What is a "Separation"?
A separation occurs when a married couple decides they no longer want to live together, but decide to live apart for a while.
What is a "Legal Separation"?
Legal separation is a formal judgment issued by a court of law that all the issues concerning a marriage have been resolved (child custody, child visitation, child support, spousal support, distribution of property, attorney fees, and personal conduct) with the exception of marital status. A judgment of a legal separation lawsuit leaves the couple with the legal status of married persons while settling the respective rights and obligations that each spouse has to the other. Spouses who are legally separated are not free to marry since neither has been returned to the legal status of an unmarried (single) person.
What are the Advantages to a Legal Separation?
Legal separation is usually pursued when the parties want to stay married for religious reasons, want the advantage of deductibility of spousal support payments for income tax reasons, want to maintain various insurance coverage's, or are do not want to wait the state statutory waiting period for termination of marital status. For some people, a legal separation is desired to set the parameters for dealing with one another while living separate and apart (especially with respect to continuing support obligations and child sharing issues) while maintaining the status of being married, and leaving the door open for a reunion/resumption of marriage.
Legal separation is not a prerequisite to divorce (dissolution of marriage).
If a Couple Separates Pending a No-Fault Divorce, Are They Allowed to Date Each Other During the Separation Period?
On the summons, please read (usually on the reverse side) whether there are "automatic" stay away orders. If there are such orders, and you are discovered to have been "dating", then the court is going to look upon the filing as a "sham" (that is, there is no present intent to be separated) and will not grant the divorce.
As a matter of fact, the court could issue monetary sanctions for having violated the "stay away" order. "Separation" within the meaning of most States' laws requires more than a rift in the spouses' relationship. The date of "separation" occurs only when the parties have come to a parting of the ways with no present intent to resume their marriage, and their conduct evidences a complete and final break in the marital relationship.