Does A Trial Separation Help Prevent Divorces?

Trial separations are the best ways to gauge the situation before you take the plunge.

Reviewed by Ronald Hoang, Relationship & Family Counselor Ronald Hoang Ronald HoangRelationship & Family Counselor linkedin_iconyoutube_icon
Written by , Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach Sneha Tete Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach Experience: 4 years
Edited by , MA (English Literature) Madhumati Chowdhury MA (English Literature) linkedin_icon Experience: 7 years
Fact-checked by , MA Gracia Odile MA linkedin_icon Experience: 3 years

Many couples may regret taking a divorce after spending some time away from each other. Well, such spouses could have avoided a divorce had they thought about a trial separation. It is essentially taking time away from each other to put things in perspective. It gives a chance to the couple to realize the importance of each other and rebuild their marriage. So, divorce is not always a solution, and it should only be the last resort. In this article, we will further explore the concept of trial separation and the pros and cons associated with it. Let us get started.

What Is A Trial Separation?

A trial separation is an informal, less permanent arrangement that couples make wherein they mutually decide to live apart and evaluate their feelings towards one another. It is called an informal arrangement because there is no legality, agreements, judges, or legal proceedings involved. In a trial separation, the couples agree upon terms and conditions set forth. Some common arrangements during a trial separation include:

  • Couples live apart during the said time frame
  • They mutually decide about bill payments and joint financial commitments
  • They plan for a living arrangement for their kids and pets, if any
  • They agree upon managing their joint assets

In many cases of a trial separation, financial constraints or a lack of a second property may compel the couple to live under the same roof.

Trial Separation Vs. Legal Separation

A trial separation, as we have understood so far, is when a couple decides to take a marital break and steps back from their conflicts to give their marriage a chance to revive from their time apart. This arrangement is often informal and does not involve any legalities, lawyers, or legal proceedings.

However, a legal separation, as the name goes, involves legal proceedings and a court order that requires the couple to divide their property, decide on the alimony, child custody, and support, etc. When a couple is legally separated, they are still married but living apart with pre-decided agreements about their duties and boundaries. However, in a divorce, the couple is no longer married to each other.

Some differences between a trial separation and a legal separation include:

  • A trial separation is usually temporary, whereas a legal separation is permanent.
  • A court order is required to finalize arrangements in a legal separation, whereas these are not required in a trial separation as the terms and conditions are decided upon by the couple mutually.
  • A trial separation may or may not change the financial situation of the couple, but a legal separation gives the couple a chance to split their finances, debt situations, etc.
  • While a trial separation can be off-record for the betterment of marriage, legal separation is not accepted as a choice in many states.

How Can A Trial Separation Help A Marriage?

Trial separations are a great way for couples to take a step back and evaluate their current marital status. Whether it is the beginning of the end or a new beginning depends upon the two partners and the underlying issues in their marriage. Marriage counselors recommend couples opt for a trial separation before they file for a divorce as some distance and staying apart can help put things in perspective. With the right rules, boundaries, and steps, love, and trust can be rekindled to save marriages.

Trial Separation: What To Keep In Mind

Trial separations are usually recommended by marriage counselors with the hope that they will bring the couple back together and save their relationship But the success of a trial separation is determined by multiple factors, and the result of the arrangement can go either way. However, if you are looking to make your trial separation work, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Both partners must have a clear idea about ’why’ they are going forward with a trial separation. Any concerns of either of the partners must be discussed clearly to avoid any future misunderstandings.
  • The biggest mistake couples choosing trial separation commit is they do not determine a deadline or time frame for their separation. If you wish to make your trial separation work, you must set a clear time frame from the outset.
  • Before a trial separation, the couple also needs to decide on their financial arrangements as these can fuel further conflict if the couple is already struggling with them.
  • Determine and set clear boundaries for your time away. This can include the time that you will spend together, the number of times you will spend time with your kids, the possibility of sexual intimacy, the frequency and nature of the visits, etc.
  • Couples on a trial separation are recommended to try and re-ignite the flame of their love again. Counselors advise the couples to go on regular dates or perform fun activities that are pleasurable to both partners. These activities may help them find common ground and reinstate the fact that life together is fun.
  • During the period of trial separation, couples must diligently undergo counseling sessions together for more effective results.
  • It is dangerous for people to believe that their partner will change overnight or agree with the same things that you do immediately. Rather than focusing on how to convince them of your viewpoint, each partner must make a sincere effort to see the viewpoint of their partner.
  • A trial separation is a temporary arrangement to help save a marriage. During this time, it is advisable not to date other people as this can break the trust in your relationship and cause further conflict.
  • Take the time during a trial separation to focus on your mental, physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. Rejuvenating and charging your batteries can make you more positive and stable.
protip_icon Quick Tip
Couples can prepare two lists – one focusing on what is inflexible, and the other on things where a compromise can be reached. This can help narrow down the areas where you need to work together and control expectations from each other.

When it comes to trial separations, is it possible for a couple to be separated but still live together? Learn more below.

Is Trial Separation In The Same House Possible?

Trial separation in the same house, also known as a ‘living apart together’ (LAT) arrangement, can be a viable option for some couples considering divorce. This unconventional method allows them to experience some of the independence and autonomy that they may crave for, while still maintaining some aspects of their shared life, such as co-parenting or financial responsibility. It also works for couples who do not want to disrupt their existing schedules.

However, trial separation in the same house can be challenging. Some key things to consider about a LAT arrangement are setting clear boundaries and having honest and open communication. You can also seek the help of a therapist to help you navigate the emotional challenges of a trial separation.

A trial separation can have several benefits. We have discussed them below.

Potential Benefits

The effects of a trial separation differ between couples, depending on the turbulence in their marriage. However, many couples opt for a trial separation for its potential benefits that include:

  • Higher chance of reconciliation as distance makes the heart grow fonder and gives the couple a different perspective into their marriage.
  • Reduces the chances of premature divorce applications.
  • Gives each partner enough time to think about themselves and how they may be contributing to the troubles in their marriage.
  • Gives the couple a ’feeler’ of how life after divorce may be like.
  • Helps improve the communication skills between both the partners and gives them time to regain their disposition.
  • Helps break the pattern of recurring issues between the partners and allows them to think about the issues in their marriage.
  • Helps separate emotions from logic and enables the couple to think practically about their relationship and life together.
protip_icon Pro Tip
Be open to feedback from your partner and willing to reflect on your behavior and communication abilities to overcome the challenges of a trial separation.

That said, a trial separation has its own set of risks. You must consider these too before opting for the arrangement.

Potential Risks

In some cases, trial separations can do more harm than good. Just like any move made in a relationship, trial separation comes with its own set of risks, which include:

  • Some couples may grow apart with the distance as they grow to be more comfortable with their newfound independence. This makes reconciliation extremely difficult.
  • Trial separation can prolong the pain a partner feels if the other partner has already decided on taking a divorce.
  • Issues involving kids, finances, trusts, and assets often get more complicated.
  • Society still does not view trial separation positively, and the couple might face many untoward questions from their friends and families.
  • The informal arrangement of a trial separation could confuse the children, if any. Separation and divorce are delicate topics for kids as they could impact their entire life.

Rules And Boundaries

Setting rules and boundaries is essential when going ahead with a trial separation with your partner. Couples must have rules and boundaries set in the following sectors of their marriage:

  • Setting a specific time frame.
  • Living arrangements must be decided.
  • Financial discussions.
  • Discussions on intimacy and frequency of sex.
  • Co-parenting their children, if any.

Couples opting for a trial separation must answer these questions:

  • Why are we going for a trial separation?
  • How long are we going to stay separated?
  • What are we looking out for after the end of this time period?
  • Who is responsible for what?
  • How are we going to manage the finances?
  • Who pays the bills?
  • What arrangements do we have for meeting the kids?
  • How often are we going to meet each other and/or spend time as a family?

While these tips on how to keep a guy interested will help you keep him hooked initially, you must also know that long-term serious relationships are seldom built without love and respect. Only apply these when you have genuine feelings for someone. It is disrespectful to use someone’s feelings to prove a point. However, if you do like the person, do not be too harsh on yourself while pursuing them, and remember to love yourself along the way. Be true to your feelings and let the guy know your intentions without overwhelming them. Things will slowly but surely fall into place.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long should trial separation last?

A trial separation should last between 3 and 6 months, especially when kids are involved. The longer the separation lasts, the more difficult it is to return to the old life as people adapt to their new routine.

Is a trial separation a good idea?

A trial separation may be a good choice if your arguments have stalled, you need to work through personal issues, or you are considering divorce but are not sure.

Key Takeaways

  • A trial separation can be the last try to save your marriage before you proceed to legal separation.
  • Marriage counselors generally recommend trial separation, where couples manage their bills, pets, children, and assets individually for a particular time frame.
  • This venture is adopted by many married couples as a last resort to save their relationship.

The following video details how a trial separation differs from a divorce. Watch this video to understand the distinguishing factors and navigate the expectations of a trial separation and how to harness this to benefit your life and make informed decisions.

Personal Experience: Source

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Ronald Hoang

Ronald HoangRelationship & Family Counselor

Ronald Hoang is a clinical counselor/psychotherapist based in Sydney, Australia, with close to a decade of experience. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in psychology from Macquarie University and a postgraduate degree in counseling from the Australian College of Applied Professions.

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