A recurring theme I hear from people is the notion of keeping a failed marriage together “for the kids’ sake.” It seems that many people who undertake this course of action actually plan to go through the motions of being married for years, until the kids graduate and leave the home. At Youngblood Law, PLLC, we do not recommend going through this charade. Here are some legal reasons why:
- Community property and shared debt continue to accrue during the marriage even if the parties are basically just roommates. In Texas, a person is either married or unmarried. There is no “legal separation” or any other state of quasi-marriage. Community property assets like retirement accounts continue to accrue for the duration of the marriage. Staying for years with a spouse you don’t really want to be married to means he or she could take a much larger amount of the retirement you will rely on in the future due to the longer marriage.
- The state presumes if you are married, you are happily so. All the rights, responsibilities, liabilities, and duties of spouses still apply. Thus, if one spouse incurs significant debt, or becomes severely injured, or has any other serious unexpected life changing event, the other spouse would be directly affected with debt or liability related to the change. For example, if your spouse becomes disabled due to disease or injury during the marriage, in a subsequent divorce you would likely be ordered to pay spousal maintenance to your disabled spouse for the duration of the disability.
- Texas is a non-alimony state, but the Family Code allows for spousal maintenance, which is similar to alimony in many ways. However, except in the case of a disabled spouse, spousal maintenance won’t be awarded if the parties were not married for ten years or more. So, if a couple is married for over ten years, it could mean one spouse pays the other a sum of money each month for several years, and this money is in addition to any child support payments.
Getting a divorce is a big decision, and should not be taken lightly. But staying in a failed marriage for any reason we can think of is folly because Texas’s community property laws still apply as long as there is a marriage. The longer the marriage continues to run, the more property—property that will have to be divided in the eventual divorce—accrues, debt and liability attaches and even post-divorce monthly payments enter the picture.
Tune in next week for a discussion of the relationship related reasons that we don’t recommend staying in a failed marriage “for the kids.”
Youngblood Law, PLLC is a Fort Worth, Texas family law firm focusing on helping working people live the life they WANT through divorce and beyond. This essay is intended for educational use only, and is not a replacement for competent legal counsel. If you are facing a family law matter, we recommend obtaining competent legal counsel like Youngblood Law, PLLC. For more information contact us at 817-601-5345, find us on the web at www.youngblood-law.com, or on your mobile device, open your browser and type in lawfw.biz and press Go. Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/youngbloodlawPLLC/