The dangers of long-term separation without divorce

In many cases, a marriage does not end with a loud cataclysmic fight, as they often do in the movies. Usually, there’s no yelling that leads the neighbors to call the police and no toppling of furniture. On the contrary, many marriages end with a simple drifting apart, as couples slowly come to realize that they are no longer compatible with each other.

In these cases, spouses often move out and start living separate lives. Usually, a divorce follows. But in some cases, they don’t. Spouses continue to live separate lives, in a sort of marital limbo that can sometimes for years.

The reasons for this reaction are clear. It’s difficult, and a little intimidating, to face a divorce. Divorces can be complicated and time-consuming. Couples often take the path of least resistance, and put it off.

The result, then, is a pair of spouses that live separate lives with no hope of reconciliation, but are still legally married. This situation presents a number of risks for those involved.

For example, the extended length of the marriage could give one spouse the opportunity to hide assets from the other. This is, of course, illegal, but it still happens. The more time a spouse is given to hide assets, the more difficult the action is to discover.

Furthermore, the couple’s finances are, by law, still connected during a marriage even if the couple is no longer living together. That means if one spouse gets into certain types of legal trouble, such as tax evasion, the other spouse may still be on the hook for damages. If spouses use a joint credit card, the same could be true when one spouse runs up an enormous debt.

Finally, living in this sort of marriage limbo prevents the spouses from moving forward with their lives. Divorce, though unpleasant, can be the start of a healing process that allows spouses to be forever free of their past living situation and able to look forward to a new lifestyle. Delaying the process only keeps spouses in Maryland and around the country mired in the past.


Forbes, “Putting Off Divorce? Ten Ways Long-term Separations Can Do Women More Harm Than Good” Jeff Landers, Oct. 03, 2013