Before pursuing a divorce action, a party may petition the court or parties may agree to legally separate. A legal separation is generally sought when parties want to pursue reconciliation or for financial or other emotional reasons. A legal separation order may contain orders or agreement regarding child custody, parent time, child support, alimony, financial issues, possession of property etc. Once an order of legal separation is entered, it may last for up to one year after the hearing on the separation. At the expiration of the year, or anytime before, the parties may then pursue a divorce or may dismiss the separation if they have decided to reconcile. If a divorce is pursued, orders in a legal separation will be relevant in the divorce action and will likely “set the stage” for going through the divorce action. Parties who have children that obtain a legal separation must complete the divorce orientation requirements which is described in detail on this website under Divorce Orientation and Education Requirements.