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Divorce is so expensive, many poorer Americans seem to be opting for long-term separations instead, a new study finds.
The study followed a nationally representative sample of more than 7,200 people over a 30-year period. Results, to be presented at an upcoming American Sociological Association meeting, suggest socioeconomic and racial differences in how Americans pursue divorce.
After a marital separation, 80% of people ended up getting a divorce, most within three years of separation, researchers found. Just 5% tried to reconcile.
But the most significant finding involved the 15% who remained separated but didn't pursue a full-fledged divorce.
Among those in a long-term separation, nearly 75% were black and Hispanic, according to researchers at The Ohio State University. Long-term separations also correlated with lower income, lower education, and a larger number of children.
Because divorce is expensive, long-term separation "seems to be the low-cost, do-it-yourself alternative" for disadvantaged couples, one of the study's co-authors said.
In addition, "Those with young children may find it difficult to support themselves and their children if they divorce," another researcher said.
What's the legal difference between divorce and separation? In a separation, the partners remain married, but typically live apart. If a couple seeks to formalize this arrangement in court, a judge can also issue orders about child custody and visitation, property division, and how to split debts.
If you're also considering a long-term separation because divorce is too expensive, an experienced local divorce attorney can help guide you through the process. You may also want to check out FindLaw's free downloadable guides about Starting the Divorce Process, Divorce and Property Division, and How to Hire a Divorce Attorney.