In my last article, I discussed legal separation and the benefits to a couple that feel they need time away from a marriage. I strongly suggest anyone making the decision to live separately protect herself legally.
If it all seems overwhelming and that word “legal” is too much to handle, you do have the option of trying a simple, trial separation. A trial separation allows you to experience time away from the marriage without making any final decisions or legal steps toward divorce. That, of course, makes it easier to reverse than a legal separation.
A trial separation is an informal arrangement that you come to with your husband. You work out the guidelines and come to an agreement that you both can live with. There need to be ground rules and you need to understand that if those rules aren’t followed, you have no legal recourse against your husband. Below is a list of issues you will want to think about as part of an informal trial separation agreement:
1. Who will move out? Not only will you need to decide who will move out but, where they will move to and when. There should also be a time limit set. A trial separation should not be an open-ended way of life. Set a time limit and after that period passes either file for divorce or move back home.
2. With whom will the children live? Not only do you have to decide which parent the child will live with, you have to decide what role each parent will play in raising the children and responsibilities that come along with raising the children.
3. How will finances be handled? Will you both continue to use a joint banking account? Who is responsible for paying mortgage, car and credit card payments? Will there be spousal support or child support? There should be a clear understanding of who will use what money and for what purpose and, plenty of trust that the agreement is followed.
4. How will you behave financially during the separation? There should be an agreement to not make any major purchases during the separation. You are still legally married and any spending will be reflected in the division of marital assets should you file for divorce. It should be agreed in advance: no major purchases, no selling of marital assets, and no large withdrawals of cash from joint accounts.
5. Will there be marriage counseling during the separation? As a couple, will you make any effort during the separation period to address and solve the problems in the marriage? If there is a commitment to marital counseling who chooses the counselor? How long will you agree to counseling and how much effort are you willing to put forth to help any counseling succeed.
6. What rules will be in place concerning use of the marital home? Will the person moving out keep a key to the home? Under what circumstances is the spouse allowed into the marital home? It is not uncommon, even in situations of divorce for a spouse to feel as if he can come and go as he pleases. If you are not comfortable with this idea it should be addressed before the trial separation.
7. Are you free to date during the separation? This is a huge issue and one that should be dealt with in a way that both you and your husband can live with. Granted you will be separated but you are still married and it is not unreasonable for your husband to expect you to remain faithful to the marriage.
8. Will you continue a sexual relationship with your husband during the separation? If you do continue to have sex with your husband protect yourself by setting boundaries with him and yourself. The idea is to spend time away from the marriage and each other. It defeats the purpose of a trial separation if you are constantly running to each other when you feel randy.
9. What will be the consequences of breaking the rules of the separation? We all have to play by the rules and we all have to pay when we don’t. If you agree that he will pay child support, he needs to know that you have boundaries and will file for a legal separation or divorce if he fails to follow through. If you agree to not date during the separation there should be consequences should you not follow the agreement.
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