Prior to getting a divorce, some couples decide to physically separate for a certain period of time.  Some couples separate in the hopes of reconciling after a brief “break” while others separate and plan to divorce after saving some money for their legal fees. There are a small number of couples who separate permanently without ever legally divorcing and that number is growing overtime.  Though remaining legally married offers some benefits, there are potential ramification of a pre-divorce separation that spouses should take into consideration.

Shared Debt

Married couples share certain financial responsibilities, and it is not unusual for the debt of one spouse to find the debt acquired by the other listed on their credit report. During a separation neither person is entirely aware of the spending habits of the other. One spouse may decide to obtain new lines of credit or may stop making payments on other debts he or she previously agreed to pay. Even though the couple is separated, they could find themselves receiving calls from creditors regarding a debt their legal husband or wife obtained.

Tax Penalties

Couples who are married receive certain tax credits based upon their incomes and household sizes. After separation, some couples may continue to file their taxes together, but over time spouses may feel more comfortable filing their taxes separately. Unfortunately, married people who file separately are not able to receive certain tax breaks and credits. Student loan interest deductions, earned income credits, child care credits, and adoption credits are just a few of the tax benefits that you are unable to receive if you are a married person who does not file jointly with your spouse. While some adults may want to separate themselves from their legal spouse’s tax liability, it is important to understand that reduced tax liability also leads to a reduction in tax credits from which that person can benefit.

Confusion Over Inheritance

After years of seeing their parents maintaining separate households, the children of separated adults sometimes incorrectly believe that the couple is legally divorced, especially if one spouse begins other romantic relationships or has additional children with another partner. Finding out that the couple was still legally married after one adult passes away can cause a great deal of confusion, while also complicating inheritance. Children from another relationship, domestic partners, and others who expected to inherit assets from the deceased may learn that the legal spouse still has certain rights. Especially if the deceased never updated or created a will and had insurance policies that were willed to the spouse.

Contact a Qualified Attorney

If you or someone you know is contemplating separating from a spouse instead of getting divorced, contacting a qualified family law attorney is highly recommended. An attorney with knowledge of Georgia laws regarding divorce, inheritance, and other legal issues can help you decide if separation is a wise option. Though divorce may not be what you want, it is important to explore all available choices in order to make an educated decision that has long term repercussions. The attorneys at Vayman & Teitelbaum are available to discuss your unique situation and offer legal counsel. With offices conveniently located in Alpharetta, Marietta, Cumming, and Lawrenceville, they can be reached at 678-736-7700 to schedule a consultation.