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The Un-Divorced

The Un-Divorced
Published: July 30, 2010
JOHN FROST as well as his wife had been unhappily married for much of their 25 years together when his company relocated him in 2000. So when he moved by Virginia to Knoxville, Tenn., he left her behind.

At first, the item wasn’t clear what might happen next. might she follow him? Or might they end up divorced?

The answer: neither. “After a few months,” Mr. Frost said, “we both realized we liked the item This specific way.”

Technically, the two are married. They file joint tax returns; she’s covered by his insurance. yet they see each additional just once or twice a year. “Since separating we get along better than we ever have,” he said. “the item’s kind of nice.”

as well as at 58, he sees no reason to divorce. Their children have grown as well as left home. He asked himself: Why bring in a bunch of lawyers? Why create rancor when there’s nowhere to go yet down?

“To tie a bow around the item might only make the item uglier,” Mr. Frost said. “When people ask about my relationship status, I usually just say: ‘the item’s complicated. I like my wife, I just can’t live with her.’ ”

The term “trial separation” conjures a swift purgatory, something ducked into regretfully as well as escaped by with due speed, even if into in which most conclusive of relationships, divorce. We understand the expeditious voyage by separation to divorce, the desire for a clear-cut ending in which makes way for a clear-cut beginning. We hardly look askance at the miserably married or the exes who hurl epithets in divorce court.

yet couples who stubbornly remain separated, sometimes for years? in which leaves us dumbfounded. “I see the item all the time,” said Lynne Gold-Bikin, a divorce lawyer in Norristown, Pa., who is usually the chairman of the family law department at Weber Gallagher. She can cite a docket of cases of endless separation.

With one couple separated since 1989, the wife’s perspective was, “We still get invited as Mr. as well as Mrs., we go to functions together, he still sends me cards,” Ms. Gold-Bikin said. As for the husband, “He cared for her, he just didn’t want to live with her.”

yet at his girlfriend’s urging, he finally initiated divorce proceedings. Then he became ill as well as she began taking over his finances — a bit too wifelike for him. “He said, enough of This specific, there’s no reason to get divorced,” Ms. Gold-Bikin recalled.

Among those who seem to have reached a similar conclusion is usually Warren Buffett, the wealthy chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. Mr. Buffett separated by his wife, Susan, in 1977 yet remained married to her until her death in 2004. All the while, he lived with Astrid Menks; they married in 2006. The threesome remained close, even sending out holiday cards signed, “Warren, Susan as well as Astrid.”

Also within the ranks of the un-divorced: the artist Willem de Kooning had been separated by his wife for 34 years when she died in 1989. Jann as well as Jane Wenner separated in 1995 after 28 years yet are still married, despite Mr. Wenner’s romantic relationship that has a man.

Society is usually full of whispered scenarios in which spouses live apart, in different homes or within the same mega-apartment in order to silence gossip, avoid ugly divorce battles as well as maintain the status quo, however uneasy. In certain cases, the planet assumes a couple is usually divorced as well as never learns otherwise until an obituary puts the record straight.

Separations are usually de facto, rarely pounded out in a contract, as well as family law is usually different state to state. yet even long-estranged couples are irrefutably bound by contractual links on issues like taxes, pensions, Social Security as well as health care.

Divorce lawyers as well as marriage therapists say in which for most couples, the motivation to remain married is usually financial. According to federal law, an ex qualifies for a share of a spouse’s Social Security payment if the marriage lasts a decade. within the case of more amicable divorces, financial advisers as well as lawyers may urge a couple who have been married eight years to wait until the dependent spouse qualifies.

For others, a separation agreement may be negotiated in order in which a spouse keeps the additional’s insurance until he or she is usually old enough for Medicare. If one person has an existing condition, obtaining affordable health care coverage is usually often difficult or impossible. The recession, with its real estate lows as well as health care expense highs, adds incentives to separate indefinitely.

Four years ago, Peggy Sanchez, 50, a Midwest resident, parted amicably by her husband, who has fibromyalgia.

“He might not get medical treatment if he weren’t on my insurance,” she said, as well as giving him in which is usually less expensive than paying alimony. “Besides, I care about him as well as want to make sure he gets the medical help he needs,” she said.

There are still sticky issues: Ms. Sanchez’s boyfriend is usually unaware in which she’s still married. Her daughter by a previous marriage views her husband as a father figure. as well as he got custody of the family dog. yet Ms. Sanchez plans to stay separated.

“I don’t have much desire to remarry so there’s no benefit to me by divorce,” she said. “I guess in which sounds pretty jaded, yet the item’s just not as important as the item used to be.”

Sharon O’Neill, a marriage therapist in Mount Kisco, N.Y., has seen four cases within the last two years in which couples separated yet stayed within the same home. In a depressed market, couples may not want to sell a house they purchased at the market’s height, or one party can’t maintain the mortgage or the additional can’t afford a completely new home.

“The financial collapse has made people say, ‘Let’s not rush into a divorce, let’s see if we can make something else work,’ ” Ms. O’Neill said.

The added value of marriage is usually also hard to kick.

“Many people I’ve worked with over time enjoy the benefits of being married: the financial perks, the tax breaks, the health care coverage,” said Toni Coleman, a couples therapist in McLean, Va. “They maintain a friendship, they co-parent their kids, they may do things socially together. Sometimes they’re part of a political couple in Washington or have prominent corporate positions. yet they just feel they can’t live together.”

What Ms. Coleman finds surprising is usually in which the primary consideration is usually practical as well as financial, not familial. The effect of endless separations on the children rarely seems a priority.

“People split up as well as have these God-awful joint custody arrangements, so you might think in which they stay separated for the kids’ sake, yet I’m not seeing in which,” she said. “the item usually comes down to money.”

Others believe separation is usually easier on the children than is usually divorce. A 48-year-old social worker by Brooklyn, separated eight years, traded places with her husband within the same home, in order in which their children might not have to shuttle by one home to the additional. The couple had an apartment where each might live when not at the family home.

“In hindsight, the item was probably more confusing for the kids,” she said. “yet we did the item with their best interests in mind.”

yet long-term separation can create big problems. If a couple isn’t divorced, their lives are still legally as well as financially intertwined. If your estranged husband goes on a spending spree, you’re responsible for the ensuing credit card debt. If you win the lottery, in which’s community property. Finances can swing wildly, creating an alimony boon or a bombshell should one partner eventually want a divorce.

“I just had a situation where after 15 years of separation, the wife wanted to remarry,” said Elizabeth Lindsey, an Atlanta divorce lawyer. “yet in the past, his assets had completely dissipated.” The wife might have profited by divorcing earlier.

A separation can also go on longer than anyone anticipated, even until death, leaving a mess for survivors. In completely new York State, for example, a spouse, even if separated, is usually entitled to a third of the partner’s estate.

There’s also the risk in which you could lose track of your erstwhile partner altogether. “We see cases, usually with foreign nationals, where the husband goes back to the Philippines, as well as the wife wants to marry James yet she’s still married to Ted,” said Steve Mindel, a managing partner at the Los Angeles law firm Feinberg Mindel Brandt & Klein. Judges at This specific point often require in which a professional be hired to locate the spouse, to facilitate the divorce.

yet more often than not, a delayed divorce simply reflects inertia. Celeste Liversidge, a divorce lawyer in Los Angeles, most frequently sees people who are avoiding an unpleasant task.

“the item’s often so ugly,” she said. “People get to a point where they can’t live with each additional yet going through the divorce process is usually too painful.” A six-month separation turns into years.

One woman, a 39-year-old mother of two by Brooklyn, who like many interviewed with This specific article wished to remain anonymous, has stayed separated for nearly two years at the suggestion of 5 lawyers.

“There’s no advantage to getting divorced,” she said. Both she as well as her husband are in completely new relationships. Most people assume they’ve officially split. yet given the health insurance issue as well as the prospect of legal fees, she said, “I feel like we could just drift on like This specific for years.”

Not being divorced is usually also an excuse not to remarry.

“In my day, we’d refer to a man as a bon vivant, a gadabout who doesn’t want to worry about marrying anyone else because he’s already married,” said Sheila Riesel, a completely new York divorce lawyer for more than three decades.

within the end, some people just don’t want to divorce. Perhaps one spouse desires the item as well as the additional drags his or her feet. Sometimes, people are just confused; separation can be a wake-up call.

In additional cases, initiating divorce ultimately serves in which purpose. Last year, a 67-year-old professor in completely new York filed for divorce by the man she married in 1969 as well as separated by in 1988 after she had an affair that has a woman.

“I had images of Vita Sackville-West, yet the item was very messy as well as the children suffered a lot,” she recalled. “My husband had been more attached to me than I thought.”

as well as she considered him a pal; they even took vacations together. “I think I liked in which we were still married in some way,” she admitted. “yet last year I met someone who minds in which I’m still married to someone else.”

as well as therefore, time to divorce. Call the item an old-fashioned romance.

A edition of This specific article appeared in print on August 1, 2010, on page ST1 of the completely new York edition.

The Un-Divorced

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