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Why choosing to ‘uncouple’ may not be better than divorce

In the last few decades, there has been a considerable cultural shift in how the nation views divorce. Once dominated by a negative stigma, divorce has morphed into an accepted practice that gives couples a fresh start to a happier life instead of forcing two people to continue living in a bad situation.

But despite the perception shift, many couples are still looking for ways to avoid divorce. This is because a negative stereotype still exists that suggests all divorces devolve into contentious battles that cost couples time and money. The perpetuation of this stereotype has resulted in a new way, called “uncoupling,” for couples to separate without going through the divorce process. But is it really sparing couples from experiencing difficulties or could it create more problems than it’s solving?

Uncoupling, as some of our San Francisco readers have learned from hearing stories on the news, is different from a legal separation or a divorce because even though the couples do not consider themselves to be in a relationship together, they oftentimes continue to live in the same house together and may even continue to share assets.

In their minds, they are divorced; but in the eyes of the state, the marriage is still valid. Here is where the first problem is created. In many cases where couples have decided to “uncouple,” one or both spouses may start dating another person. If that relationship becomes serious, the initial couple would need to dissolve the marriage before entering into a new marriage. In cases like this, trying to avoid divorce may be inevitable down the road, making it more difficult to divide assets and liabilities.

Uncoupling can also raise questions about health care coverage, separating bank accounts and changing beneficiaries on insurance policies. The decision to make these changes or not is an important one to make as it can create legal problems down the road in the event of a desire to remarry or even the sudden death of a spouse.

If you’re considering uncoupling as an answer to divorce then you may also want to consult with a skilled attorney before making any permanent decisions. Because of their knowledge of the law, they can explain any potential problems your decision could create and help you come up with a way of avoiding these problems before they occur.

Source: ABC News, “Couple’s ‘Uncoupling’ Ceremony Releases Them From Marriage, Without Getting Divorced,” Aditi Roy et al, Nov. 7, 2014