Divorce or Long Term Separation?

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Monday, July 18, 2016.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver have been dragging their feet about divorcing for about four years after filing for divorce. Is there any danger in a long term separation?

The Schwarzeneggers separated in 2011, and Maria filed in court for divorce that May. But, more than four year later, the couple has still not signed the divorce documents, according to a TMZ report Saturday.

It’s not known why the couple is not ready to formally quit the marriage even though it’s believed the former couple has agreed a straight split of their estimated $400 million fortune.

They have four children together – Katherine, 25, Christina, 24, Patrick, 22, and Christopher, 18, and have remained friends. Recently, they were seen together at their son’s Patrick college graduation.

I’ve written about some of the problems with long term separations vs divorce before. Some of these may not apply, if as in the Schwarzenegger’s case, there is a written settlement agreement. But don’t be fooled by the ease of a long term separation, it hides some real dangers:

Less Control of Assets. If you are separated, you could be out of the loop financially, and not know what the other spouse is earning, spending, investing, selling or buying.

Opportunity to Hide Assets. Many times one spouse uses separation periods to make assets disappear and increase debt.

Changed Circumstances. When we draft divorce agreements and orders we are usually trying to ‘present value’ assets and liabilities. In a long separation, people lose jobs, change jobs, become ill, retire and these changed circumstances could lower your expected alimony or support payment.

Relocation. Laws vary from state to state. Over times, as circumstances change, new job requirements and new relationships may mean that one of the spouses has to relocate to another state. Your simple divorce can morph into a major battle over the ability to relocate with your children.

Alimony Reform. Alimony change is in the air, and it is only a matter of time before alimony reform changes Florida Statutes. We dodged the bullet after the last few legislative sessions. However, alimony reform seems more like a “when” question, rather than an “if” question.

It is easy to get into the rhythm of a long term separation. People don’t choose ‘separation limbo’, they fall into it because it is easier than confrontation. However, there are some good reasons to be cautious of long term separations.

The TMZ article is here.