separation-or-divorceMoving on without your ex-partner can be slow and at times difficult, and it has been observed that years after deciding to walk their own paths, many couples settle for separation, rather than completing a divorce. Some people report it feels easier, less official and less confrontational, particularly at a time in which emotional turmoil or bitter disputes might be occurring.

Several years later, however, the negative implications of not being officially separated through a divorce arise. Most commonly, these occur when a new partner is on the scene or there are significant financial changes. Here, we discuss the reasons why divorce is generally a better move than simply settling for a longer term ‘separated’ status.

No Control

Without an official divorce, you are obviously still married. As such, the marital couple have marital assets. If you are living apart from your ex-spouse, you have no control, say or knowledge about how they are spending, earning or buying. For all you know, they could be spending your precious savings on their new partner or –even worse- getting you both into increasing amounts of debt. Protect your finances by making the divorce official ; the last thing you need to top off a broken heart is a broken bank account.

A Hidden Agenda

Whilst you might not feel a rush to legally end your marriage, your partner might be making the most of this time by hiding assets which would be involved in the inevitable splitting of assets that generally tends to occur during divorce . The longer you leave it, the more time they have to squirrel away funds that should be shared between you both, for example in offshore trusts or placing large sums in their family members’ names. You may think you can trust your spouse, but people can change.

Time for a Change

Similarly to the aforementioned point, the longer a divorce is put off, the more scope there is for a change in financial circumstances that leave you worse off than you would have been had you acted promptly. Between separation and divorce, there can be plenty of opportunities for funds to dwindle, thus minimising the amount available to support you and even your children . Unemployment, bankruptcy, disability and other such significant life changes will decrease the amount of funds in the matrimonial pot and thus, prevent you and your family from receiving the amount you could have once been entitled to, had you acted more hastily.

Location Location Location

In the time that you are separated, your spouse may move abroad to a country with much less promising aspects or arrangements when it comes to divorce. Whilst England and Wales have favourable rules with regards to child care, spousal maintenance and financial splitting, other jurisdictions have a more cut-throat attitude towards finances and post-marital issues. It is advisable to act whilst you both live in the same jurisdiction, both for your benefit and to avoid any added pressure regarding a jurisdictional race.

Changes to the Law

Rules and laws change all the time to keep up with changing social circumstances. For example, the rise in the number of women working has changed expectations when it comes to spousal maintenance, compared to how it would have been years ago when stereotypically, the husband was breadwinner and wife homemaker. Reforms to the law between the time you first separate and the time you finally get round to divorce may mean that you are left in a worse financial position than if you had acted the moment separation was first on the cards.

New Love

There’s probably not a bigger indication that you’re not ready to move on than telling a potential partner that you’re ‘still married’. What’s more, entering into a new relationship whilst the law still recognises you as married will not help you during divorce negotiations. Similarly, even if you are single and it is your ex-spouse who is back in the dating game, they could be spending the marital assets on their new partner; holidays, gifts, daily living- finances that, had you divorced, would have been given to you to support you in your independent life.

Keep Up your Standards

Throughout a long separation period, couples find their individual living standards lower, as is expected when living off one income rather than two, for example. The longer you put up with the lower standard, the harder it becomes to justify why you should receive the potentially advantageous financial or living arrangements you had during your marital lifestyle. After all, if you’ve been getting on just fine on your own, what justification do you have to require a fair financial split?

Get on With Divorce to Get on with Your Life

Many couples avoid divorce in the hope of avoiding additional drama to what could be an already difficult breakup, but realistically, the only real way to really end a marriage is with a divorce. In the long run you won’t want to settle for the half-ground of separation. With a reliable, experienced lawyer, divorce needn’t be a struggle.


Image credit: Ricardo Bernado

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