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Unofficial Marriage Separations Can Create Some Major Hurdles

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If you find that your flaming marriage has burned itself out, it may be time for you and your spouse to go your separate ways. While the two of you may agree to participate in an unofficial trial separation, you may want to set a time limit on the amount of time you will remain in this state. This is because this decision can come back to haunt you when you finally arrive in divorce court. Here are a few of the hurdles this non-official state may affect.

Spousal Support

Alimony, maintenance, and spousal support are all the same thing. It means that one spouse is required to pay the other spouse following a divorce. It is one of the most highly litigated areas within family law. Unfortunately, it is also one of the areas in which the court has the most discretion. In many states, the judge is able to determine the amount as well as the duration of time the support will be paid. To do this, there are many things the judge takes into consideration. Some of these are:

  • Each spouse's incomes, assets, and financial obligations
  • Each spouse's health and age
  • Each spouse's level of education achieved, as well as marketable skills
  • Contributions each spouse made to each other's educational training, career advancement, or business development
  • Whether the dependent spouse was a homemaker or left the workforce to raise the children
  • Whether either spouse will come into future assets that may already be in place, such as stock options or inheritances

Another thing the court has to take into consideration when determining spousal support, is the ability of the dependent spouse to maintain the standard of living they became accustomed to during the marriage. When you are unofficially separated for an extended period of time, the lower standard of living experienced by the lower earning spouse can often set the bar for the amount of spousal support paid in the future. 

Legal Responsibility For Debt

If you live in a community property state, you are legally responsible for any debts your spouse runs up until you are either legally separated or divorced. This is true even if you had no knowledge or never signed for the debt. When you are unofficially separated, you have no way to legally separate you from this responsibility. Not only can you be held liable for the debt in a community property state, but creditors will be able to sue you and even come after your property.

Community property states include:

  • Arizona
  • Wisconsin
  • California
  • Washington
  • Idaho
  • Texas
  • Louisiana
  • New Mexico
  • Nevada

Other states are considered to be common law states; these states most often view debt as belonging to the spouse that incurs the debt. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. There may be cases in which your spouse is able to place debt in joint name as long as you are not legally separated. 

Getting Credit For Monies Paid

If you and your spouse were able to separate amicably, the two of you may have an unofficial agreement on how much support you are willing to pay. Although you may have done this for an extended period of time, if it is not paid under an official separate maintenance agreement, or court order, the court may not recognize it. Once you arrive in divorce court, some judges may simply view the money paid as a gift. Other judges may be willing to give you credit for the amount paid, which may reduce the amount you have to pay in the future. This will usually only happen if you are able to provide clear records of these payments, as well as what the payments were for.

These are only a few of the hurdles you may have to overcome if you choose not to make your separation legal. There are many more. If you and your spouse decide your marriage is over, seek the services of a local divorce attorney. The attorney will be able to assist you with all of the aspects of your separation, as well as with your subsequent divorce. You can find more information at the website of a local divorce attorney. Click here to check it out.