Much has been written about the uptick in the number of older Americans who are seeking divorce. For many, that decision comes after years of ambivalence about the marriage. For some Florida couples, the transition from married to single takes a long time to complete. A lengthy separation is not unusual among couples in their 50s and beyond. It is important to understand, however, the impact that a separation could have on property division and other divorce matters.
To begin, there can be no formal property division without a divorce. Couples who simply decide to live apart for lengthy periods of time are taking a risk in regard to their financial stability. One party can rack up high levels of debt, and the other could be held responsible for a portion of that debt.
Another potential problem lies in estate planning. Unless formal documents have been drafted, a spouse who is separated will still be the responsible party in the event that the other spouse becomes incapacitated. That means that one's ex (in a practical sense, if not in the legal sense) could be calling the shots and making life or death decisions. Another issue involves the division of assets; unless a divorce has been made final, spouses can end up inheriting far more than the other party intended. Even worse, other family members could be cut out of any share of wealth originating from the deceased party.
There are cases in which a separation is a good option for a Florida couple, and can provide the time and space needed to return to the marriage with renewed vigor and commitment. However, if the separation extends too long, or continues even after there are not signs that the marriage can be saved, then it may be time to take a different approach. A family law attorney can assist in structuring a fair and balanced property division process as part of a divorce. That is an outcome that gives both parties a degree of stability in the years to follow.
Source: reuters.com, "Your Money: Older couples ponder financial impact of divorce", Beth Pinsker, April 26, 2017