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What Constitutes Legal Separation in Illinois Divorce?

Separation agreement form on an office table.

Illinois law requires that a couple considering divorce live separate and apart for at least six months. This period is known as legal separation. By understanding what the law considers legal separation, couples can ensure the necessary steps are taken to make it possible to divorce at the end of the six month period. Even in a high net worth divorce, the rules for legal separation are the same.

Separation agreement form on an office table.

Understanding the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act

Under Section 401 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, legal separation requires a continuous period of living apart for at least six months. While this seems clear, there are several factors to consider in determining what is “living separately” under the law.

First, many couples find that renting an apartment or buying a second home is not possible during the six month period due to tight finances. Couples can still fulfill this separation period by sleeping in different bedrooms or having one party sleep in the basement while the other sleeps in the bedroom. Even though the parties live in the same physical address, they are no longer living together in the eyes of the law. In a high net worth divorce, it is often possible for a couple to have two different residences during this time, but it is not legally required.

Agreeing to Separation Date

The courts wish to see that the couple has been living apart for at least six months prior to the divorce date. If this is true, then the couple can be granted a divorce. Knowing a specific date or agreeing to a specific date is not necessarily in these cases, as long as the couple can agree to the six-month time frame. High net worth divorce proceedings have the same rule.

Trying to Reconcile During the Legal Separation

If the couple tries to reconcile at some point in the six-month period, coming back together for a period of time, but fails to fully reconcile, the divorce court does not require the separation date to start over. The six-month period of separation still starts at the same initial time. All that is necessary is for the couple to agree to the basic starting point of the six-month period. This is the same in standard or high net worth divorce.

Uncontested divorce lawyer Denise Erlich is passionate about helping divorcing couples in the greater Chicagoland area transition to their new life as seamlessly as possible. Ms. Erlich patiently guides her clients through every step of the divorce process and provides clients with candid advice about their case and legal options, so they can make informed decisions about their future.

Years of Experience: More than 20 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
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