If one or both spouses are uncertain about whether they wish to end their marriage, they have an option to test a trial separation. A trial separation allows spouses to carefully consider the decision to divorce, all while they experience what a divorce might be like in the long run.
However, spouses considering a trial separation must ask themselves three questions.
1. How long will the separation be?
Spouses should determine a clear start and end date for their trial separation. Additionally, it is helpful to establish some ground rules, such as:
- Where each spouse will live during the separation;
- What the goal of the trial separation is; and
- How they will tell loved ones.
A trial separation is not nearly as concrete as divorce, but spouses must still establish rules to make the trial effective.
2. How will parents continue to meet their children’s best interests?
Parents must approach a trial separation with great care. They must make sure it is the best option for the family before moving forward. Then, parents will have to consider:
- How they will tell their children about the separation;
- How they will approach parenting throughout the separation; and
- How they will maintain a stable environment for the children.
Although they might not be establishing a custody agreement, parents must ensure they continue to fulfill the best interests of their child throughout the duration of the separation as they would after a divorce.
3. How will they fulfill financial responsibilities?
Spouses will still share financial responsibilities during a trial separation. Before beginning the separation period, spouses must plan how they will handle their finances, such as:
- Paying bills;
- Financially supporting their child; and
- Managing everyday payments, such as groceries.
A separation agreement is not necessary for a trial separation, but it might help if spouses create an agreement and guidelines to follow to help their trial separation succeed – regardless of the outcome.