It sounds like such a beautiful idea. Instead of spending thousands of dollars arguing with each other in divorce court, a couple instead invites their closest friends and family to a beautiful uncoupling ceremony. They publicly end their marriage without involving divorce lawyers or judges. Could this be the new way to end marriages in the 21st century?

Uncoupling is a new social phenomenon and so exactly what it includes is still evolving. At it’s most basic level, uncoupling involves two spouses ending their personal and romantic relationship while still remaining legally married. Some parents choose uncoupling to provide a stable and continuous home environment for their children. Uncoupled spouses may choose to continue living in the same house and keep joint assets. They then live in what has traditionally been called an “open marriage” and date other people.

For many, uncoupling may seem like a very modern and pragmatic alternative to divorce. Before you start booking a venue for your uncoupling ceremony, there are some serious disadvantages you must consider. Here are two reasons why choosing uncoupling instead of divorce is a bad idea.

It doesn’t resolve child custody

One of the advantages of uncoupling is that both parents remain living in the same house with the children. In such a situation, it would be easy to assume that a traditional custody arrangement would not be required. However, children still cannot not be in two places at once. As the lives of the uncoupled parents become increasingly separate, conflict may result over where the children will be during birthdays, vacations, and holidays. While parents may set out with the noble goal of putting their children first and spending family events together, that will become increasingly difficult as time passes and relationships flourish with other people.

While resolving custody issues in divorce court may at first seem undesirable, it is important to remember that orders of the court are enforceable by law. A legal divorce will include a custody plan that must be followed by both parents. Uncouplings do not provide any legal protection and cannot legally guarantee how much time you can spend with your children.

It won’t divide assets and community property

Divorce is always about money. The family home, the vacation house, the investment account, the retirement plan, all the property and the debts of the marriage are organized and then divided in an equitable manner between the parties. Divorce may seem like it reduces the relationship of two people to numbers on a spreadsheet, however it accomplishes something very important. The court strives to place both spouses on fair and equitable footing so that they are each in the best position financially to start a new life.

An uncoupling on the other hand, leaves out any third party like a judge who can ensure fairness. The couple divides their assets, or not, as they see fit. While this gives the spouses completed control, it provides very little protection. Since the couple is still married, each spouse has legal rights to joint assets. It would be difficult to stop one spouse from draining a joint bank account or selling joint property. While the idea of uncoupling instead of divorcing may sound magical, waking up to an empty bank account will end the fairy tale real fast.

Divorce can be difficult, but it also resolves many issues which allow former spouses to move on to new lives. Uncoupling may seem like a progressive alternative to traditional divorce, however it may not give most couples the fresh start they want. You can choose to emotionally part from your spouse in any manner you want. However, only divorce will protect your legal rights and guarantee you time with your children.