When your marriage has come to the point where you think it would be best to split up for awhile but you don’t necessarily want a divorce, a trial separation is in order.
It is important that this be discussed with kindness and that the two of you come to some agreements before it happens, so as to not make the rash decision. If you have decided that you need to move away from each other, but don’t want a divorce, take these topics into consideration before you go. Make a contract, verbal or in writing, so that everything is out in the open and there are no misunderstandings.
Dating: Will one or both of you be dating other people? This is a touchy subject and needs to be discussed, even though you may not want to. Don’t just assume that because you are separating that you can or can not date. This will cause hard feelings and may even cause the separation to turn to divorce.
Custody: Obviously both of you will want to see the kids. If they are old enough, let them in on the discussion. You will have to answer some hard questions, but including them will help them understand. Remember, you are splitting up the family, not just the two of you. Listen to their feelings and ideas, but do not make them choose who they want to live with during this time.
Money: Hard topic, but unless you are going through an attorney, you’ll have to discuss house payments, child support, and even the regular bills, like the credit cards. Remember, this is a trial separation, not a divorce, so both of you still share equally in the debts.
Length of time:
This is typically the first question asked when the idea is brought up. Most relationships can still hold together through six months to a year of separation, provided you both continue to work toward getting back together. You should try to see each other every couple of weeks, it will become apparent sooner than you think as to whether you are trying to get back together or just drawing out a divorce.
As a last resort: Trial separation shouldn’t be the first item on the agenda if you are having marital problems. If you can not sit down together and work out your differences or go to a counselor together, trial separation may be all that’s left. But it should be the last resort before divorce, not the first thing you think of to fix the situation.
One last thought: absence does tend to make the heart grow fonder. If you have taken the steps toward trail separation, don’t move back in together until you are sure that you can come to some agreements and work out the links, moving back in too soon leaves room for blame if everything doesn’t go as planned. Take your time and stay in contact, and see a couples counselor throughout the entire time that you are separated.