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The waters of marital separation could be deeper than you think

You may know some spouses who have taken this route: their marriage is on the rocks; they've drifted apart; they find it's easier to handle job and family obligations if they simply separate. On the surface, it makes sense, but living apart for too long without a finalized divorce can cause problems down the road.

While it may be tempting to follow the groove you've made for yourself away from your spouse, your marriage remains a legal matter. New Jersey couples who stay separated for an extended period of time could eventually run into obstacles that negatively affect family and finances.

For example, New Jersey could see changes to the state's alimony laws, and waiting until after any changes take effect could leave some receiving spouses with lower alimony payments.

The possibility of one spouse hiding assets is also something to consider. If you're separated from your spouse for a long time, and he or she has access to marital assets such as retirement plans, bank accounts and stock options, then the long separation could offer plenty of time to conceal those assets. Hiding assets in divorce is illegal, but it does happen.

A more common problem is that one estranged spouse will simply spend away the marital assets, either on needless expenses or on a new girlfriend or boyfriend. Consulting with an attorney and finalizing the divorce in a reasonable amount of time can help avoid this situation.

If your spouse loses a job while you're separated, this can also affect the divorce agreement. Child support, spousal support and the general divorce settlement could be reduced significantly if one spouse's financial situation changes for the worse.

To avoid these problems, it is probably a good idea not to tread too long in the murky waters of marital separation. 

Source: Forbes, "Putting Off Divorce? Ten Ways Long-term Separations Can Do Women More Harm Than Good," Jeff Landers, Oct. 3, 2013

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