Those in Illinois have three ways to sever a marriage: divorce, annulment and legal separation. You can only get an annulment in specific situations (such as incapacity or if a spouse is underage), leaving divorce and legal separation as your options.
The critical way legal separation differs from divorce is that it won’t end a marriage in the eyes of the law. In other words, you cannot remarry if you have not gotten divorced. Still, a legal separation can be the best choice for some couples looking to address a broken union.
You and your spouse are free to negotiate the same issues you would if you got a divorce. You can divide your marital property and create a spousal support agreement in your separation documents. You may even address child-related matters such as custody, visitation and support.
Why do people choose legal separation?
It depends on issues specific to each couple. Some choose legal separation because their religion rules out a divorce. Other common reasons for choosing this option include the following:
- A legal separation ensures that both spouses retain property benefits upon the other’s death.
- Couples remain eligible for the health care, tax and Social Security benefits available to married couples.
- If still legally married, spouses can make financial and medical decisions for one another in an emergency.
A long-term or permanent legal separation may be the best choice for couples that want to live apart yet retain the benefits married couples enjoy.
Unfortunately, a legal separation can be nearly as complicated as divorce –making it critical to improve your knowledge of Illinois family law. Learning more about legal separation and divorce empowers you to choose the option that best meets your needs.