until the hour of separation.” – Kahlil Gibran
In a July 30 New York Times Article, entitled “The Un-Divorced”, Pamela Paul discusses a phenomenon of long term separation as the alternative of choice to a divorce for a growing number of American couples of all ages. Often, decision to remain legally married is financial – one spouse’s eligibility for the other’s social security benefits or health insurance may be extinguished by a divorce.
However, for some couples, a long term separation replaces the irritable hostility of daily life with a distant friendship between two people who still care deeply about each other, but simply are unable to co-exist under the same roof. People may remain happily separated for decades until a death or a new old-fashioned romance prompts them to “legally” turn the page and move on.
For those of you who find themselves personally relating to this, please note, that it is absolutely imperative for separated couples to have a legally enforceable separation agreement. Although, by signing such an agreement, you remain eligible for each other’s health and other benefits, you can definitively protect yourselves and each other against disasters, that may intervene and are outside of your or your spouse’s control. If one of you becomes ill and the insurance is insufficient to cover the bills, the other spouse and his/her assets can be tapped to cover the ailing spouses medical bills. In a Separation Agreement, you can specify that each of you is responsible for his/her own debts and liabilities. You can waive rights to each other’s estates, to each other’s assets, homes, cars and valuables.
The money spent on a mediator to negotiate and then on lawyers to review and finalize the Separation Agreement is minimal in comparison to the financial exposure each of you would avoid in the future.