Separating from Your Spouse in Illinois
Illinois is one of a handful of states that allows spouses to become legally separated. Legal separation is a formal process requiring you to file a petition before a court and attend a hearing along with your spouse. The judge will divide custody of your children between yourself and your spouse and separate you financially from your spouse, as well as order spousal maintenance and child support payments, if appropriate. Judges will not normally divide all of your marital property in a legal separation, unless there is an agreement and you request it. The legal separation process is almost identical to the process of obtaining a divorce, except for the fact that the parties remain legally married. Thus, you would also need to file your tax return as ‘married, but separated.’
Legal separation is rarely used, since it is so similar to divorce, but it can be a useful strategy for those who are concerned about their spouse’s spending, or even their problems with addiction. A knowledgeable Illinois divorce and family law attorney can explain the legal separation process in more detail, to help you decide if it would be the right decision for you and your spouse.
You may have encountered marital difficulties and feel that you want distance from your spouse, but you are not yet ready to commit to a formal legal separation or divorce. A period of separation can allow you and your spouse time apart to thoughtfully assess whether you wish to stay married, and to work on the issues that may be causing tension within your marriage. If you do decide to separate, keep the following suggestions in mind:
Remain respectful of your spouse. If you’ve gotten to the point of deciding to separate, your relationship with your spouse has probably reached an all-time low. Nevertheless, it is important that you remain respectful in dealing with your spouse and when discussing your spouse with friends, and most importantly, your children. Your civility during a separation could also help set the tone for an eventual divorce.
Create clear terms for the separation. Be sure that you and your spouse are on the same page about what you’re each seeking to gain through separating. If you are interested in separating only to meet the minimum requirements to divorce on no-fault grounds, make sure that your spouse understands this. If you believe there is some hope of reconciliation, discuss under what terms you would consider reconciling, or when you will make a decision regarding your marriage. For example, you may want to agree to attend a set number of couples’ counseling sessions with your spouse, after which you will decide whether to divorce. You may also need to agree to terms of visitation, custody sharing, and spousal maintenance during a separation. An attorney can help you put these issues into a written document.
For assistance with a legal separation or divorce in Illinois, contact the compassionate and seasoned Carol Stream family law attorneys at Johnson, Westra, Broecker, Whittaker & Newitt, PC for a consultation, at 630-665-9600.