You’re still “married” but you haven’t had a loving relationship with your spouse in years. You’re not intimate. You don’t do things together. You may not even sleep in the same room. Perhaps you or your spouse travels a significant amount or you don’t live together, but have never formally decided you want to end your marriage and get divorced.
You know your marriage is over but why are you still together?
In practice, we’ve seen this scenario unfold many times for a variety of reasons. Neither party wants to leave the marital home. A dependent spouse doesn’t know how they will make ends meet without the support of the other spouse. You have minor children and want them to grow up in a two parent home. You can’t afford to pay an attorney to pursue your divorce. You don’t know what to expect during a divorce. While these reasons are understandable, if one of you is not willing to work on fixing the issues destroying your marriage, divorce may be the only option.
How can waiting too long exacerbate things?
The Longer You Wait the More Expensive It Gets
We’ve had clients who knew their marriage was over but waited years before filing for divorce. Meanwhile, they’ve continued to work, continued to make retirement contributions, started business ventures, and continued to accumulate assets. Yet clients are shocked to learn that even though they haven’t “acted like a married couple” for years these shiny assets they’ve accumulated are still marital property.
More importantly, once a marriage gets to the point of no return, it’s not uncommon to see spouses start some “self-help” contingency planning. Secret separate accounts get opened, gifts to friends and family become more frequent, and creative LLCs get formed in attempts to shield assets and create a nest egg for a departing spouse. While these techniques typically do not change the legal characterization of assets, the longer you wait to file for divorce and challenge suspect transactions, the harder they are to find and the harder it is to prove they weren’t agreed to by both parties. While a good lawyer can help, contested divorces are not cheap.
Staying Married Can Impact Fault-Based Claims and Defenses
Did your spouse have an affair? Are you contemplating civil action against your spouse’s paramour? Staying married for years after an affair can support your spouses claim that you condoned the affair. In an alienation of affection action, if your marriage continued for years after an affair it can diminish your claim that the affair destroyed your marriage. While an affair doesn’t have to be the end of your marriage, if you know that it is not a recoverable event, don’t sleep on your rights.
Kids Learn from Your Relationship
Your relationship with your spouse is a “how-to” guide your children will unknowingly follow in developing their own relationships. If they don’t grow up in a household with parents in a loving, healthy relationship, it’s more likely they will end up in relationships that mirror their parents. If there is domestic violence in your home, studies clearly show that your children, on average, will have a harder time regulating negative emotions, increasing chances they will be more aggressive in their daily encounters as adults. Oftentimes, parents underestimate their children’s awareness of the marital strife; however, while children may not be able to articulate what is wrong, the stress still has an effect on them.
Stress: The Silent Killer
Unhealthy marriages can be stressful to both parties. Depression is a common theme in unhappy marriages. While we practice law and not medicine, the long-term effects of stress on the body are well documented. Chronic stress has traumatic effects on your body. Consider looking for ways out of a marriage that is high in stress and low in happiness, for your own welfare.
Whether you’ve got a couple of legal questions or looking to hire an attorney, we’re equipped to take on whatever role is necessary. Many times, we’re able to resolve client issues during our initial meeting and no further representation is needed. However when you need an attorney to represent you in court and defend your rights, we stand ready, willing and able. Contact us today if you’re standing still and ready to move forward.
- The Anatomy of a Complex Family Law Case
- Divorce FAQ
- 7 Divorce Myths You Need Not Worry About
- Save Time and Money When Going Through a Divorce