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What does it mean to live “separate and apart” in Illinois?

You’re ready to get a divorce, and you intend to cite “irreconcilable differences” as the cause for your split.

The only problem is that Illinois law requires you to live “separate and apart” from your spouse for at least six months before your marriage can be dissolved. You may wonder what you can do as you work out what to do with the family home if you simply cannot afford to set up a new place of your own.

Does this mean you’re stuck in your marriage even longer? Not at all.

“Separate and apart” doesn’t necessarily mean two different homes

Case law has long established that a couple can be living “separate and apart” even while under the same roof. The critical question is whether they treat each other like spouses or live together like roommates (amicably or not).

The court may ask questions to determine whether you and your spouse meet the criteria for living separate and apart, including things like:

  • Have you been sleeping in separate rooms?
  • Have you engaged in sexual activity during the last six months?
  • Do you each handle your own money and bills?
  • Do you have different bank accounts?
  • Do you take care of your own meals, laundry and other chores?
  • Do you each have your own social circle or social life apart from the other?

There’s no hard-and-fast set of rules that the court uses to establish what “separate and apart” actually means, so it’s important to be clear about your thoughts and intentions when you make your case. The more definitive you are about the idea that you’ve already separated from your spouse — even if you share an address — the easier it will be for the court to see things your way.

There are a lot of unique features to divorce law that the average person may not know. Learning more about the law and your options can make this process much less stressful.

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