A couple’s separation is not always a precursor to divorce. Sometimes, they will decide on a “trial separation” when one or both spouses feels that they need time apart to get some space and perspective.
Trial separations can follow a traumatic event, like the discovery of an affair. The spouse who’s been cheated on may need time to cool off, without having to deal with their husband or wife every day, to determine whether they want to stay in the marriage. Sometimes, a couple has just started getting on each other’s nerves and fighting constantly to the point where they need some time away from each other.
What do you want the separation to accomplish?
If you choose to have a trial separation, it’s a good idea to determine what you want to accomplish and what the two of you need to do if you want to ultimately stay together. This often involves one or both spouses agreeing to change their behavior and also seek therapy – together and possibly separately.
A trial separation is different from a legal separation, which changes your legal status as a couple once you file the necessary documents. However, it can still be advantageous to draw up a legal agreement outlining some of the financial terms and other expectations around your trial separation -– particularly if it has lasted more than a few weeks or you anticipate that it will.
Setting some ground rules
There are some things it’s wise to clarify as you take some time apart, whether you decide to codify them in some way or not. These include the following:
- How will expenses be handled?
- How will you co-parent?
- Can you date other people?
- Will the person who moved out be able to spend time in the family home?
- Do you have a specific timeframe for the separation?
Having some ground rules can help prevent misunderstandings that can make the situation much worse.
If you believe that divorce may be a possibility after your trial separation, it’s a good idea to find an attorney with whom you feel comfortable and seek some guidance regarding what steps you can take to be prepared. Just getting a clear idea of what assets and debts you have and what you would like to leave the marriage with if it should end can give you some sense of control and empowerment.