IS LONG-TERM SEPARATION THE NEW ALTERNATIVE TO DIVORCE?
A new trend is developing amongst couples looking to dissolve their marital union. In actuality, it’s becoming a choice to disengage rather than dissolve. Many married couples, of varying ages and socioeconomic positions, are choosing separation as an alternative to outright divorce. While some consider separation versus divorce merely a game of semantics, couples are realizing the real life consequences, and differences, of choosing one option over the other. …and with that, separation seems to be the new trend. While some blame it on practicalities of an economic downturn, long-term, even permanent separations are becoming more and more popular. For many couples who have fallen out of love, or are ready to move on now that the kids are raised and out of the house, formalizing the breaking-up process has become too costly, too time consuming and too emotionally draining of a task. Many couples seeking divorce consider the marital “benefits” they will be giving up. From tax breaks to medical coverage, marital homes to single apartments, couples are realizing that perhaps bidding one another adieu is not all that its cracked up to be. Younger couples, often debt ridden, trying to operate the marital home, realize that attempting to run two households, when they are struggling to make ends meet in one, is simply impossible. Dual expenditures for housing, food, cars and child care costs are quite simply impractical. With personal and marital debts, countless couples find themselves financially unable to dissolve their union. As such, many couples are merely moving to a bedroom down the hall, and choosing to co-habitate, whether it is for the sake of not wanting to displace their children, or simply because the couple themselves cannot afford to make it on their own. In addition, couples realize that divorcing eliminates any of the financial breaks they may already receive, such as tax benefits and employer supplied medical coverage. For older couples, the issue set varies slightly, although these couples are also seeking separation as opposed to divorce. The longer a couple has been married, the greater the odds of joint assets, investments and properties. While the financial freedom makes divorcing easier, the complications involved in liquid assets versus real estate and investment assets creates issues with financial division. In addition, with the downturn in the economy, many older couples have seen their retirement funds wiped out, their employment positions eliminated and 401K accounts burdened with loans against them. In addition, couples that have reached this juncture, having raised their children and are on what would have been the verge of their retirement, no longer find themselves in impassioned hatred for one another. Rather, these couples have realized that they are simply not compatible, although they still, on some fundamental level, care about their partner and their partner’s future well-being. As such, many older couples find themselves living apart, but still keeping one another on their health insurance as opposed to paying alimony, and sharing in traditional family functions as a semi-unified front, for example. These couples realize that there is no “real reason” to get divorced, and for the sake of time, money and simplicity, decide to “stay together,” although they may not truly be living together. While there are certain advantages to this separation arrangement, there are complications that should be considered. What if one party meets someone new and wants to get married? What if one partner uses joint assets to create debt? What if one partner dramatically increases a particular asset and tries to prevent you from taking part in the growth? How will you explain this most unconventional situation to your children? To your family? To your friends? All in all, couples must carefully consider what they are comfortable with and what till work for them, both of which may be driven by a couple’s particular station in life at the point in which they are considering separation or divorce. No answer is right or wrong. It is truly a choice for each individual couple; however it is a choice that comes with pluses and minuses on both sides of the fence that need to be carefully considered.