December 4, 2013

The True Cost of Separation without Divorce

How long-term separations can be more expensive than divorce

With divorce comes a lot of intimidating decisions. The prospect of sorting out custody, support, alimony, and division of property can lead many couples to detach from their marriage and walk away. Rather than officially address each major issue, these couples have the best intentions to move on. Unfortunately, sidestepping divorce out of convenience can skyrocket the overall cost of separation and drag out the process.

Perhaps these thoughts haven’t yet crossed your mind and you are coexisting and co-parenting peacefully at the moment. Many choose to live in the moment to avoid the eminent conflict, but without making smart decisions now, those matters may snowball. You may think you know your “ex”, but consider the following (and all too common) scenarios. Of course, true cost will vary based on unique circumstances.

Scenario 1: Mismanaging marital assets

When one spouse moves out of the home or the parties live “separate but apart”, it is very possible that debt is accumulating silently. While separated, your ex could continue to use joint credit cards or neglect to pay taxes on your marital property. Despite feeling completely detached, your financial worlds are still intertwined without a divorce. His or her missteps in finance can affect your credit score and rack up major liens against a marital property. Also, for those who have left the marital residence, consider the possibility that your ex has manipulated or hidden marital assets prior to the initiation of a divorce action.

Cost of separation? Possibly several years to a decade of rebuilding credit by paying back debtors, judgments, or liens and loss of equity in large assets.

Scenario 2: Spouse leaves the state or country

Bearing in mind the difficulties of the above scenario, add in custody issues and battling over jurisdiction. If a spouse leaves the state and money or custody is still at odds, the eventual divorce process may become a logistical and financial nightmare. Divorce laws can vary across states – for example, a Pennsylvania divorce would eventually assess marital assets and divide via equitable distribution. Other states are community property states, which divide everything 50/50. Generally, sticking with one jurisdiction makes this and all other aspects much more refined.

Cost of separation? Paying to track down your spouse to enable proper service of legal documents; commuting to the court of proper jurisdiction for hearings or conferences; paying an out of town attorney to manage your case, which is surely complicated in light of the new circumstances.

Scenario 3: Moving on to new relationships

As a new relationship begins to unfold, your spouse may find a new way to spend your marital assets. Trips, large purchases, or simply a few nights out from a shared account can be a drain on marital assets. Additionally, the new relationship may present complications when negotiating terms and settlement of a divorce. Bearing in mind a new factor could dramatically sway the tone of negotiations.

Cost of separation? Variable of course, consider the possibility of your spouse paying for trips, gifts, or living costs for another person.

Scenario 4: Lowering your standard of living

With all of the above situations taking a toll on your pockets, many couples find themselves lowering their standard of living just to get by. Once a spouse finds him or herself making it work, he or she may not be able to or will have difficulty obtaining alimony once a divorce is filed or initiated. Health, standard of care for children, and general well-being are at stake until matters are officially resolved.

Cost of separation? Physical and emotional well-being,

Hedging it off at the pass

No one wants to watch their life change without maintaining control. During already difficult times of change, taking a proactive approach can alleviate unknowns and put power back into your hands. Being caught off guard in the worst way can lead to financial and emotional ruin -that is the true cost of separation without divorce.

If you are currently separated and are considering divorce, contact the experienced Bucks County divorce lawyers at the Law Offices of Michael Kuldiner, P.C. Call (215) 942-2100 or submit an inquiry form to schedule an appointment today.