Divorce vs. Legal Separation

If you and/or your spouse are considering ending your marriage in Illinois, there are two main options: divorce and legal separation. Although the procedures for each option are similar, the main difference is that divorce is final, while couples who get a legal separation remain married. 

In a divorce, couples sign a legally binding final agreement to divide all assets and determine arrangements for child custody, visitation child support, and spousal support (alimony). Additionally, most employer health plans, tax benefits, social security benefits, and even military benefits will no longer cover the ex-spouse. 

On the other hand, legal separation is a court-approved agreement between spouses to live physically and financially apart from each other, while still being legally married. The court may still consider similar terms of a divorce, such as allocation of parental responsibilities, child support, alimony.  

When it comes to the division of assets, the couple can distribute marital property, close the marital estate, and create two separate financial assets. For jointly owned property, a separation agreement or the court may determine who will be responsible for paying the mortgage, utilities, maintenance, etc. 

The following are the main reasons why couples decide to legally separate rather than divorce: 

  • A spouse can maintain certain benefits because he/she is still married 

  • Spouses are given time apart and later decide if the marriage is salvageable 

  • Divorce conflicts with a spouse’s religious or personal beliefs 

  • Spouses may use legal separation as a trial run for divorce 

Legal separation may benefit a troubled marriage. Even if the separation ultimately results in a divorce, you can rest assured that you and your spouse did everything you could to revive the marriage. 

Couples that have issues that cannot be reconciled may opt to divorce right away. But no matter whether you file for divorce or legal separation, it is wise to consult with an experienced family law attorney, who can thoroughly examine your situation and determine which option is best for you and your family. 

If you are interested in filing for a divorce or legal separation in Chicago, IL, call the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. at (312) 487-2795 or fill out our online contact form to request a phone consultation. Our legal team can provide you with compassionate and personalized legal services! 

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