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What is the difference between legal separation and divorce?

When married couples part, they don't necessarily pursue a divorce or dissolution immediately. They may instead pursue a legal separation. However, many may want more clarity about the difference between a legal separation and a divorce or dissolution.

Learning more about legal separation can help. One thing to know is why couples may choose to pursue it. A couple may no longer want to live together and yet have religious reasons for not formally getting divorced. Alternatively, they may worry about the effect something like a divorce may have on medical insurance coverage that comes from one person's employer. Of course, medical policy providers have noticed this and now may disqualify a person who is legally separated.

When people file for legal separation, they do so by giving one or more of ten possible reasons, or grounds, for why the legal separation should be granted. Many of the reasons are similar to those used by people applying to divorce, like adultery, extreme cruelty, and willful absence for over a year. However, a legal separation is still different from a divorce or dissolution because it does not end the marriage.

Illinois couples who choose a legal separation may get court orders to deal with specific issues. Those issues can include child custody, child support, payment of debts and division of property. Therefore, a legal separation may look a lot like a divorce or dissolution. The children may live primarily with one parent, while the other is legally compelled to pay for their support.

In view of those dynamics, couples considering a legal separation may want to get more information and look closely at whether it is really better for them than a divorce or dissolution would be.

Source: Ohio State Bar Association, "How Does a Legal Separation Differ from a Divorce or Dissolution?," accessed May. 05, 2015

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