When a couple’s marriage is hanging by the threads, spouses have to make some important decisions. If a case would be considered a high asset divorce in Illinois, a couple might choose to legally separate while some crucial decisions are made. There are differences between the two paths, and it’s important that couples understand the intricacies of both divorce and legal separation.
What divorce means
Essentially, a divorce is the permanent and formal end of a marriage. During the divorce process, several things happen:
- The court declares a couple is no longer legally married, returning each person to the legal status of single.
- Finances are officially split from a former partner, and marital assets are divided.
- If underage children are involved, child custody is determined, and a parenting plan is put in place.
- If necessary, the court may order one person to pay the other spousal support, child support or both.
What legal separation means
During a legal separation, partners’ finances are definitively split, and they work to divide marital assets. As in divorce, custody and support orders will also be determined. Unlike divorce, a legal separation doesn’t actually end the marriage. According to the law, spouses are still married. A separation can be reversed at any time, returning a couple to fully married status, and it can also be converted into a divorce.
Some Illinois couples may hesitate to end their marriages for one reason or another. Perhaps spouses may not be ready for the finality of a divorce. In that case, a separation agreement — implemented after each spouse obtains independent legal advice — can be a stepping stone, allowing couples to decide whether they actually want to permanently end their marriages.