Resolve Family Law Matters
Why You Should Start Your Divorce Now
by Erin Levine
July 6, 2022
If you have been delaying your divorce or are separated from your spouse but haven’t yet filed for divorce, this article is for you. You’re living in limbo right now, waiting for what’s next. It’s not that great, is it?
There are a lot of excuses: Divorce will cost so much. Everything is relatively smooth right now, and I don’t want us to start fighting. What will it do to the kids? The divorce process will take forever! Will I have to go to court? Hire a lawyer? All of these are valid questions. But honestly, how many times each day or week do you think about what your life could be like if you just moved forward? The truth is, there are some real reasons why you should move forward and stop delaying your divorce.
Emotional Baggage Gets (Very) Heavy
The stress of staying in an unhappy marriage and delaying divorce can take a toll on your mental and physical health. Research shows that couples enduring marital stress are more likely to experience psychiatric disorders like major depression. Marital stress has also been shown to increase the risk of heart problems. Therapist and divorce coach Emily Heird makes an important point: Staying in limbo robs you of the freedom to live a meaningful, present life and create the future you want.
Emily compares the uncertainty of being in transition to the beginning of a relationship when we’re trying to determine relationship status – which also causes anxiety and uncertainty. She continues: “The divorce itself can be scary, and yes, it is the final admission of the end of this relationship. But with the right support, you can do it relatively quickly and still preserve a relationship afterward. You will get out of limbo, have clearly defined rules and boundaries, and finally have the ability to jump into the next chapter with both feet rather than having one foot in the past and one foot in the future.”
Staying in a Bad Marriage Could Put You at Financial Risk
Even if you have moved out or are just “taking a break” from your spouse, as long as you’re married, you could be responsible for their debts. In the eyes of the government and creditors, until you file for divorce and assign debts to one spouse or the other, you are legally married and considered a joint entity.
So, if your spouse owes money on a debt they acquired after you separated, you could still be liable. You could be sued by creditors or have your wages garnished. Worse, what if you separate from your spouse and they do something stupid on a property where your name is still on the lease or property title? Like having a party with minors where someone gets hurt? You could be liable, and you could get sued. It’s an extreme example, but it’s just one way you could place yourself at risk by delaying divorce.
Bad credit brought on by your spouse’s behavior could also prevent you from buying property, investing in something new, or liquidating an account so you can buy something you need, like a car or a house. Alternatively, if you buy that new car or house on your own while still legally married, who’s to say your spouse won’t claim rights to some part or interest in it once you do actually file for divorce since it was acquired during your legal marriage?
You can and should take steps to protect your finances and maintain a strong credit history before, during, and after divorce. But, while you can take steps to protect yourself, it’s important to remember that until the divorce judgment is signed, you’ll still be attached to your spouse in the eyes of the law.
Another example: let’s say that (God forbid) you die unexpectedly. Your spouse could stand to inherit everything you own. It doesn’t matter that you’re separated; they are still your spouse in the eyes of the law. There are things you can do to try to prevent your spouse from inheriting everything in your unlikely demise, such as laying out your wishes in an updated will. But even that is not a guarantee that everything is sorted, and there are lots of assets that pass outside of a will, such as joint accounts.
Delaying Your Divorce Could Also Mean Losing Access to Funds You Truly Need
The longer you wait to file for divorce, especially if you’ve already separated, the harder it may be to recoup the spousal support or reimbursements you plan to request. Sure, sometimes divorce is simple: you take yours; I’ll take mine. But if your situation is even a tad bit more complicated than that, the math can get tricky when it comes to accounting for joint assets. The longer that period of accounting grows, the harder it becomes to unwind who paid for what and with which funds.
If you plan to request a credit or reimbursement for funds – let’s say for your share of a down payment on the marital home – you’ll have to prove what you paid. Banks typically keep financial records for seven years. If you need a bank statement from seven years ago or even slightly less, it could be a hassle to get the bank to pull this information for you.
Additionally, if you used your separate funds to pay a health insurance premium or another bill on your spouse’s behalf, that would be another type of reimbursement that could get tricky and harder to collect as time goes on. And finally, if you sacrificed your earnings to support your spouse in their professional endeavors, you might have a claim for spousal support. However, the longer you remain separated and not divorced, the harder it sometimes becomes to get alimony. If you were separated for a year and were able to live without spousal support during that time, why should the court suddenly rule in your favor now?
On the flip side: if you are the spouse who is more likely to pay alimony, the longer you delay legal separation and divorce, the more you might end up paying.
There are several reasons for this. First, the longer the marriage, the higher the likelihood you’ll have to pay (more) spousal support. Second, if you’ve been informally paying your spouse a lot more than they would have received under the law, you could end up having to continue paying a higher amount.
The Kids are Going to Be Fine (Really and Truly)
It’s not the divorce itself that you need to be concerned with when it comes to your kids. What matters most is how you separate. If your kids are exposed to a lot of conflict and fighting and feeling uncertain about their own futures, they will have more difficulty processing this change in the family status. If you and your spouse keep things as amicable as possible, demonstrating to your kids that even though your relationship is changing, your relationship with them is not and they’re still your #1, you might be surprised by their resiliency and ability to adapt. Not that it’s easy … but they will be okay.
For a little more reinforcement, check out this resource: 3 Ways Your Kid(s) Will Thrive in a Co-Parenting Relationship.
Cost, Time, and Conflict are Only Factors if You Let Them Be
Chances are you’ve heard horror stories about divorcing couples: fighting, pit-bull attorneys, exorbitant legal fees. But that’s their divorce story, not yours. When was the last time you heard a juicy, gossipy update about someone’s amicable, low-conflict divorce? Never, right?
Just like no two relationships are the same, no two divorces are the same. You and your spouse will decide how your story is written. Most couples going through a divorce want to get through the process as quickly, smoothly, and affordably as possible. And most couples who have been separated for a long time without incident or court filings end up having a smooth divorce.
That’s a Big Reason Why Divorce Exists
We think that the traditional ‘lawyer up and fight’ divorce model is financially and emotionally draining and damaging. We flipped the model on its head and make you the center of your divorce – not a lawyer. Divorce is about 80% logistics and we make that part convenient and manageable. You not only can get your divorce forms completed quicker and easier — you don’t have to pay lawyer fees to do it. We know that sometimes divorce gets complicated – and we provide you the expert help along the way too – we just don’t think it’s reasonable for you to pay for it until and unless you need it. Besides, even well intentioned lawyers ramp up conflict where there doesn’t need to be. Regardless of whether you want to handle your divorce primarily on your own or with the help of a lawyer, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst or lawyer, there is no expensive retainer. And, on your instruction, our Divorce team will work with both of you, making the divorce process transparent, affordable, and convenient. Really.
And if you (and ideally, your spouse) arm yourselves with information and an understanding of the process, you’ll both feel empowered and in control, which will keep conflict and costs low. It’s time to move forward and stop delaying your divorce. Do the research, initiate the paperwork, and start your next chapter so you can finally live the life you’ve been envisioning for yourself.