If your marriage has hit a rough patch, you may be wondering about what to do next. When attempts at counseling and working it out aren’t helping, you may be ready to move to the next step. For some couples, the question may be whether they should get separated – or move forward with a divorce.
A legal separation is a technical term that requires more than one spouse to simply move out. There are benefits to being separated, such as maintaining benefits or trying to figure out if you want to get back together. However, if you are just separated – and not divorced – then you cannot remarry another person and may not have a final resolution on issues like division of assets and debts.
At Manassa Law, we are committed to helping our clients understand their full range of options – including the pros and cons of separation and divorce. We work with you to help you achieve the best possible outcome for your family law matter. Reach out to our law offices today to schedule a free initial consultation with a Barrington divorce attorney.
The Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce
Both divorce and legal separation are technical terms. As an initial matter, it is important to understand that legal separation requires more than one spouse moving out of the house. To be legally separated, you must be living physically apart from your spouse and file a Petition for Legal Separation with the circuit court in your area.
A legal separation does not end a marriage. Your marriage will only be over once you file for divorce and a court enters a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. As part of this judgment, there will either be a court order or an agreement between the parties regarding outstanding issues such as alimony/spousal support, child custody, child support, and property division.
With a legal separation, you are still married. A court can issue an order on certain aspects of your marriage, such as child custody (parental responsibilities and parenting time), child support, and alimony. A legal separation can carry on indefinitely in Illinois.
A legal separation is often the first step in a divorce – but not always. If one or both spouses are certain that they want a divorce, then they can move forward with that process without a legal separation.
When a Legal Separation May Be Better
There are some benefits to separating instead of divorcing. For many couples, a separation allows them to try out living apart without committing to a divorce. If you are contemplating ending your marriage – but aren’t sure that you are ready to take that step – a legal separation can be a good trial to see if you want to stay together or end the relationship.
At the same time, a legal separation can be a way to provide a stable environment for your kids while you are exploring whether or not you want to get divorced. A court will decide issues, like allocating parenting time, that will ensure that you have clear ground rules. During a separation, you can see how this will affect your children – and think more about whether a divorce is what you truly want.
For some couples, there are financial reasons to legally separate instead of divorcing. Divorce can be expensive, both in terms of legal fees and the cost of splitting property. A legal separation allows you to have the benefits of living apart from your spouse – without the financial burden of actually divorcing.
In some cases, it may be necessary to stay legally married in order for one spouse to receive benefits like health insurance, social security and/or a pension. In this situation, it may make more sense to separate rather than legally divorce. This is particularly true if both spouses have no plans or desire to remarry.
Finally, legal separation might be a good option if you are worried about social stigma or religious issues. In some faiths, divorce is prohibited – or strongly discouraged. For this reason, some couples may prefer to separate rather than divorce.
While there are potential benefits to legal separation, it is important to remember that you are still married when you are apart. You can date, but you cannot marry someone. It also may not give you a sense of finality or allow you to move forward with your life.
When Divorce Is the Best Choice
If you know that your marriage is over, then divorce may be the best option for you. This is especially true if you would like to date and/or potentially remarry again. If you are just ready to be done with your marriage – for whatever reason – then divorce is probably the better way to go.
Legal separation has its advantages, but it is sort of a state of limbo – you are technically married, but not in any real sense of the word. You are effectively living as a divorced couple, but without the finality of divorce that would allow you to move forward.
In a legal separation, you can address all of the issues that would be handled in a divorce, like child custody and support, property division, and alimony. However, there is still something to be said for getting a divorce if you know that is what you want. Getting that final divorce decree can lift a huge weight off of your shoulders – and allow you to put the past behind you.
Divorce may also be the more cost-effective option for many couples. Legal separation is more than just someone moving out or into a separate bedroom – it is a legal process. You may need to hire lawyers to hash out the issues or to advocate for your interests before the court to get separated. If you do decide to get divorced, then you may need to go through the process again if there are outstanding issues or if some aspect of the agreement or order isn’t working for you.
Ultimately, if you know that you want to get divorced, then it often makes more sense just to file a petition for divorce instead of prolonging the process with a legal separation. While there are good reasons to separate instead of divorce, it isn’t the best option for everyone. Your Barrington, IL divorce attorney can help you decide what is the right choice for you and your family.
How Our Law Firm Can Help
Making the decision to end your marriage can be difficult. You may not be ready to pull the proverbial trigger on ending it for good – which is when a legal separation can be helpful. If you are more interested in finality and know that your marriage is over, then your best choice may be to get divorced.
Based in Barrington, IL, Manassa Law represents individuals and families in family law matters, including divorce, child custody and support, and alimony. We are experienced in collaborative divorce and at helping our clients achieve the best possible outcome for their family. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, give our law office a call at 866-292-7996 or fill out our online contact form.