Last updated: August 2015
Note:The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution Act and Paternity Act changed on January 1, 2016. The most up-to-date information can be found in the following articles: Parentage (formerly Paternity), Divorce, Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (formerly Custody), Parenting Time (formerly Visitation), and Child Support.
A divorce means the marriage is legally over. Ex-spouses can marry others. The court can determine child custody, visitation, and child support. It can also determine spousal support and divide property.
Legal separation is a technical term. It is not the same as simply separating from one’s spouse (i.e. living apart, etc.). A legal separation does not legally end a marriage. After a legal separation, spouses are still married. They cannot marry anyone else unless they divorce. A court can determine child custody, visitation, child support, and spousal support. The court cannot divide property unless you and your spouse agree. You must ask the court to divide property.
If you do not think you can live with your spouse, you can file for legal separation. Obtaining a legal separation does not prevent you or your spouse from obtaining a divorce later.
A legal separation is different than a physical separation. Legal separation will decide questions about how much child support or maintenance should be paid.
One benefit of getting a legal separation is that you can physically live apart from your spouse without being considered to have "abandoned" your spouse. Abandonment of at least 1 year is a ground that can be used against you in a "fault" divorce.
To get a legal separation, you must be physically living apart from your spouse when you ask the court for a legal separation. You must also not be "at fault" in causing the separation. "Fault" can include actions like adultery or abandonment of at least 1 year. There are other grounds for fault as well.
You have to live in Illinois for more than 90 days.
Yes, you can still get a legal separation in such a situation.
If your spouse has never lived in Illinois, the court can give you a legal separation. The court may not be able to decide issues like child support and maintenance.
The children must live in Illinois for 6 months before the court can decide custody.
The best place to ask for a legal separation is in the county where you lived with your spouse. The next best place to ask is the county where your spouse lives.
If your spouse does not live in Illinois, you can ask for a legal separation in the county where you live.
You can begin a legal separation by filing a petition with the Circuit Court Clerk of the appropriate county. For a list of circuit courts, view the Illinois Courts website.
To ask for a legal separation in Illinois you must:
For a list of organizations in your area that may be able to help you, enter your zip code.
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