You have to meet certain requirements to file for divorce in Illinois. One of them is that you have to live separately from your spouse for at least six months. The courts can waive that requirement in some situations, such as when both spouses agree.
Many people find the requirement to live separately before they file for divorce confusing. They think that they have to file for a legal separation before they can file for a divorce. Is that truly the case for divorcing couples in Illinois?
A legal separation is not the same thing as living separately
Living separately simply means that you no longer live as husband and wife. Separating means establishing separate households after living jointly, often by one spouse moving out of the marital home into their own place. You may separate by merely keeping separate rooms in the same house if you cannot afford separate domiciles.
You typically need to live separately for six months before you can file for divorce. A legal separation can play a role in your divorce as a stepping stone, but it involves the family courts deciding many of the same matters as they would in a standard divorce, like issues of custody and support. While it can be useful in some situations, a legal separation isn’t necessary prior to divorce.
People may file for a legal separation if they need court orders to protect themselves, their children or their property but do not wish to divorce for religious reasons. Legal separation can also help those trying to protect themselves after abandonment by a spouse.
When you’re unsure about how to proceed with your divorce
Most couples wanting to end their marriage will find separating and divorcing a more expedient and cost-effective option rather than pursuing legal separation. Understanding more about your options can help you make informed decisions.