It is no secret that divorce is an expensive process. Even when the split is simple, California family courts generally charge a filing fee of at least a few hundred dollars, and that cost goes up significantly with any complicating issue such as children, real estate, debt and the like.

Now, a new study has found that it is because of the high cost of divorce that many couples are choosing to enter into long-term separations instead of going through the legal process of divorce. Different from legal separations, which generally require couples to deal with many of the same legal issues as are decided in divorce, these couples are remaining legally married but simply choosing to live apart for extended periods of time.

In the study, about 7,200 people were surveyed on a regular basis from 1979 to 2008. Researchers found that about 15 percent of the survey participants who separated from their spouses during that time did not get a divorce within the first 10 years of their separation. Finances were the main driving force behind the decision to enter a long-term separation, researchers say, with couples choosing not to divorce simply because they could not afford it.

There were other financial considerations behind the decision to separate instead of divorce. Doing so allows couples to remain on the same health insurance plan and to continue to receive the tax benefits of marriage. However, there may be downfalls to this approach. If your spouse acquires significant debt while you are separated, you could be responsible for making those payments even though you were not living together at the time.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Divorce Too Expensive For Poorest Americans, New Study Says," Catherine New, Aug. 20, 2012