With this recession has come a variety of articles about the non-divorce or roommate living arrangement between spouses. Whatever you call it, staying together because you cannot afford to live in two households can work. However, there are pitfalls to be sure. If you are trying to make the decision between staying together and filing for divorce, legal separation, or annulment, there are some commonsense objectives to keep in mind. First, do you both agree that it is over? If it is over for one and not the other, there is bound to be arguing, stress, and disappointment. What will be the impact on the children from watching this constant struggle play out each day? If both of you agree it is over, you need to set boundaries and ground rules to save your sanity and that of your children. When do you want to separate? A deadline gives you light at the end of the tunnel. Who is paying what? Is it time to separate checking accounts? Who is doing what chores around the house? Who is paying which bills? I know you are thinking, if we could agree on these things we would not need to separate. But, this is really about how much money is coming and how much is going out each month - simple budgeting, not about fair or equal.
Giving the children the opportunity to spend time with one parent while the other parent takes a day or weekend off is something that seems to work for some people. It is similar to a nesting arrangement (see prior post), but it is an informal arrangement without lawyers, court orders, or a legal action. Aside from giving each of you a break, it has the added benefit of getting used to being without the children while the other has placement.
Most importantly, talk to a therapist about how to make it work. Talking to others who have separated often gets you a long story about the worst of their situation. People only tend to remember the worst.
If you want the strength of a legal document, instead of relying on your spouse to honor your verbal agreement, you should call an attorney who drafts marital agreements, also referred to as post-nups or post-nuptial. These agreements lay out what happens in the event of divorce or legal separation, and death. For example, it can spell out the children's placement schedule when a divorce is filed or who is responsible for certain debts.
None of this will work if you are in a domestic violence situation. No post-nup should be worth the paper it is written on if it is the result of threats or coercion. Criminal cases resulting from domestic disputes and/or violence seem to be on the rise. Staying together to save money when your relationship that is verbally or physically abusive can come at the cost of medical bills, loss of reputation, criminal defense attorney fees, court fines and costs, even jail or prison. It is the opinion of this writer, that it is never worth the costs. Both spouses need the help of a therapist regardless of whether they stay together or separate.
Keep in mind this blog is for Wisconsin residents only. As always, this is no substitute for legal advice from an attorney that knows your particular circumstances. No attorney-client relationship is formed between the reader and Lakeland Law Firm, LLC from reading this blog.