When a couple in Illinois is experiencing problems in their relationship, but are not yet ready to move forward with a divorce, a legal separation is an alternative that could be viable as they determine their next step. As with all family law issues, there are requirements with a legal separation. Those who are considering this option should be aware of the law relating to such issues as support, maintenance and what can and cannot be done.

When a couple is living separately, one of the parties can be ordered to pay support and maintenance to the other party for the duration they are living apart. This will take place in the county where one of the parties currently lives or where they last lived as a married couple. When there is temporary relief and trials, it will be the same as if there is a dissolution. The difference is that with temporary relief, it will be limited in scope. There are legal provisions that must be considered when there is a separation and support is ordered.

Applicable provisions can include: the court cannot place a value or allocate property without there being a property settlement agreement; the court can disapprove a property agreement if it decides that it is unfair, otherwise referred to as “unconscionable”; and the agreement will be final and not subject to modification.

When there is an agreement for a legal separation, it will not prevent either spouse from moving forward with a divorce. If the requirements for doing so are met, the request for a divorce will be granted. If there is no separation agreement providing for permanent maintenance, then the divorce proceeding will result in the case essentially starting over so the support can be determined.

A separation does not automatically mean the marriage is over. Some people need to spend some time apart to decide what they want for their future. However, when there are support issues, a separation agreement can be beneficial, so the decision on remaining together or dissolving the marriage will not be based on financial concerns because of the separation.