If you and your spouse are considering a divorce, but first want to try a period of separation to see if the issues driving you apart can be resolved, you may decide on a trial separation. While you are separated many of the same legal rules apply as when you are married in terms of property. The money you and your spouse earn will still be considered jointly owned – the debt each of you incur is still shared. To reduce misunderstandings, especially in light of the fact you are trying to make a ‘go’ of continuing the marriage, it is a good idea to come up with an informal agreement spelling out whether you both will continue to use joint bank accounts or credit cards and how you will handle expenses. You will have to agree on where each of you will reside and make arrangements for spending time with your children also. Putting the specifics of an agreement down in writing with a specific date to end a trial separation, may provide a needed buffer to reconcile your differences or determine that a divorce is the best option.
Sometimes a trial separation is not the answer. Both spouses fully intend to divorce and are living apart, but have not initiated a divorce for reasons that may include maintaining insurance benefits or even waiting for a convenient time execute a divorce. When you and your spouse elect to become permanently separated, you are typically no longer responsible for the debt incurred by your spouse, but on the flip-side, you are no longer entitled to income and property that spouse acquires as of the separation date. One caveat to consider when electing this course is that nailing down the specific separation date for the purposes of property division may be a point of contention if you finally do divorce. You could easily get stuck with a spouse’s credit card excursion or be left out of a windfall of earnings based on the effective date of permanent separation. With this in mind, it may be advisable to proceed to a legal separation to protect yourself from a possible property dispute.
There are various types of separation, but only one, legal separation, changes your legal status protecting your legal rights. Legal separation functions much like a divorce, but still falls short of ending the marriage. It is not the same as simply separating from one’s spouse (i.e. living apart) – a legal separation allows the court to determine child custody and visitation, child support, and spousal maintenance. If you and your spouse agree, the court can divide property at this stage also. It goes further by documenting a specific separation date, which can head-off disagreements regarding marital property division if you later opt for divorce. Although legal separation shares many of the characteristics of divorce, it does not legally end your marriage. If you later decide to remarry or just want to sever the tie, you will have to divorce.
If you are considering an Illinois separation or divorce and have questions regarding child custody and support, visitation, property division, alimony or others, contact the Law Offices of Ronald L. Bell for help today.