In some separation situations, spouses find themselves in something of a relationship limbo — living apart but with no real plans to nullify the marriage. This situation makes sense in the short term of a few years as many people wish to avoid the emotional and fiscal upheaval that can come with a divorce. But Illinois women are reminded that such a move may not be in their best interests — indeed, in the long term it can make a divorce infinitely more complicated.

Living apart does not mean that mutual marital assets are not still counted. If one spouse continues to accrue debt, the fact that a marital home was not shared during that time will not excuse the other party of obligation to pay off that debt. While in some states, Equitable Distribution means both parties are responsible only for credit cards labeled “joint”, in other states one party can be equally responsible for all debt accrued. Similarly, a long-term separation can allow the other party the opportunity to hide assets the other spouse should be entitled to in the event of a true divorce.

Additionally, alimony laws are in the process of changing, and if a separation drags on for too long, one spouse may find him or herself losing out on alimony because the local laws have changed. Attached to that, living separately may mean lowering standard of living, which may in turn lessen the alimony payment one is entitled to based on the marital standard of living. Finally, keeping lines of communication open may become more difficult over a protracted separation, which may put one spouse in a precarious position if she relies on the other spouse for financial support.

While divorce is by no means the most pleasant experience someone can go through in their lifetimes, Illinois women are reminded that forethought and planning can go a long way toward making the process relatively swift and equitable. Putting off a divorce also means putting off the rest of one’s life. By settling a separation legally, it can free both parties to move forward in a positive way.

Source: Forbes, Putting Off Divorce? Ten Ways Long-term Separations Can Do Women More Harm Than Good, Jeff Landers, Oct. 3, 2013