According to a recent New York Times article, more couples facing marital strife are now choosing to stay separated indefinitely rather than file for divorce. Many spouses who choose to live apart and carry on separate lives are still connected by the bonds of marriage: they file joint tax returns, carry joint insurance policies, and even occasionally visit one another. However, even long-estranged couples are bound by contractual issues like taxes, pensions, Social Security, and healthcare coverage.
target=”_blank”Charlotte divorce lawyers and marriage therapists report that the motivation for most couples to remain married is financial. Under federal law, an ex-spouse qualifies for a share of a spouse’s Social Security payment if the marriage lasts a decade. Occasionally, if a divorce is proceeding amicably, financial advisors and lawyers may urge a couple who have been married for nearly ten years to wait until the dependent spouse qualifies. For some couples, a separation agreement may be negotiated between the parties so that one spouse can keep the other’s insurance until he or she qualifies for Medicare. Thus, in the current economic recession, there is an incentive for couples to separate indefinitely: to avoid the real estate lows and the high care expense highs.
One family law attorney quoted by the New York Times reported that the biggest surprise to her was her clients’ primary consideration behind indefinite separation. She reports that the clients consider practical and financial, rather than familial, ramifications. The effect of these separations on the couple’s children rarely seems to be a priority. Furthermore, indefinite separations can leave a mess for survivors, as a spouse will still have legal rights to a predeceased spouse’s estate, even if separated.