Heymann & Fletcher

Separation or divorce: Tips for older spouses

When New Jersey couples encounter marital difficulties, one option is to enter into a marital separation. Taking some time off can help spouses refocus on their individual priorities and shared goals, and many couples end up reconnecting and going on to have long and happy marriages. For those who do not end up going the distance, however, a separation can complicate the eventual divorce proceedings.

One issue that can arise during a separation is when one or both spouses rack up considerable debt. If there is no formal separation agreement in place, determining to whom that debt belongs can be a challenge. In the event that the union ends in divorce, dividing up debt can become a source of contention during property division negotiations.

Another matter involves estate planning. When a couple lives apart for many years, they can fall into a pattern of conducting their lives separately. That can work out for many years, but if one party falls ill or becomes injured, it is possible that the estranged spouse could be called upon to make any number of health and financial decisions for the incapacitated spouse. Here again, that may work out for some couples, but it could be a disaster for others.

Once a New Jersey couple makes the decision to enter a period of separation, the best course of action is to work with a family law attorney to draft a separation agreement. That allows for a clear outline of what is expected from each party, including financial matters, estate planning and other matters. If a reunion is achieved, the separation agreement becomes null and void. If divorce is the outcome, however, then the agreement can make it far easier to move through that process.

Source: reuters.com, "Your Money: Older couples ponder financial impact of divorce", Beth Pinsker, April 26, 2017

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