HomeBlogDivorceLegal Separation vs. Divorce

Legal Separation vs. Divorce

At WARD FAMILY LAW, LLC, we frequently address the complexities of legal separation and divorce. Both processes allow couples to live separate lives, but they carry distinct legal implications and emotional impacts. This blog post aims to elucidate these differences, helping you make an informed decision about the best course of action for your unique circumstances.

Defining Legal Separation and Divorce

Legal Separation: This arrangement allows a married couple to live apart while remaining legally married. The couple physically and financially separates but does not dissolve the marriage. Key issues such as child custody (or more accurately, the allocation of parental responsibility), property division, and spousal support are addressed similarly to a divorce.

Divorce: Known as Dissolution of Marriage in Illinois, divorce legally ends a marriage. A contested divorce involves disagreements on major issues, whereas an uncontested divorce occurs when both parties agree on all terms. The final judgment includes provisions for the allocation of parental responsibilities, child support, spousal maintenance, and property division.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Legal Separation


  • Health Insurance: Separated spouses can retain shared health insurance benefits.
  • Social Security: Potential retirement benefits remain intact.
  • Military Benefits: Maintains benefits for spouses of military personnel.
  • Trial Run: Offers a trial period before deciding on a divorce.
  • Children’s Welfare: This can simplify issues related to shared children and pooling financial resources.
  • Property Division: Property acquired after separation is considered non-marital.


  • Marital Status: Remaining married may feel counterintuitive for those seeking separation.
  • Time and Money: This may be a redundant step if divorce follows soon after.
  • Complexity: Equally complex and stressful as divorce.
  • Children’s Stress: Can confuse and stress children.
  • New Relationships: Complicates starting new relationships since remarriage is not possible.
  • Legal Enforcement: Courts have limited power to enforce property division equitably.



  • Finality: Provides a clear, legal end to the marriage.
  • Freedom: Allows individuals to remarry and move forward with their lives.
  • Legal Clarity: Simplifies legal standings and responsibilities.
  • Equitable Division: Courts have full authority to enforce property division.


  • Emotional Toll: Often emotionally taxing for both parties and any children involved.
  • Cost and Time: It can be expensive and time-consuming, especially if contested.
  • Social Impact: It may carry a social stigma for some individuals.

When to Choose Legal Separation

Legal separation might be preferable if:

  • You or your spouse need to maintain shared health insurance.
  • Social security or military benefits are a consideration.
  • You wish to test a separation before deciding on divorce.
  • Joint financial support for children is easier while still legally married.
  • Avoiding the social stigma of divorce is important to you.

When to Opt for Divorce

Divorce may be the better option if:

  • You desire a definitive end to the marriage.
  • Legal clarity and the ability to remarry are important to you.
  • The emotional and financial costs of separation followed by divorce are too high.
  • You seek a clear division of marital property enforced by court order.


At WARD FAMILY LAW, we understand that every situation is unique. Our nearly 20 years of experience in matrimonial and family law, combined with our commitment to providing well-rounded representation, enable us to guide you through either process with professionalism and compassion.

Get The Help You Need

Choosing between legal separation and divorce depends on your specific needs and circumstances. Both processes involve significant legal and emotional considerations. At WARD FAMILY LAW, LLC, we are here to help you navigate these challenging decisions with the utmost care and professionalism. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and explore the best path forward for you and your family.



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