What Is a Trial Separation?: Everything You Need to Know

  •   |   Meghan Freed

the words trial separation what you need to know on a gray background with the freed marcroft connecticut family law attorneys logoIf you’re experiencing difficulties in your marriage, you may have considered a trial separation as a possible solution.  But what exactly is a trial separation, and how does it work?  In short, a trial separation involves living apart from your spouse for a predetermined period of time, with the goal of assessing whether or not you want to continue the marriage.  It can give both partners some much-needed space to reflect on their feelings and work on personal issues.  However, it’s not a decision to be made lightly, as it can have significant emotional and financial implications.  This article will explore everything you need to know about trial separations, including the pros and cons, how to navigate the process, and what to consider before making this critical decision.  So, if you’re considering a trial separation as an option, keep reading to learn more.

Trial Separation Definition

A trial separation is when couples temporarily live apart to see what living and being apart is like.  A “therapeutic separation” is a specific type of trial separation that is structured and done in conjunction with a mental health professional.  It is planned in advance to support the spouses (and their children if they have them).  Specifically, it’s designed to set up the best possible circumstance for them both to accomplish the reflection they need and to gain clarity on their intentions for the marriage.

Read: Making the Decision to Divorce

Read: One Question to Ask When Deciding Whether to Divorce

Reasons for a Trial Separation

There are many reasons why a couple may consider a trial separation.  Still, spouses usually try to work through the viability of and their commitment to their relationship.  Consider working with a discernment counselor.

Watch: The Difference Between Couples Counseling and Discernment Counseling

Read: Options When You’re Unhappy in Your Marriage

Potential Benefits

There are several potential benefits of a trial separation.  For example, it can give both partners some much-needed space to reflect on their feelings and work on personal issues.  Sometimes, in a relationship, we can lose sight of our own needs and priorities.  Taking time apart can allow you to focus on yourself and work on personal growth.

Second, a trial separation can provide you with a sense of clarity about the relationship.  When we’re in the midst of a conflict or feeling confused about our feelings, it can be challenging to make a clear decision about the relationship’s future.  Taking some time apart can provide much-needed clarity and perspective on the situation, and help you decide whether to end the marriage.

Finally, it can allow spouses to reassess their priorities and what they want from the relationship.  Sometimes, taking time apart can help us re-evaluate what’s important to us and what we want from our marriage.

Read: How to Have an Amicable Divorce

Potential Downsides

While there are potential benefits to a trial separation, there are also some potential downsides to consider.  First, it can be emotionally challenging, especially if one partner is not entirely on board with the idea.

Second, it can be confusing for children.  It’s essential to have a plan for how you’ll talk to your children about the separation and maintain their routines and schedules.

The potential downsides of trial separation are serious, and you risk doing more harm than good.  This is why we do not recommend that you go it alone.  If you are considering a trial separation, work with a mental health professional to ensure it’s the right option for you and, if so, to put the appropriate structure in place to support you, your spouse, and your children.

Read: How to Talk to Your Kids About Divorce

Legal Impact of a Trial Separation

If you, your spouse, and your mental health professional(s) decide that a trial separation is a good option for you, consult with a divorce attorney first to learn whether there are any potential legal downsides to your proposed structure in Connecticut.

It’s important to note that a trial separation differs from a legal separation.  A legal separation is almost as involved as a divorce.  In fact, the main difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that with divorce, you can remarry.  Please feel free to reach out if you’d like to learn more.

Read: Connecticut Divorce vs. Separation

Read: Understanding the Key Differences Between a Connecticut Legal Separation and Divorce

Ground Rules

If you’re considering a trial separation, it’s essential to establish some ground rules.  This can help to avoid misunderstandings and miscommunication down the line.  We strongly recommend that you set ground rules in conjunction with your marriage counselor.

Here are some ground rules to consider:

  • Be clear about how long the separation will last and the terms of the break.
  • Decide whether you’ll be seeing other people during the separation or not.
  • Establish communication boundaries, such as how often you’ll talk to each other and what types of communication are allowed, if any.
  • Decide how you’ll handle finances and household duties during the separation.
  • Establish a plan for how you’ll talk to your children about the separation.

Does Trial Separation Work?

The effectiveness of a trial separation depends on the couple and their specific situation.  For some couples, a trial separation can provide the space and clarity they need to work on their relationship and move forward.  For others, it may be the beginning of the end, as they realize they don’t want to continue the relationship.

It’s essential to approach a trial separation with an open mind and a willingness to work on the relationship.  This means being willing to reflect on your own behavior and communication style and being open to feedback from your partner.  Again, it’s also essential to seek support from a therapist or counselor who can help you navigate the challenges of a trial separation.

Read: Should I Work on My Marriage?

How to Initiate a Trial Separation

If you’re considering a trial separation, it’s important to approach the conversation with your partner thoughtfully and compassionately.  Here are some tips for initiating a trial separation:

  • Work with a therapist or counselor.
  • Choose a time and place where you can have a private conversation with your partner, such as in a therapeutic setting.
  • Be honest and clear about your reasons for wanting a trial separation.
  • Listen to your partner’s perspective and be open to their feedback.
  • Establish ground rules and expectations for the separation.

Deciding Whether to Reconcile or Divorce after a Trial Separation

After the trial separation period is over, it’s important to take some time to reflect on your feelings and decide whether you want to reconcile or divorce.  This can be a difficult decision to make, and it’s crucial to approach it with an open mind and a willingness to work on the relationship if that’s what you choose.

If you decide to reconcile, it’s important to have a plan in place for how you’ll continue to work on the issues that led to the trial separation.  (We recommend that this involves couples therapy.  Individual therapy to work on personal matters is also a good option to consider.)

If you decide to divorce, it’s important to approach the process with compassion and respect for each other.  This can help to minimize the emotional impact of the divorce and make the process as smooth as possible.

Couples who decide to divorce following therapeutic separation find that they have greater clarity and closure with the decision.  This supports an amicable divorce.

Read: How to Have a Good Divorce

Next Steps

A trial separation can be a difficult decision to make, but it can also provide the space and clarity needed to assess a relationship.  It’s important to approach the decision with a therapist on board, an open mind, and a willingness to work on the relationship if that’s what you choose.  Whatever the outcome, approaching the process with compassion and respect for each other can set you up for reaching greater clarity about your marriage and yourself.

If we can help, please let us know.

Freed Marcroft LLC

Freed Marcroft LLC