When a relationship breaks down a couple may feel that it’s no longer feasible or important to continue living together. They may be disillusioned with the marriage or perhaps they have found another relationship.
The final step in the parting of ways is a divorce, but couples may be reluctant to take this for a variety of reasons, since they see it as the last option. Divorce can also be complicated, expensive and a lengthy process when it involves children, property-division, future financial arrangements etc.
Many couples opt for a period of separation before filing for divorce. There are several advantages and disadvantages in doing this. An experienced family lawyer or separation lawyer can provide the right information and assistance.
- When coping with unhappiness or negative feelings in a marriage, separation provides space and distance
- Helps to clarify and analyze issues more objectively and consider their options on the way forward.
- Helps to think of ways to save the marriage, if this is a possibility
- It provides a cooling-off period for emotions
- Provides a clearer perspective of the partner/spouse
- Gives the couple time, peace and silence to introspect and contemplate
- Gives each person independence and financial control
- May be a better financial decision, especially if there are complex property-division issues or the couple runs a business together
- Separation may not work unless the terms are clearly agreed upon
- If abuse/cruelty are the issue, there should be clear, written agreements about access and communication
- All financial responsibilities are shared during separation. Unless the separation is legally recognized, one spouse can incur huge debts that become part of the shared debt after divorce
- Similarly, bonuses, windfalls, lotteries etc have to be shared if they are obtained during separation
- Communication may completely break down
- Issues regarding children may persist
- Possibility of divorce may increase
- Confusion regarding rights and parenting
Whether you decide to opt for a separation either as a trial-period or prelude to divorce, it’s essential to draw up a separation agreement. This is a contract that is best drawn-up with the help of an experienced separation lawyer.
Living apart from the spouse may provide physical/emotional respite from the issues that led to the breakdown of your marriage. However, separation without a formal written agreement, this could put you at risk if you are the spouse without financial independence or control.
Being separated still leaves you liable for the spouse’s debts and legal issues, even if you’re not living together.
A written separation agreement can address these issues so that one spouse does not get the unfair end of the stick. It also helps to formalize issues like credit-card payments, loan repayments, maintenance, distribution of assets/money or even who gets to keep the cat, to avoid disputes and litigation during divorce.
If you separate without a formal agreement, you may not get access to information on how the spouse has managed funds or the shared business.
This agreement protects you and can also serve as a divorce settlement down the line if necessary.