Chadwick M. Layton, Esq.[i]
Harvey Waddell & Layton, P.A.
In some instances, married couples separate and effectively end their marriage without ever filing for divorce. This separation acknowledges to the world and to the spouses that they are no longer living together as a married couple. However, the separation does not change the legal status of the parties as a “married couple”.
Our firm has represented many individuals that fall into this category of needing to “do the paperwork” long after the marriage actually ended.
There are several issues that must be addressed under these circumstances. In my experience, the first issue is to determine the current financial position of each spouse. This is important because in some cases the spouses no longer have a clear understanding of the other spouses financial position. This is a problem because even though they have been living separate lives for years, they have remained legally married.
The legal bond of marriage creates a legal presumption that all of the assets and liabilities that each spouse accrues during the marriage, even after their separation, will be considered joint marital property. The joint marital debts and marital assets are subject to equitable distribution once the divorce is filed.
Additionally, the years (or even months) that pass before either spouse files for divorce can create problems as to whether an alimony obligation exists. One of the elements to determine alimony is how long the parties were married. The duration of the marriage is not always a simple answer if the parties separated years before they actually filed for divorce.
Another common issue that arises is passive assets (such as retirement accounts) of either spouse that have continued to appreciate in value after the parties separated but before the filing of divorce.
The bottom line is that divorce is not fun or easy, however, it creates larger problems for both spouses if it is not dealt with promptly and professionally.
The law firm you choose in divorce should match your goals for divorce.
[i] Chadwick M. Layton is a partner and shareholder at Harvey Waddell & Layton, P.A., located in downtown Lake Worth.
Mr. Layton is also a member of the Florida Bar Family Law Section and the Susan Greenberg Family Law American Inn of Court of the Palm Beaches,
101 North J Street, Lake Worth
Phone (561) 585-4631