse may be required to pay financial support (known as spousal maintenance) to the other during the legal separation. Eligibility for these payments will be decided based on a number of factors, including each spouse's income and earning potential, as well as a spouse's need for support and the other spouse's ability to pay. If spousal support is awarded, statutory formulas will be used to calculate the amount that will be paid.
Property division - All of the couple's assets and debts will need to be divided between them. Unlike in a divorce, a couple that is legally separating will need to agree on how their assets will be divided, and the judge in their case may either approve this agreement or reject it because it is unfair and one-sided.
After a couple is legally separated, they will be bound by the terms of their separation agreement. Because they will continue to be legally married, they may retain certain benefits, such as the ability to inherit property from each other and the ability for one spouse to be included on the other spouse's health insurance plan. However, while each spouse may choose to begin a new relationship, they will not be able to marry a new partner until they get a divorce.
Contact Our DuPage County Legal Separation Attorneys
If you are considering a legal separation from your spouse, it is important to consult with an experienced family law attorney. At Farooqi & Husain Law Office, our knowledgeable legal team can help you understand your rights and options under Illinois law. We will work with you to determine whether legal separation is the best option for your situation, and if so, we will help you navigate the legal process. To schedule a consultation with one of our Oakbrook Terrace legal separation lawyers, call us today at 630-909-9114.