There are numerous options available for couples facing challenges in their marriage. Two common actions that couples consider are divorce and legal separation. Understanding the distinction between these two choices is crucial in Illinois when making life-changing decisions.
Navigating divorce and legal separation in Illinois brings up a multitude of legal factors and emotional concerns. In this blog, our experienced Illinois-based Divorce and Family Law attorneys explore the differences and provide insight into the unique aspects of each process.
Divorce vs. Legal Separation
Before delving into the process, it’s essential to understand some fundamental differences in an Illinois divorce or separation. A divorce terminates marriages, freeing both parties to remarry. On the other hand, a legal separation does not dissolve the marriage. Instead, it provides a legal framework for spouses to separate while addressing child custody and property division issues. Let’s take a deeper look at what each option entails.
Divorce is a legal process that results in the termination of a marital union, allowing both spouses to return to the status of single individuals. The primary aspect of divorce is that it terminates the legal relationship between partners. Divorces divide not only their physical assets but also their debts, responsibilities, and future rights.
To file for divorce in Illinois, at least one of the spouses must have been a state resident for at least 90 days. This residency requirement ensures that the case gets filed in the appropriate jurisdiction. It’s crucial to note that Illinois is a no-fault divorce state, which means that you don’t have to prove wrongdoing or assign blame for the marriage breakdown.
The only recognized ground for divorce is “irreconcilable differences,” which signifies that the marriage has broken down beyond repair. After the legal proceedings, the court issues a divorce decree addressing the division of property, spousal support (if applicable), child custody (Parenting Time), visitation, and child support arrangements.
Illinois Legal Separation
A legal separation is an alternative option for couples who wish to live apart and establish legally binding arrangements while remaining married. Unlike divorce, legal separation doesn’t dissolve the marriage itself. Instead, it outlines each spouse’s responsibilities, rights, and obligations, similar to a divorce decree, but without terminating the marital status.
People in Illinois seek legal separation for various reasons, including religious or personal considerations. It allows couples to establish specific terms related to property division, spousal support, child custody, visitation, and child support. Legal separation protects both parties, as they can enforce the terms outlined in the separation agreement through court orders.
Key Differences and Considerations
Divorce can have various emotional effects on you and your family, depending on the separation’s circumstances. It is essential to be aware of these potential effects and address them proactively. Let’s take a look at how some of these issues vary.
- Parenting Time: Parenting Time (formerly called Child Custody) and support are crucial in divorce or legal separation cases involving children. Illinois courts prioritize the child’s best interests when determining parenting time arrangements and support payments.
- Emotional Impact: Divorce often carries a more profound emotional impact, given that it signifies the end of the marital relationship. Legal separation can be viewed as a temporary arrangement, allowing couples to reassess their situation.
- Religious or Personal Issues: Legal separation allows couples with religious or personal differences another avenue for divorce. It offers them a middle ground between maintaining their marriage and living apart.
- Financial Considerations: Both divorce and legal separation address financial matters, but the implications may vary. Consulting legal and financial professionals is essential to ensure that your rights and assets are adequately protected.
- Property Division: Illinois follows the principle of equitable distribution, which means that marital property is divided fairly but not necessarily equally between spouses. We must consider factors like the length of the marriage, the contributions of each spouse, and their financial circumstances.
Divorce and Legal Separation Process
Divorce and legal separation: Each option has its outcomes and impacts. To start either process, one spouse (called the petitioner) must submit a request to their circuit court.
Both divorce and legal separation involve similar legal procedures. These procedures can include discussions, mediation, and court hearings. Opting for a legal separation lets spouses keep certain marital benefits, like health insurance coverage. On the other hand, divorce brings more significant changes, such as the freedom to remarry and the end of spousal benefits.
If you want a legal separation, you can submit a Petition. This document states that you and your spouse live separately, including information similar to a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
You must file for legal separation in the county where:
- Your spouse resides; OR
- You and your spouse last resided as husband and wife; OR
- If your spouse cannot be found in Illinois, the county in which you reside.
Remember, every case is different, and the legal steps may vary. It’s a good idea to consult a family law attorney to understand the process and consequences of divorce and legal separation in Illinois.
If neither divorce nor legal separation sounds like the ideal outcome to your situation, there is another way to settle disputes: mediation.
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that involves a neutral third party who facilitates communication between the parties to help them reach a mutually beneficial solution. Unlike a judge, the mediator does not make decisions for the parties; instead, they help the parties reach their agreement.
Mediation typically begins with both parties meeting with their mediator to discuss the issues at hand. The mediator then facilitates communication between the parties, helping them to identify and address their concerns. Once an agreement is reached, the mediator will draft a written contract that both parties can sign.
In some cases, mediation may not be successful. However, even in these situations, the parties may better understand each other’s positions and concerns, making future negotiations more straightforward.
Working With a Family Law Attorney
If you’re looking for a top lawyer in Illinois, consider working with the skilled attorneys at Masters Law Group. Masters Law Group is located in downtown Chicago, covering divorce cases in Cook County and surrounding regions. Our focus areas include divorce, legal separation, mediation, and other family law issues.
Our senior attorneys, Erin E. Masters, and Anthony G. Joseph, have been recognized by prestigious publications such as Best Lawyers, Super Lawyers, and Leading Lawyers, ensuring you have someone you can trust during your divorce. Furthermore, Erin E. Masters has been approved as a Mediator for the Cook County Domestic Relations Division and offers private mediation services. If you want to settle your family law matter without court intervention, contact Masters Law Group to schedule a mediation appointment.
If you’re considering a divorce, legal separation, or mediation services in Illinois, you don’t have to go it alone. Our dedicated attorneys are ready to skillfully advocate for your position and provide your voice when needed. Servicing Cook, Will, Lake, and Dupage counties, our attorneys can help guide you through the process and protect your rights every step of the way.