Some residents of Lake County, Illinois, may realize that they need to live separately from their spouses and want the necessary legal protection to be able to do so safely and securely. However, for religious, financial or emotional reasons, or some combination of these reasons, they may not prefer a full blown divorce.

As is the case with other states, Illinois law allows a couple to obtain a court order for legal separation. One can think of this process as a middle ground between spouses just agreeing informally to live apart and a traditional divorce, in which a couple’s marriage ends in the eyes of the state.

As part of a legal separation order, a court may allocate parental responsibilities and establish both child support and spousal maintenance.

Probably the biggest difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that the couple remains legally married. This has both benefits and drawbacks. On the one hand, the spouses cannot legally re-marry; on the other hand, they may be able to enjoy tax incentives, health care benefits and other advantages because they decided to keep their marital status intact.

In Illinois, another big difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that, in a legal separation, a court cannot enter orders dividing the spouses’ property unless both spouses agree that the court can do so. If there is no agreement, then the spouses must either work any issues out between themselves, or one of them will have to choose to ask for a divorce.

A legal separation can be a good option to explore in the right circumstances. A resident of Lake County and the broader Chicago area may wish to discuss this option with his or her family law attorney.

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