How Do I File for Legal Separation in Illinois?

How Do I File for Legal Separation in Illinois?

By: Gordon & Perlut, LLC

Legal separation in Illinois is often preferable to married couples over divorce for a wide variety of reasons. Sometimes a couple has religious reasons for wanting to avoid a divorce, but the parties still want to live apart from one another and to ask the court to decide about support and maintenance. In other situations, spouses might realize that, for healthcare reasons and health insurance needs, a divorce is not practical at the time.

Accordingly, they might decide to ask the court for a legal separation in which the court decides issues concerning maintenance, child support and makes decisions about parental responsibilities while the parties remain legally married. These are just a couple of examples of reasons for a legal separation instead of a divorce. In Illinois, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) specifically provides terms for a legal separation.

So, how do you file for a legal separation in Illinois? We will provide you with more information.

File a Petition for a Legal Separation 

Like filing a petition for the dissolution of marriage under the IMDMA (i.e., a petition for divorce), either spouse who wants to seek a legal separation can file a petition for legal separation “in the circuit court of the county in which the petitioner or respondent resides or in which the parties last resided as husband and wife.” In other words, if you want to file a petition for a legal separation, you will need to file that petition in one of the following three court locations:

  • County where you live
  • County where your spouse lives; or
  • County where you last lived together with your spouse as a married couple

In many Chicago legal separation cases, both spouses will live in Cook County, so the question of where to file the petition might not be an issue.

Asking the Court to Decide About Support and Custody

When you file a petition for legal separation, you may be seeking spousal maintenance, or you may have minor children from your marriage, which means that the court will need to allocate parental responsibilities and determine the child support obligation. Under the IMDMA, filing a petition for legal separation in Illinois allows a party to ask the court to do all these things:

  • Determine whether spousal maintenance is appropriate;
  • Award spousal maintenance based on the guidelines or otherwise;
  • Allocate parental responsibilities; and/or
  • Determine the total child support obligation and each parent’s percentage of that obligation according to the “income shares” model used in Illinois.

Keep in mind that filing a petition for a legal separation will not result in the court deciding about marital property. The court will not value or allocate marital property when a spouse files a petition for a legal separation unless the spouses have already reached an agreement about the distribution of assets and debts.

Seek Advice from a Chicago Legal Separation Attorney 

If you need advice about filing a petition for a legal separation, you should seek advice from an Illinois legal separation lawyer as soon as you can. One of the experienced family law attorneys at our firm can discuss the differences between legal separation and divorce with you today, and we can help you to get your legal separation underway. Contact Gordon & Perlut, LLC to learn more about the services we provide to clients in Cook County, Lake County, and DuPage County.