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Is a separation an option?

In my practice sometimes I come across the couples who may not be ready for a divorce, but are considering a separation as a method of reassessing their relationship. This could be a good option in some situations, but there are several items to consider. These would be good to formalize through joint mediation sessions; I have listed below some of those:

Types of Separations: The first question to ask your spouse is what type of separation he/she is talking about. A trial separation is a temporary, living-apart period designed for the couple to work out their problems, with the hope of reconciling. Trial separations have no defined length of time; they can end after a weekend apart when you find out how much you miss each other, or they can evolve into a permanent separation or divorce.

Child Custody and Visitation Issues: Ask your spouse where he/she intends to live during the separation and whether he/she plans to remain monogamous. Short-term or long-term, a separation means you have to make custody arrangements for any minor children. You will need to address which parent the children will live with the majority of the time and how often they will be permitted to visit the other parent.

Interim Financial Issues: Even if your spouse is considering a trial separation for just a few months, all the bills still must be paid; so you’ll need to negotiate your finances during this period. If one of you is currently staying home with the kids, you’ll have to determine how to cover both individual and family bills. If both of you are employed outside the home, consider maintaining separate bank accounts with a new, household account to which both of you will contribute.

Relationship Related Issues: If your spouse wants a trial separation in order to resolve certain issues in your marriage, you need to understand his/her ideas on what is the best way to make that happen. Couples committed to rebuilding their marriage would be strongly recommended to work with family therapists during their temporary separation.

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