Jane’s girlfriend invited her to a lecture recently. The real reason, however, that she wanted Jane to tag along was to introduce her to a man she thought was simply fabulous. “He’s single,” she said, “intelligent, the head of a health organization, attractive and supposedly seriously interested in meeting the new woman for his life.
The lecture was interesting, but it hardly mattered after meeting Christopher. Sparks all around!
He called the very next day to invite her for lunch. The night before their date she received his first e-mail.
Jane didn’t want to be difficult. So she offered tea at her place and put on a splendid spread. The conversation flowed easily. On the brink of leaving he kissed her on the lips and asked her for dinner the following week? On the night before he sent her a second e-mail.
I am trying to be inconspicuous. Do you mind coming to my house for a simple bite?
What did he mean by inconspicuous? She recalled him saying he was legally separated. Why couldn’t they be seen in public?
Three months later the puzzle unfolded: while he was living apart from his ex, he was still seeing and sleeping with her. He didn’t want her or Jane to know about the other. Legally separated gave him a believable cover.
Jane walked. Christopher’s behavior was too shady. Maybe his wife and he had agreed on a trial separation. It didn’t stop him from “testing the market place”.
Being legally separated or just separated rather than divorced can be beneficial for a spouse. It can mean receiving financial or medical benefits that would terminate with divorce.
Partners whose strict religious beliefs strongly conflict with divorce may prefer legal separation and pursuing their lives avoiding divorce.
In many states being married for ten years is advantageous: a ten year marriage gives military spouses the advantage of the “Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act”. It also enables a spouse to take advantage of certain social security benefits. Spouses living together for ten years generally realize better financial settlements than terminating a shorter marriage.
Essential is understanding the difference between separation, legal separation and divorce.
Separation means that spouses can separate without having to file any court papers. They simply decide not to live together. The law has no say in that. However, separating from your spouse, leaving the home you shared, may have serious legal consequences, different from State to State.
Legal Separation is a serious step. It requires filing a petition in your Superior or Family Division Court, similar to filing for a divorce. Both legal products incorporate issues about alimony, financial agreements, custody, visitation and child support. Both have lasting legal results. Both take a long time to resolve.
Considering any of these options, it’s critical to visit a lawyer first and understand the law. Often lawyers charge a reduced or no fee for the first visit. But even if they do, these issues affect one’s future life and happiness. Knowing one’s rights and options is worth an investment before making decisions that cannot be reversed.