When to Divorce – or Just Separate

It’s no secret that many marriages don’t last the long haul. An estimated 40 to 50 percent of marriages in the US end in divorce or permanent separation. Other married couples choose to separate at some point, perhaps for a few months, in order to “save” their marriage. However, the vast majority of couples who legally separate end up divorced, which brings up the question: why separate at all?

It would surprise some newlyweds that there are many similarities between divorcing and separation, namely those concerning parental responsibilities and asset division. If you’re considering both options in your marriage, it may help to find out about these differences first – if necessary, with the help of a family attorney. Then you can determine which choice makes the most legal, financial and logistical sense for you.

Irreconcilable Differences in Illinois

Spouses hoping to divorce are no longer expected to show evidence of adultery or abuse in a court of law, as in years past. However, Under Illinois’ no-fault law, there is still generally an expectation of “irreconcilable differences” for a divorce to be granted. Couples often must show they have lived apart for at least six months as an example of their differences.

Other possible reasons for your irreconcilable differences include:

  1. Attempts at reconciliation have failed;
  2. Continued efforts at reconciliation wouldn’t be in your family’s best interests; and
  3. Your differences caused the breakdown of your marriage.

Why Couples Divorce

Although divorce is common in our society, every marriage is different, and the decision to divorce can still be a very difficult and painful one to make. It often comes after months or years of attempts to work it out, especially where children are involved.

Couples tend to head for divorce due to fundamental, deeply rooted problems or disagreements that make at least one spouse unable to remain in the marriage. There is often more than one reason a couple files for divorce. According to the online guidebook, Should I Try to Work it Out, a national survey revealed these top reasons for divorce, starting with the most common:

  • Lack of commitment
  • Too much arguing
  • Infidelity
  • Marrying too young
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of equality in the relationship
  • Lack of preparation for marriage
  • Abuse

Common Reasons for Separation

Despite the high numbers, divorce rates have gone down over the last decade. When serious problems emerge, many married couples attempt a trial separation, particularly if a traumatic event or an issue like drug abuse is causing them. Working on themselves and the relationship can repair such issues enough for the couple to reunite. Unlike a legal separation, a trial separation shouldn’t have a legal impact on issues like property rights in the marriage.

There are other common reasons that couples consider a separation:

  • They don’t know whether they want to divorce but don’t want to live together;
  • One party wants to divorce and the other doesn’t;
  • They view separation as a first step toward divorce; or
  • There are financial benefits to staying married, such as saving money on taxes or access to health insurance.

What Separating Means for Illinois Couples

In Illinois, only one spouse needs to file a petition for separation, but you generally must include a reason for making the request. If you want to separate but can’t afford to, the state often allows couples to declare they are living “separate and apart.” This means they are no longer living as a married couple even if they share a home. Illinois law requires parties to list the terms of their separation agreement in writing. Generally, it details terms such as:

  • Child support;
  • Property division;
  • Allocation of parental rights and responsibilities;
  • Visitation terms; and
  • Spousal support.

Only you and your spouse know what the right path to take is. If you separate legally, it’s important to know that both you and your spouse will maintain the rights and responsibilities of a married couple. Typically, as with divorcing couples, a judge will address your reasons for separating in a court order or agreement of legal separation. If you share children with your ex, the same issues will likely come up in a court of law. Parents are required to file a parenting plan that outlines visitation and other parental rights and responsibilities, regardless of whether they plan to divorce or just separate.

At the Law Office of David A. King, P.C., our expertise in these areas can reduce some of the stress of a divorce or separation by clarifying the options for our clients. We represent clients in Oak Brook, DuPage County, and across the surrounding areas in Illinois. To schedule a consultation regarding any family law matter, call (630) 504-7210.


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