Should You Consider a Trial Separation?

Each couple is different. Some couples break up and they get back together one or more times before it becomes official. When a couple is married, they may have a lot at stake. They may have a large marital estate and more importantly, they may have children together. With so much on the line, they may not want to throw themselves into a divorce so quickly. Instead, they may want a trial separation.

For some couples, a trial separation is exactly what they need. It’s a positive experience and it gives the couple the time and space apart to seriously consider their future together. In these situations, the couple may realize that they truly love each other and they can’t handle the physical distance. Other times, the trial separation has the opposite effect: it makes the couple realize that a divorce is in their best interests.

What is a Trial Separation Exactly?

What is a trial separation really? It’s essentially a short-term break from your husband or wife. Usually, couples initiate a trial separation so they can assess their marriage and decide if they want to reconcile or file for divorce.

Generally, one spouse would move out of the marital residence and stay with a friend or family member, a hotel, or even an apartment. If the couple can’t afford to pay two rents, one spouse may move out of the master bedroom and into the guest bedroom or couch, but they agree to be separated.

Most of the time, couples do not go so far as to get a “legal separation,” which California does allow for, but it’s best to seek the advice of an attorney because it may be wise to get certain things in writing, especially if you have children together.

Issues to Consider Before Separating

While there are definite advantages to a trial separation, there are some disadvantages as well. Finances, for example, can be a problem if you separate for more than a couple of weeks. Typically, all income and debts acquired during the marriage are joint, even if you’re on a trial separation.

Even if your spouse is living someplace else, you may be liable for debts your spouse incurred or their foolish spending. In contrast, if you were to file for divorce, any income or debts incurred after the date of separation would become separate and would only belong to the applicable spouse.

Child custody is another issue. If you plan to seek custody and you leave your children with your spouse, the judge may not want to change the status quo if you decide to file for divorce. In effect, your spouse may become the custodial parent and you may have to pay child support.

If you’re considering a trial separation and weighing it against a legal separation and a divorce, contact our firm to fully explore your options and the consequences of each.