The financial and emotional drawbacks of long-term separations

When a couple realizes their marriage is no longer working, some may choose to separate for a time. In some cases, this type of trial separation is simply viewed by both parties as the first step in the divorce process. For others, however, there appears to be no plan to divorce or move towards legally dissolving the marriage. There are, however, numerous drawbacks to a long-term separation, many of which more adversely impact women.

Even if a separation is amicable, it affords whichever spouse controls the family's assets to take measures to hide assets or spend at will. Additionally, living apart can be financially taxing as doing so requires both spouses to pay for, maintain and furnish two separate residences.

Another drawback for those individuals living in a long-term separation arrangement revolves around spousal support laws. It's likely that a long-term separation will end with a couple eventually choosing to divorce. If a spouse's standard of living was lowered during the years of separation, this could hurt that spouse's chances of securing alimony.

While a separated couple may no longer even have romantic feelings towards one another, one or both spouses could potentially start a new relationship. If this happens, it's very likely that money is being spent to woo a new girlfriend or boyfriend. Dinners, trips and gifts are all expensive and likely not where most spouses who are separated want their potential divorce settlement to go.

In addition to the financial drawbacks associated with a long-term separation, there are also obvious emotional drawbacks. Remaining legally married, while living separate lives serves as a sort of limbo or purgatory between shedding the old and starting anew. Divorce can be difficult and scary, but it can also be extremely empowering and provide the first step towards finding happiness again.

Source: Forbes, "Putting Off Divorce? Ten Ways Long-term Separations Can Do Women More Harm Than Good," Jeff Landers, Oct. 3, 2013

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