As part of the legal separation, the parties or court may determine issues related to the custody of minor children.
Historically, the main reason for a formal legal separation is to provide an economically disadvantaged petitioner spouse with the right to reasonable support, (24) including child support and/or maintenance.
A more interesting and difficult issue is the liability for debts and expenses incurred by one spouse after a legal separation.
34) Because the legal separation does not terminate the marriage, the Family Expense Act arguably still applies.
Unlike in a divorce, then, fault for the legal separation may be a critical issue when it comes to debts owed to third parties for family expenses.
Unlike in dissolution cases, the courts have no inherent authority to award property in a legal separation, because the main purpose of legal separation is to provide a spouse with the right to support.
44) For example, the court may be granted authority to determine and divide property if one party files a petition for dissolution and the other side files a petition for legal separation but prays for the distribution of property as part of their petition for legal separation.
An illustrative case is In re Marriage of Leff, where the husband filed a petition for dissolution and the wife filed a counterpetition for legal separation.
On appeal, the wife contended the court lacked authority to award property interests as part of the legal separation.
A note for separated parties who later seek a full dissolution--property acquired after the entry of a legal separation is deemed to be nonmarital.