Delaying Filing For A Divorce May Cause Harm If You Don't Have A Signed Agreement

I frequently am consulted by clients who have been living separately for years and now have finally decided they want to be divorced. Most often these clients have not negotiated their settlement agreement even though they have not lived together for an extended period of time.

The most significant and substantial advantage for the delay is usually that one spouse has been able to remain on the other's health insurance plan provided by an employer. Obviously, if the parties were considering reconciliation, then the delay allowed a chance for the people to see if their relationship would improve.

On the other hand, the long delay can have significant financial and custodial consequences. If there is no signed separation agreement, then the accumulation of marital assets continues even if the couple do not live together. While an argument can be made that the economic partnership was fractured, the assets will still be valued as of the later date and not the date the couple stopped living together.

Over the years of unofficial separation the income of both sides will have changed and now when child support obligations are calculated the amount may be significantly higher or lower than what it would have been when the separation took place.

The ages of the children and their custodial needs will have changed. Will the children still have a good healthy relationship with both parents or has time driven a wedge in the relationship because there was no regular scheduled visitation?

Either spouse may now have new health problems that previously did not exist and the obligation to pay maintenance may have changed in both amount and duration.

New debts may have been incurred and the house may be in foreclosure thus causing financial stress. A party's pension and retirement benefits will have increased thus exposing a higher payment to the other spouse.

When clients decide their marriage is over, the delay in resolving their issues does not usually benefit the clients. The advantages of health insurance are substantial however, it will usually be outweighed by all of the other possible disadvantages.

If you are physically but not legally separated, please call my office to learn how your individual needs will be affected. You will have answers to your questions and be ready to make good decisions.