What is a Trial Separation?
Beyond simply contemplating and envisioning life as it would be after a divorce, some couples who are having ongoing difficulties in their marriage consider separating on a trial basis to actually try it out and experience that reality for themselves. A trial separation is a decision made by couples to take some time apart prior to making the decision to divorce. We would note that importantly, this is different from a legal separation, which is a decision made after a couple has definitively decided to divorce.
Often, it is difficult for some to envision what life might be like after a divorce, and a trial separation is a way to briefly experience that reality prior to definitively making a determination as to whether or not divorce is the best choice. Some couples may also see it as a helpful way to have some space from one another to reduce the intensity of the conflict between them while they work with a counselor in an attempt to decide whether to remain married or pursue a divorce.
While trial separations are a nice idea in theory, we would note that in the majority of situations, couples do not get back together after separating. This may be because one person in the couple feels such a relief in their stress levels after separating that they don’t want to return to difficult emotional circumstances. In other cases, couples who are already facing challenges in improving their relationship may find that they face even more challenges in doing so when they are apart. After separating, couples may only see each other at counseling, and it is difficult to apply the skills and advice from counseling sessions when you are living apart.
Occasionally, some attorneys will suggest that a client who wants a divorce suggest a “trial separation” to the spouse that does not want the divorce as a way of making it easier to ultimately move forward with the divorce process. While this may ultimately be effective in some circumstances, we believe and advise our clients that honesty is best. Being deceitful at the outset of the divorce process sets a bad precedent, and can hurt your credibility for future negotiations with your spouse on important issues that matter.
For those couples who do decide that going forward with a trial separation is best, and if both spouses agree, it can be a wise decision to put into writing the terms of your separation. Consider matters like:
While putting your plans into writing is certainly not required for a legal separation, doing so can nevertheless be helpful in avoiding any issues that may potentially arise.
If you would like to discuss separation and divorce with a family law attorney, please contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation.
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