In virtually every respect, except for the severance of the marital status, legal separation is the same as divorce. In other words, issues of custody of children, child support, spousal support, division of property, and allocation of attorneys’ fees are dealt with and final judgment is entered on those issues. However, the marital status remains intact.
There are very few instances when legal separation is appropriate. One example is when neither party intends to remarry, and one of the spouses is uninsurable for medical benefits without going through the other spouse’s medical plan. By staying married, an insurable interest may be preserved, and the otherwise uninsurable spouse may be able to continue to receive the benefits of medical insurance. Each circumstance is unique, and this approach may or may not apply to your case.
Sometimes parties want to file by way of legal separation because they think there may be a reconciliation. This isn’t necessary since a dissolution of marriage action can always be dismissed upon reconciliation and prior to the severance of the marital status (which, by law, cannot be less than 6 months from the date the Respondent is served with the Petition).