Illinois law permits a married couple the ability to seek what is known as a legal separation. The process is straightforward, requiring one of the spouses to complete and file a simple petition. A legal separation proceeding results in an order from the court resolving all issues surrounding a marital relationship, including division of assets and debts and those relating to children. The only difference between a legal separation action and divorce under Illinois law rests in the fact that the marriage itself is not terminated in a legal separation.
Locating the Documents
You won't need to write your petition for separation from scratch. You can obtain a standard form or template, which is available from the circuit court clerk in the county where you reside. Alternatively you can download a template for a petition, and all necessary documents associated with a legal separation, from Southern Illinois University School of Law. Read through the documents and be sure you understand them, before you start.
The Basic Requirements
If you're going to file for separation in Illinois, you must have lived in the state for at least 90 days. If custody is involved, you and the children normally must live in the state for at least six months before filing. You must be living apart, either by mutual consent or because one of the parties has done something to damage the marriage. You can file as long as you're not the one who misbehaved, otherwise your partner must file and you can choose whether to agree with the petition.
Completing the Petition
Completing the petition requires you to include basic information about yourself, your spouse, your finances and your children. The standard form or template includes blanks where you input the information required by Illinois law. When you're done, a simple signature completes the petition; you don't need to sign in front of a notary. If you're separating by mutual agreement, your signs the petition as well. Joint petitions are routinely filed in Illinois circuit courts.
The Rest of the Process
Take the documents to the court in the county where you'll file the petition. This is usually the county where your spouse lives, but if your spouse lives outside of Illinois you should file in the county where you live instead. Pay the filing fee, which varies from one Illinois circuit court to another. The circuit court clerk can tell you how much the fee is in your county.