The risks of staying married when separated

Written by kyra sheahan
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The risks of staying married when separated
Avoid getting stuck in a risky separation issue. (Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images)

Couples typically use separation as a layover to divorce. During a separation, one of the spouses usually moves out and each person attempts to operate individually to the degree that they can. However, this separation status can become a grey area in terms of legal issues, such as property ownership, health benefits and parental duties for children. If couples know that divorce is inevitable, it can become risky to stay married and prolong the separation.

Financial Risks

The longer a couple remains married but separated, the more financial damage they risk. If one of the spouses decides to obtain a credit card, the debt incurred will be part of the divorce proceedings. The spouse's partner may be responsible for half of that debt. Also, during a separation, both spouses still have access to joint bank accounts if both names are on the account (and anything else that is "joint"). Accordingly, savings accounts can be wiped out by angry spouses unless a judge grants a motion to cut off all funds.

Impact on Children

A separation can leave young children confused about the status of their living situation. Without a divorce in place, it can be difficult to arrange a parenting schedule that both parents agree on. As such, a child may be witness to arguments between parents or inconsistent schedules that leave him feeling like his home life is unstable. Some kids can experience these conditions and be unscathed, but others are at risk for developing emotional disorders, such as separation anxiety.

Moving On

It is possible that one spouse wants to move on with his or her life, but as long as they stay legally married, he or she will not be able to. Whether this has to do with moving on to another relationship, or relocating to a new state, the end result is the same: both parties are bound to one another as long as they remain married. In more "friendlier" separations, a wife or husband may permit the other to move away without putting up a fight, or date other people freely. However, remaining married when one of the spouses wants to be let free can compel someone to feel as though they cannot live their own life.

Health and Well Being

The health and well being of two spouses who stay married during a long separation can become jeopardised over time. The stress and upset feelings that many couples experience during a separation can become a burden. They may feel weak, experience a loss of appetite or send them into depression. Physical and emotional health ailments can be the result of prolonged separation. Consequently, for some it may be "healthier' to get the divorce over quickly, rather than dragging it out.

Family Responsibilities

If your family life is arranged so that one of the spouses carries all of the family's health benefits under his or her name, it can turn into a potential risk issue. That spouse may no longer want to be responsible for the other's medical care, and can drop them from the plan. In another example, if one of the spouses is solely responsible for paying the mortgage, he or she can choose to stop paying it, send the house into foreclosure status and the other spouse will be evicted -- damaging both of their credit.

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