If you’re considering divorce or legal separation but aren’t quite sure you want to make anything legal yet, you can go through a trial separation. This is a personal arrangement that allows you and your spouse to try out separation without formalizing anything. You can – and should – still consult with a divorce attorney during this time so you know your rights and can lay the groundwork more quickly for a divorce if you decide that is what you want.
For a successful trial separation, you will need rules. Otherwise, you and your spouse may end up right back in your current arrangement and routines. Here are some common rules that are needed to make a trial split effective.
Set a Clear End Date
A trial separation is just what it sounds like: a trial. This is meant to be a time during which you and your spouse decide whether you’re going to stay together or split permanently. To prevent a trial separation from turning into a prolonged situation, it has to have a time limit on it. Most trial separations are for about six months. If you stay apart longer than that, the chances of you getting back together lessen significantly.
Decide the Living Arrangements
To truly separate, one of you must move out. You’ll need to decide with your spouse which person will do so. On top of this, you’ll want to set rules for your current marital home. Can the person who left come and go without warning? Since you and your spouse both own or rent together, the spouse who moves out may feel like it is still their home, too. However, this impacts the privacy of the spouse who is staying.
Set the house rules right from the start to avoid problems down the line. When you and your spouse can decide these things early, there’s less chance of confusion and tension over living arrangements later.
Establish Fiscal Responsibility
While you and your spouse live apart, you’ll still have your marital bills, plus the expenses of the second living space. You and your spouse must work out how you will handle that and who is going to pay for what. If you don’t, it becomes more likely that your trial separation will morph into a tense divorce pretty quickly.
On top of bill paying, you’ll have to set financial rules for each other, too. If, for example, one of you wants to go on an expensive trip, the person going would likely need to use some marital funds to cover that. But where does that leave the other spouse, the one who isn’t splurging? Set spending limits and decide how to proceed from there. You can, for example, set limits by category or by amount, such as saying you don’t need your spouse’s consent for a purchase unless it will go over $100.
Cover Dating While Separated
If you or your spouse date others during a trial separation, the non-dating spouse may feel as if it’s the final end to the marriage. However, you or your spouse may also assume that dating during the separation is fine. This is why you need to have rules about dating others, and you need to both be on the same page for it to work.
Create a Parenting Schedule
If you have kids together, it’s crucial you make a parenting schedule. Go over the next six months to set the schedule, and don’t forget to include any holidays or vacations that will come up during the separation.
A trial separation may be just what you need if you’re not sure whether your marriage is really over. Contact an attorney for guidance and work on the separation rules with your spouse to have a successful separation.