In Illinois, a person can file for legal separation if they are no longer living with their spouse without fault. By filing for legal separation, the petitioner may be able to seek a reasonable amount in financial support or spousal maintenance while the couple is still married but are not together.
There are several steps that must be taken in order to file a petition for legal separation. The petitioner must file a praecipe for summons with the court clerk. The filing fees are paid at this time. In cases where the praecipe for summons is filed without a petition, the summons will contain language stating that the action for legal separation has been started and that the respondent is required to file for an appearance within 30 days after receiving the summons.
A petition for legal separation must be filed by the petitioner within six months of the praecipe being filed. If the petitioner fails to file the petition or if the summons is not served to the respondent within 30 days after the summons has been filed, the court has the authority to dismiss the case. The only exception to this is if the respondent voluntarily files for an appearance.
Seeking a legal separation may be an option for couples who are thinking about divorce. A family law attorney can potentially assist their client with filing the proper documents and helping them understand their rights and what they may be entitled to depending upon the circumstances. Because a legal separation potentially provides a spouse with certain benefits, which may include spousal support or maintenance, the attorney could provide assistance during any negotiations. If the petitioner decides that they want to seek a divorce, the lawyer could also assist with filing the proper documents and with any negotiations.
Source: ilga.gov, "Part IV Dissolution and Legal Seperation", October 20, 2014