It’s not uncommon for many couples to decide to live separately rather than get divorced, even when one or both have come to the conclusion that the marriage is broken beyond repair.
You might not actually want to divorce for any number of reasons, although, in my experience, it all boils down to fear.
In many instances, the decision to remain in a broken marriage is based on fear of losing much of the financial assets they’ve acquired or fear of hurting or losing the respect of their children.
It’s all fear of the unknown, however. You don’t know for sure that if you divorce you’ll lose half of your financial assets or be unable to survive financially or emotionally.
Regardless, unlike the saying what you don’t know won’t hurt you, what you don’t know is hurting you and your family each and every day.
You may be simply surviving and unaware of how much the fear and avoidance is distracting you from focusing on the things that really matter to you.
It’s not uncommon to seek distractions to avoid dealing with problems at home. For some, it might be by becoming involved in another relationship. Others might dive into workaholic syndrome or seek out a more severe type of addiction.
As to fear of hurting the kids, in my experience (as a child of a bitter divorce) and according to many mental health experts, the children are being hurt every day that they’re being exposed to conflict in the home. They may also experience sadness and loss resulting from loss of meaningful time spent with parents.
The solution is to challenge your fears by finding out the legal and financial implications of remaining married while physically or emotionally separated versus getting a divorce.
First and foremost, unlike states such as New York, the state of New Jersey does not recognize legal separation.
In states that recognize legal separation, couples live separate and apart according to the terms of a legal separation agreement, which is a legally binding agreement between the spouses that resolves issues such as the division of assets and debt, alimony, child support and parenting time.
New Jersey, however, does not recognize the validity of separation agreements. You’re either married or divorced.
When you’re divorced, the agreement that you and your spouse sign is called a Marital Settlement Agreement, which defines how marital assets and debts are divided and each spouse’s legal rights and responsibilities, including as to child custody and parenting time, alimony and child support. The Marital Settlement Agreement is only enforceable as a Court Order, however, when it is attached to a Judgment of Divorce.
Therefore, living separately in New Jersey puts you each at risk both financially and legally. For instance, if you separate without obtaining a divorce, marital assets and income may become depleted or lost if you’re unaware of how your spouse has been managing them. By the same token, you also remain liable for your spouse’s debts.
To find out the legal and financial implications of getting a divorce, consulting with at least one competent New Jersey attorney, if not more, who focuses solely on divorce and family matters can help you make the right decision for you and your family.
After all, the best decisions are informed ones. And you and our family deserve the best of you regardless of which informed decision you ultimately make.
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