Happily Ever Separated: When Couples Won't Divorce

ThinkStockThey may be separated, but Kris and Bruce Jenner say they aren’t divorcing any time soon. On Thursday, Kris made that very clear to People magazine by saying, “No. No, no, no,” when asked whether divorce papers had been drawn.

A couple’s decision to live separate lives, rather than hit divorce court, may sound odd in a world where people seem less excited about getting married than ever — a recent report published by Pew Research shows barely half of U.S. adults are married and the median age for first marriages is at an all-time high. Still, the decision to remain in marital limbo is a popular one.

“I see plenty of clients who choose to be apart rather than jump through the hoops of divorce,” Linda Gross, a Santa Monica, California-based family lawyer tells Yahoo Shine. “Although this arrangement works for some, it’s an individual lifestyle choice that’s dependent on the dynamics of the relationship.” According to Gross, there are two types of couples that separate for the long-term: Those who want to indefinitely remain apart and others who suspect they’ll ultimately get divorced in the far future. Whichever couple you are, says Gross, it’s wise to seek legal advice and draft a legal agreement spelling out the terms, including the division of property, rather than simply live apart and stay married.

For some, choosing long-term separation is a financial decision. If you own a business together and want your offspring to reap the benefits one day, a separation may keep the company intact. Or, if one spouse has an existing health condition and obtaining coverage would be difficult, separation, rather than divorce, would allow him or her to remain on the spouse’s health insurance.

For others, it’s a way to keep the family together. “I have clients who co-parent their young children in their marital home but when one is there, the other stays in an apartment,” says Gross. “They could have divorced but decided that separation would be a smoother transition until the children were older.”

And finally, staying can simply be easier than getting a divorce. "Lots of couples opt for long-term separations because navigating divorce proceedings is overwhelming, expensive, and stressful," says Gross. Separation can also be better for a couple’s social life: If you’ve been married for a while and your networks are entwined, living apart is more seamless than throwing around the “D” word at dinner parties.

However, long separations do have their downsides, particularly when it comes to alimony: “When couples choose to live apart, their income often drops,” says Gross. “If you stay separated for too long and then file for alimony, a court may not grant you as much because you’ve already proven you can live on the amount you have,” she says.

There are emotional drawbacks to remaining in marital limbo, too. “There’s a lot of responsibility and obligation involved in long term separation," says Bethany Marshall, PhD, a marriage and family therapist. "Both people should feel comfortable with the terms, otherwise, it can lead to disillusionment and even false hopes of reconciliation.”