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The following is for informational purposes only

Trial vs. Permanent Separation

When couples decide they no longer want to live together, there are measures they can implement which fall shy of a divorce but essentially mean something similar. Trial and permanent separation are examples of separation that entail living apart from each other while still being legally married. These can serve as a preamble to the divorce judgment or be a reflection period after which the couple gets back together to resolve their issues.

What is a Trial Separation?

It is a voluntary decision for two people to give each other time apart. A trial separation refers to a mutual agreement to live apart. The time taken apart allows both partners to assess the marriage without having to deal with close contact from their partner. It is the best option for couples, considering limited legal regulations cater to trial separations. It does not have a maximum duration, and it is up to the couple to set the agreement terms. That being said, it would be advisable to organize who the children will stay with, if relevant, and the terms of visits. The spouse with the children may also want to enforce child support if they struggle to make ends meet. Partners should also determine or split the bills accordingly on medical costs, mortgage payments, and other utilities as applicable during the trial separation. The goal is to leave no ambiguities so the burden is not unfairly set on one party. As the courts are not involved when it comes to trial separations, it does not bear any legal ramifications if one person opts to go against the terms of the agreement. That may also be perceived as a liability of the option since it does not have any security where the spouse is accountable to their partner or the authorities.

Considerations for a Trial Separation

Trial is the Keyword

The word trial refers to the temporary nature of a separation which intimates the need to try things out and see the result. It may be similar to when one starts a new job and has a probationary period. The organization one works for, will determine the quality of one's work in those months to determine one's future with them. The same is valid with trial separations as they are a period during which the separation is assessed to determine if it is a shot or long-term solution to the couple's differences.

Set Boundaries

Boundaries can be blurred if the two have lived together, even through separation. It is important to maintain a healthy awareness as individuals by monitoring how often there is interaction. Boundaries also entail who will stay with the children, if applicable, and how often the other parent should visit them. During a separation, the regular utilities persist. However, there may be confusion in the family structure, so discussing how the finances will be managed at the time is essential.

Open Communication

Communication is critical whether one is trying to sustain or mend a relationship through separation. Even if there are boundaries to help reduce the mixed signals, there still needs to be communication on both ends to help achieve the motive of salvaging the marriage. It would also help if the parties talked openly about why they felt the need for separation or what needed to be resolved. Different ways to achieve this include setting up discussion sessions regularly or visiting a counselor. During these sessions, it would help to talk openly about why they felt the need for the separation and what needed to be achieved. Talking openly about feelings and needs may help the spouses see a way forward.

How do Permanent Separations Work?

Permanent separation is when the spouses live apart but do not intend to reconcile. As with trial separation, the two do not live together, but it is not for a probation period. Permanent separation is the closest a couple can come to a divorce without involving a petition to dissolve the marriage. Depending on the state laws, it may also change the property rights. In some states, assets and liabilities attained belong only to spouses that acquire them. Once one is permanently separated, each person becomes entirely responsible for the debts they take.

The date of separation also matters because of the change in rights and obligations. This may also be a contentious issue due to the context's technicalities. For example, if one's partner left after a fight and spent the month at their parent's home, but there was no divorce discussion until the time passed, the separation date is unclear. That also means if they get a financial windfall, their spouse might be entitled to a portion of it as marital property. That goes the other way also, considering that if one leaves the house and does not expect long-term reconciliation, it would be advisable to define boundaries. Briefly reconciling or spending the night together could affect the date of separation. It may mean responsibility for one's spouse's actions during the vague separation period.

Once permanent separation has occurred, a proven discussion should exist concerning assets and obligations. This does not necessarily mean the couple has to divorce immediately, as they can still get back together. Similarly, the two may opt to remain legally married for insurance or taxation purposes, especially if they jointly own a business. At times maintaining the union's status quo may be easier than getting a divorce. It all depends on the situation and what is in the best interest of both spouses. From a legal perspective, some states may require the spouses to separate before the courts finalize the divorce. State law details on separations may also vary as some require the spouses to live separately for some time before the courts accept a divorce petition. In other cases, there is no separation requirement until the petition has been filed. It is important, though, to check the rights facilitated under permanent versus trial separations. Insurance and property allowances may be affected significantly during this time.