Any person living separate and apart from his or her spouse may have a remedy for reasonable support and maintenance while they so live apart. Legal separation is more of a technical term. It is not the same as simply separating from one’s spouse by living apart and so on. A legal separation does not legally end a marriage. After a legal separation, spouses are still married. They cannot marry anyone else unless they divorce. A court can determine allocation of parental responsibilites, parenting time, child support and maintenance (spousal support). The court cannto divide property unless you and your spouse agree. You must ask the cour to divide property. If you do not think you can live with your spouse, you can file for legal separation. Obtaining a legal separation does not prevent you or your spouse from obtaining a divorce later.
Such action shall be brought in the circuit court of the county in which the petitioner or respondent resides or in which the parties last resided together as husband and wife. Commencement of the action, temporary relief and trials are usually the same as in actions for dissolution of marriage. If the court deems it appropriate to enter a judgment for legal separation, the court shall consider applicable factors in the maintenance statue upon awarding maintenance. If the court deems it appropriate to enter a judgment for legal separation, the court may approve a property settlement agreement that the parties have requested the court to incorporate into the judgment, subject to the following provisions: (1) the court may not value or allocate property in the absence of such an agreement; (2) the court may disapprove such an agreement only if it finds the agreement is unconscionable; and (3) such an agreement is final and non-modifiable.
A proceeding or judgment for legal separation shall not bar either party from instituting an action for dissolution of marriage, and if the party so moving has met the requirements for a dissolution under that statute, a judgment for dissolution will be granted. Absent an agreement set forth in a separation agreement that provides for non-modifiable permanent maintenance, if a party to a judgement for legal separation files an action for dissolution of marriage, the issues of temporary and permanent maintenance shall be decided de novo.
Although a legal separation can have benefits for people who still want to receive the legal benefits of being married and maintain the status of being married, it is probably best not to use this as a first step in a divorce as it can be time consuming and costly as well.