June 6th, 2017


By:  Austin E. Williamson and Heather Rooney McBride

Getting a divorce or a legal separation is a big deal.  It is a process that needs to be entered into after careful thought and consideration; however, too often couples will find themselves living in a relationship “limbo” where they remain married, but are no longer living together.  While there is nothing wrong with taking a break to “cool down” or taking time to reconcile the marriage, delaying court involvement or remaining separated for a significant period of time can create more problems than it solves.  While there are many pitfalls to living separate from your spouse indefinitely, here are 5 major issues to consider if you find yourself in this situation:


  1. You have little or no control over marital assets managed by your spouse. With some exceptions, marital property is typically all property received or earned during the course of the marriage.  Property that may likely be classified as marital property may be under the sole control of your spouse, which means that not only do you have little oversight as to how a marital asset is being managed, but the longer the separation continues, the more opportunity there is for your spouse to hide and spend marital assets.
  2. You have little control over marital debt. While Missouri is an “equitable distribution” state, which means that the Court has discretion in how to fairly divide marital property and debt, if your spouse incurs debt during the marriage (even if you are separated), it is possible that you may be liable for that debt as well, especially if your spouse is using a joint credit card.


  1. Your spouse may move to another jurisdiction. While you may think that distance may make the heart grow fonder, it may actually have the opposite effect.  Most states have requirements as to how long someone must live in a state before a divorce may be filed in that state.  Thus, if your spouse moves to another jurisdiction or another state and meets the residency requirements of that state, you may be subject to having your divorce heard in another state, and it is possible the other state will have less favorable property, alimony, or child support laws than Missouri or Arkansas.


  1. You drag loved ones into your “limbo” as well. Many times when you are in a relationship “limbo,” your children (or loved ones) are right there with you.  Once a divorce is filed, the Court will usually set specific parenting time for you and your spouse to spend with your children.  Specific parameters regarding your children generally provide you, your spouse, and your children with stability and reliable routine.  Without these guidelines, “sharing” the children can often turn into a game of tug-of-war.


  1. You do not have finality. We all know the saying that “when one door closes, another door opens;” however, the sometimes overlooked lesson is that in order to get to that new door, the first door has to close.  Staying in an extended “limbo” usually serves only to keep you and your spouse from exploring new experiences, meeting someone new, and/or fully enjoying your life.  You (and, yes, your spouse too) deserve to be happy.

There are many reasons why you may think that a divorce or a legal separation may not be the answer; however, if you are separated or living apart from your spouse, you should consult with an attorney to discuss your options and the possible pitfalls for remaining separated for too long without the assistance of an attorney and the courts.  If you are interested in speaking with experienced legal counsel, please contact the attorneys of Rooney McBride & Smith, LLC today to schedule a consultation.