Monday, August 02, 2010

When we separated, Reagan was president, kids listened to music on cassettes and a phone was something attached by a wire to the kitchen wall

I have quite a few files languishing in my office involving couples who separated years ago and then never followed through on the divorce.  I also receive inquiries from people who separated decades ago and just now have decided that they would like to proceed with the divorce.

This weekend, the New York Times addressed this very issue -- referencing the phenomenon as: The Un-Divorce.  While it can be expense and complicated to divorce ---- staying together can often breed bigger problems.  Our laws provide rights and responsibilities to married people --- and staying married but separated for extended periods can often have devastating effects.

I have one case where the parties separated at least twenty years ago.  One spouse stayed in the jointly owned marital residence --- paying the mortgage and maintaining the home.  In Pennsylvania, we generally use the date of divorce value when dividing marital property.  Accordingly, in this case, the spouse who left the home is seeking to equitably divide all of the equity in the house that has accrued over the years.

Staying married can also sometimes mean that joint debts continue to accrue.  Whether you are still a  co-borrower with your estranged spouse on a mortgage or never closed joint credit cards -- these financial entanglements can get messy -- and more costly -- as the years go by.

If your situation changes -- your income increases or perhaps your spouse becomes disabled -- you could be liable for alimony.  If your spouse is sued or fails to pay a medical bill -- you could be drawn into the financial quagmire.

I cannot argue with the reality that divorce can be expensive.  However, it can often be much more expensive to delay.  If you have been separated so long that you have experienced more than one presidential election since you last lived with your spouse, think seriously about your financial exposure.

1 comment:

Nichole said...

So true! The divorce was such an emotional process that I put it off much longer than I should have If I knew then, what I know now!
Thanks :)