As discussed in our previous blog, an unlimited separation is a binding agreement between two spouses that establishes custody arrangements, child and spousal support and division of property without actually terminating the marriage. There are a multitude of reasons why people opt for an unlimited separation over a divorce, so if this is something you’re considering, here are a few pros and cons to be aware of before filing with the court:
Pros of Unlimited Separation
- Emotional: The time apart allows many bickering couples ample amount of time to cool down and work on identifying and mending the fractured parts of their relationship with some established boundaries. It’s true that sometimes people can jump into a divorce as a “quick-fix” for their unhappiness or marital issues, just to realize years down the road that they may have acted too quickly. An unlimited separation allows couples to have the space and freedom to pursue any necessary lifestyle changes they can’t seem to accomplish in their current marital status, while keeping the marriage in-tact for future reconciliation. Even if the separation results in divorce, playing it safe and giving yourself time to really think about life what life without your spouse would look like can provide confidence for people who are fearful of regret.
- Financial: The three primary financial reasons a couple may opt for unlimited separation are health insurance, social security/pension benefits, and taxes.
- Health Insurance- Remaining legally married can ensure that both spouses can continue to enjoy the same health insurance that they’re accustomed to—however, this based entirely on your specific insurance plan, so make sure you discuss this possibility with your insurer and attorney before banking on this option.
- Social Security- If you’ve been married for ten years or longer, an ex-spouse may be entitled to a share of the other’s Social Security benefits. If you haven’t quite hit ten years yet, but you and your spouse are on good terms and agree that you want those benefits to be shared, you may decide to separate, rather than divorce, until you hit the ten- year mark.
- Taxes- Remaining legally married may allow couples to continue to benefit from certain income tax advantages that couldn’t be utilized otherwise. Again, this can be a complicated issue—one that can vary between states. Make sure you do all of your research before making any decisions based on this reason.
Cons of Unlimited Separation
- Emotional: One the obvious drawbacks to an unlimited separation is that you’re not allowed to get married until a divorce is initiated and finalized. While you certainly can date and explore new relationships while separated, those relationships can only go so far if you are still legally bound to your spouse. While a separation can serve as a great tool for reconciliation, if there comes a time in your relationship where you’ve grown apart and the possibility for a future has slowly and clearly dissipated, that agreement may suddenly feel like unwanted and unresolved baggage.
- Financial: Perhaps one of the biggest downfalls of unlimited separation is the fact that, should you pass that two-year mark that allows you to easily convert your separation into a divorce, you’ll then have to go through the dissolution process from start, a timely manner that will cost you. While an unlimited separation may offer you the liberty of saying you never actually got divorced, it can easily complicate your situation should you decide to get divorced a few years too late, or even if you decide to stay together but have already established property division (due to the fact that property division is not modifiable). Sometimes, it truly is far simpler and more cost effective to get divorced if you’re wanting to establish division from your spouse, and just get legally re-married down the road should you reconcile.
In addition to this, if you decide to get divorced years down the road, your current financial status will be considered for spousal and child support—not your financial status at the time of the separation. So, if your unlimited separation lasted 5 years and your financial worth skyrocketed during that time, you now may be required to pay a lot more money to your spouse than if you had filed for divorce from the get-go.
If you’re considering filing for unlimited separation, make sure you understand all of the potential benefits and drawbacks you could face throughout the process. Talking with a skilled and knowledgeable attorney is a great way of understanding your rights, and ensuring the best plan for you and your family is carried out. Call Pacific Cascade Family Law today to speak with an attorney about your unique case and receive legal advice from some of Portland’s best—we are here to advocate for your better life.