A new study has found that most people who choose long-term separation over divorce do so not for religious reasons, but because they cannot afford to get divorced. Most people, however, ultimately go through with the divorce, and the majority do so within just a few years of separating.

In the study, researchers looked at the marital histories of more than 7,000 people from Atlanta and across the country. All of the study participants had initially signed up to be part of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth in 1979, when they were between the ages of 14 and 22. The participants have been surveyed at regular dates following that initial study.

Researchers ultimately found that about 80 percent of the study participants who separated from their spouses ultimately filed for divorce. The average length of a separation that ended in divorce was three years. About five percent of that number attempted to reconcile, but most actually ended up getting divorced more quickly than those that simply separated.

However, about 15 percent of separations continued for more than a decade without the couple reconciling or deciding to divorce. Those participants tended to have lower family income and education levels, to be racial or ethnic minorities, or to have young children.

It is because of these demographics that researchers have made the connection between long-term separation and income. In addition, recent trends indicate that more couples are now separating for a long length of time without divorcing, most likely due to the struggling economy and high unemployment rate.

Source: Psych Central, "Many Separated Couples Cannot Afford Divorce," Traci Pedersen, Sept. 17, 2012

At our Cobb County law firm, we help couples who feel that they can't afford to end their marriage. To learn more, please visit our divorce page