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The Potential Problems with an Extended Separation over Divorce

  • Jun 01, 2020
  • The Harr Law Firm

Couple separated by white wallWhen considering whether or not to pursue a divorce, many couples find it beneficial to separate for a time and experience life apart from one another. And while a trial separation can help you to determine whether or not a divorce is actually the right choice for you as a couple, remaining separated for an extended period of time can raise many potential problems for both of you. Here are a few possible issues that can come up if you choose an extended separation over pursuing a divorce.

The Impact on Your Children

Some parents believe that separating is easier on the children than going through a legal divorce. But, while dropping “the D word” to your kids can be extremely difficult to do, a long-term separation can actually be much more difficult for your children. Children will often view the separation as only temporary, and will feel caught in a sort of limbo as you and your spouse attempt to “work things out.” They may hold onto the hope that you and your spouse will reconcile and the other parent will move back in soon.

Keeping your children in this limbo for months or even years, with no end to the separation in sight, is extremely difficult on them. And while a divorce is not easy either, it does offer a finality that can allow them (and you) to focus on finding a new normal, rather than holding onto the hope that the old normal will return.

Potential Loss of Assets

As soon as you file for divorce, protective orders go into effect that will help to ensure you receive your legal share of marital assets. But if you’re separated for an extended period of time, you don’t have that same protection. A long-term separation can lead to you losing valuable assets that you share with your spouse, such as expensive antiques, valuable property, or high-value vehicles. Here are a few ways that staying separated, rather than filing for divorce, can impact your assets:

  • You have no legal right to claim your half of shared assets while separated.
  • Your spouse will have time to hide assets, sell them, or diminish marital funds by purchasing gifts for a new significant other; then, when you do finally divorce, you may get significantly less than expected in the settlement.
  • If they do dispose of or sell assets, you have no legal right to the money.

Ultimately, when separated, the court offers you very little legal protection to ensure your assets are not hidden or squandered—because, in their eyes, you are still a couple. Our team of expert analysts can often find hidden assets, or pursue restitution for recently sold assets, but these endeavors are often less successful if they happen during a long-term separation, and some statutes of limitations may apply.

Putting Your Life on Hold

Your children aren’t the only ones stuck in a sort of limbo during a long-term separation—you and your spouse are as well. An extended separation can take a serious toll on your mental and emotional health. It makes it difficult to move on, pursue new relationships, and start building your own life, because you still have that legal tie to your spouse. While a divorce doesn’t necessarily remove an ex from your life completely—especially if you have children—it does provide a much cleaner break that allows you to pursue your own happiness.

Changing Divorce Laws

Like many other complex areas of the law, divorce law does change from time to time, and it can also vary from state to state. The longer you stay separated, the more likely it is that divorce laws can change, potentially catching you off-guard when you do finally decide to divorce. Or, your spouse may move to a different state without you, and you’ll have to figure out how the laws differ across state lines when you divorce.

This is not to say that separations are a bad idea. In fact, they’re extremely valuable for many couples when handled appropriately. But if you’ve been separated for some time and you see no reasonable future in which you and your spouse will reconcile, then there is no reason to remain separated indefinitely. Pursuing a divorce will protect your assets and will help everyone involved move on and rebuild their lives more quickly.

If you’ve been separated for a while and you’re ready to pursue a legal divorce, reach out to the experienced divorce lawyers at The Harr Law Firm. We’ll help you through the process from start to finish so you can focus on getting a fresh start.