Divorce can be incredibly taxing emotionally, but it can also put an incredible strain on a couple’s finances.

Hiring a lawyer, who may charge $500 an hour to sort out alimony and child support payments, can bring the average cost of a divorce in New Jersey to $30,000. A new study finds that most people who separated from a spouse reported getting a divorce within three years of the break up.

But, 15 percent who separated did not get a divorce within the first ten years because of finances. As a result, long-term separations are becoming a popular alternative to divorce.

“I think it’s a good thing that people can’t just divorce at will,” said Dr. Marty Tashman, licensed marriage and family therapist in New Jersey. “Too often we have different expectations about what love can be and we can get disappointed. If it’s too easy, then marriages become disposable and then you have the casualty of the children, finances and everything else that goes along with it. I’m very pro-marriage and I like the idea that people have to think twice and revisit their marriages before they can part ways.”

“I always encourage couples to try everything possible to work on their marriages. If they’ve done all the work and there are no other options, then mediation may be the less expensive way to go,” said Tashman. “Interestingly enough, I often see couples who happen to have two residences and rather than go through a divorce, they opt to live separately. On the one side, they avoid dealing with the expense of a divorce and on the other side, they don’t have to deal with the finality of being divorced. Often times, people want permission to divorce and they feel guilty about it but they don’t want to live with the other person either.”

While there are some financial benefits to long-term separation, there are also risks in remaining legally bound.

“If you’re married, whatever your status is or however angry you are at each other, you’re still responsible for the other person’s bills, so there’s a tremendous amount of financial risk. Not having a clean cut can leave the financial background pretty murky as well.”