Couples in Illinois who no longer wish to remain together will usually file for divorce, but this is not true in every case. In some situations, a divorce could have serious financial consequences, and a couple may choose to remain legally married while leading separate lives. In these situations, entering into a legal separation agreement may be advisable.
While some couples choose not to divorce on religious or sentimental grounds, a legal separation is often motivated by financial considerations. A common reason for pursuing a legal separation is to maintain health insurance benefits. However, some employers deny benefits to separated couples in the same way that they do to couples who have divorced. Tax benefits may be another benefit of not divorcing. The IRS offers greater deductions to married taxpayers, but not all separated couples may be able to file a joint return.
Qualifying for higher Social Security benefits is another reason a couple may choose to stay married. Under Social Security Administration rules, a spouse who earns a low income or does not work at all is entitled to receive benefits based on their partner's income after 10 years of marriage. While the benefit will only be half of the amount paid to their partner, this could still be a significant consideration when contemplating divorce.
When a relationship ends, emotional strain may sometimes lead to unfortunate financial decisions. A family law attorney will likely understand these psychological stresses and may be able to offer a more objective point of view. The attorney can explain the financial consequences of both a divorce and a legal separation agreement and can offer advice based on a client's specific situation.
Source: Forbes, "Legal Separation or Divorce: Which is Better Financially?", Jeff Landers, January 10, 2012