Is Your Separation in Limbo?
Long Separations Can Do Women More Harm Than Good!
Are you in “Separation Limbo”?
Are you living apart from your husband but not in any hurry to file for divorce?
These separations seem to have no end in sight and they haven’t been made official legally after a year, two years or longer. Over time, you and your spouse have become resigned to compatibility but have the means to live apart. Living separately didn’t begin on any specific date but rather evolved as you spent more and more time apart. Years go by, and living separately can seem like the path of least resistance. By just drifting apart, you might avoid a lot of upheaval, unpleasantness and turmoil in the short-run.
However, in the long-run it should concern you because without a formal legal agreement that defines its terms, long-term separation can be a recipe for financial disaster.
Here are ten reasons women need to be wary of long-term separations:
- Your Husband is in control over how your marital assets are managed.
If you are living apart, then you can be totally out-of-the-loop financially. You don’t know what your husband is earning, spending, investing, selling or buying. And, if you live in a Community Property state and he’s getting into debt during your long separation, you could be liable too.
- Your Husband has a Long-term opportunity to him Assets from you.
While you may see no urgent need to put a legal end to your marriage, your husband could be planning for exactly that. He could easily use your time apart to make sure that certain assets are conveniently unavailable when it finally does come time to negotiate a divorce settlement agreement.
- Your husband’s circumstances may change and your eventual settlement could be much less.
Your divorce settlement will be based, in part, on the current financial circumstances. If your husband loses his job, becomes ill, goes on disability or experiences other changes during your prolonged separation, the amount of alimony and child support you could expect to receive could be significantly impacted.
- Your husband could move out of state . . . or even out of the country.
Laws governing virtually all aspects of the divorce process vary significantly from one state to another. Many states have passed severe limitations on the amount and duration of alimony that judges can award. During a long-term separation, your husband could move to a state which has enacted such laws, and have plenty of time to establish residency there. (Most states only require 6-12 months of residency to file for divorce.) Worse still, he could move overseas.
5- Your Husband could pay less Alimony since laws could change.
Your husband might not need to move to find alimony laws more favorable to him. Alimony reforms have been gaining momentum in state legislatures across the country, and for the most part, this hasn’t been good news for divorcing women.
- Your Husband or you could meet someone new.
While it may contribute to your happy, fulfilling future, entering into a new relationship while you are still legally married will not help your divorce settlement negotiations. And remember: If he is in a new relationship, he might be dissipating marital assets by buying his girlfriend gifts, taking her to expensive restaurants and posh vacation resorts or actually supporting her.
- Your standard of living could be lower.
During a long separation, you may be forced to lower your living standards. This could make it more difficult to get alimony based on your previous marital lifestyle. If you’ve been making do with less, your husband can argue that you obviously don’t need as much to live on as you had while you and he were together. If it’s been going on for years, a judge is more inclined to agree.
- If your husband gets into financial legal trouble, you could be liable.
No matter how separate your day-to-day lives become, you’re still legally married. Without an agreement that specifies otherwise, this means that if your husband is sued, fudges on joint tax returns or engages in financial misdeeds, your assets are at risk. The implications could be tremendous.
A written separation agreement would address those issues providing for indemnification for example, or limiting your liability for debts incurred by your spouse during the separation. If your spouse fails to pay certain marital debt, because you are still married although not living together, the creditor can seek remedies against you for the joint debts. Informal separations without a document detailing the terms of your separation, how you will share the marital assets, what do you do about joint credit cards, who pays maintenance and how you will distribute assets acquired during the separation, can cause difficulties down the road leading to litigation.
- Your silence may be golden, but it can also be expensive.
Separations can begin amicably enough, but what happens if communication breaks down entirely? If you are financially dependent on your husband and don’t have a separation agreement, there’s not much to fall back on if he stops sending checks and won’t return your calls. Protect yourself with an agreement that gives you access to liquid assets.
Your agreement should give you ready access to liquid assets- you may need these assets to pay bills and your share of the marital assets acquired which may be depleted or lost because you were unaware of how your estranged spouse was managing the funds or marital business.
- You getting on with your divorce means getting on with your life.
Women find themselves strengthened and energized in ways they didn’t even think possible and given a new beginning – a significant turning point for many. Even if you feel as though you haven’t been married for years, don’t underestimate the power of making it legal.
The process of divorce can be painful and one can be in ‘labor’ for a short period or long period. In any event, most litigants proclaim after the judgment has been entered that they should have filed for divorce much sooner.
Of course, there are some circumstances under which a legal separation can be a better financial choice than divorce. In such cases, or whenever a separation is likely to last longer than a reasonable “trial” period, it is absolutely critical to obtain a legally-binding separation agreement, resolving issues such as division of assets and debt, and spousal and child support and visitation.
So, Is Your Separation in Limbo?
Do Long Separations Do Women More Harm Than Good?