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Separation or divorce: Time can harm or heal for older couples

As people get older they often reassess their lives. When one's children have grown up and left home to begin families of their own, it can seem that there's a lot more freedom than may have been the case for the prior 20 years or more. The realization that one no longer feels that same toward his or her spouse can come as a shock to a New Jersey resident, especially if the only option appears to be divorce.

Separating finances may appear simple on the face of it, though it can potentially be quite complex. The length of time that a couple has been married may leave finances so commingled that divorce may be quite daunting for that reason alone. Where there is no intention to remarry, many people decide to simply remain separated, sometimes for many years. While this may seem to be a more peaceable option, it can create problems further down the line, especially if there is no formal separation agreement.

Without a formal agreement in place, one may find him or herself liable for debts incurred by an estranged spouse. Despite living apart for a number of years, one spouse may still have the authority to make important decisions about financial and health care matters relating to the other, and upon death he or she may automatically inherit one's estate. Where a couple have children from two different marriages, an inheritance battle may ensue upon the death of one spouse, leading to heartache and anger.

Entering into divorce will allow clarity of the legal rights and responsibilities of both parties, reducing the likelihood of problems arising in the future. Divorce will also bring a more concrete sense of closure to the relationship. This will help each New Jersey resident to move forward, emotionally unencumbered, toward the future.

Source:, "Older couples ponder financial impact of divorce", Beth Pinsker Reuters, May 14, 2017

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