When a marriage is in trouble and both partners are unable to live together any longer but not ready to file for divorce, separation is often their choice. Separation serves an important need. In a sense, it allows both partners to go to their corners, regroup and figure out the next step. Sometimes, you just need some breathing room.
Reconciliation may happen quickly, once conflicts are resolved-or, the issues can remain, leaving each of you in limbo. You may be holding out hope for the marriage, and not want to act suddenly. Or you may be done with the marriage, but not ready to admit it to yourself and others. No matter how long you've been married, nobody wants to accept that the relationship is no longer working. So you drag your feet. Perhaps you stay separated for several months. Then the months turn into a year. You know this isn't perfect, but it's working out. But there are several pitfalls to a long-term, unofficial separation. Without knowing it, you could be setting yourself up to lose quite a bit by not filing for divorce and cementing a deal for yourself.
Here are some downsides to a lengthy separation:
- Not living together, spouses can't see or manage their marital assets as well. One could be spending and buying things, driving up your debt. The other could be selling property that counts as a marital asset and pocketing the proceeds. One spouse could use the time to hide any assets in order for them not to be included in a future divorce settlement.
- A husband could move far away, to a state with more beneficial alimony laws. In a long separation, he'd be able to establish residency there. Also, the alimony laws in your state could become more stringent during the separation, leaving you with less.
- One spouse could even go so far as to move overseas. This would affect your future divorce settlement and create other problems as well.
- If a spouse loses his or her job during the long separation, or suffers any financial loss, that could negatively affect any divorce settlement in the future.
In short, you're still legally married during this long separation. Maybe that helps you in some respects, but it definitely could harm your finances. Be aware of your risks. Many spouses have suffered financial loss by staying separated for too long before an eventual divorce. You may wish to pursue a legal separation or file for divorce before too much more time goes by.