Many people think that when a couple wants to live apart they have to get a "legal separation." This is not true. Often couples live apart for a while before they decide to get a divorce. This is not "illegal."
Legal separations are for people who do not want a divorce (usually for religious reasons). They still need a legal paper to settle custody, support, and property questions. The court makes the same kinds of decisions that it makes in a divorce. However, the couple remain married, and the division of property is not final.
A legal separation is similar to a divorce. It takes as long as a divorce. If the court grants a legal separation and the husband or wife decides later to get a divorce, a new case must be started. A legal separation is not a necessary step in the divorce process. For people whose religion prevents divorce, a legal separation may be best.