Separation is more than just the simple act of packing up and moving out. Maybe you are miserable about some things in the relationship, and separating is your way of motivating your spouse to make some changes. Maybe living at home with your partner is not safe for you or your children. Whatever the reason may be for leaving, separation from a spouse means you’re no longer living under the same roof, but you’re still married.
The state where you live has rules about separation, and those rules have consequences. Generally, states view separation as a legal term for spouses who occupy different residences. Finding out what a separation involves can protect you from divorcing too quickly or reconciling without addressing the problems in your marriage.
Investigating the rules of separation before you move out can help you make a plan. Here are important things to consider before you separate from your spouse.
Now’s the time to decide on ground rules.
It’s time to figure out issues such as how you would manage finances, spousal support, child custody, and who pays the bills. The rules of separation vary from state to state, so it’s a good idea to consult a mediator or attorney before you move out. Some states require a separation period before you can file for divorce. Some states look at dating while separated as adultery. Do you have to allow your spouse back in the house? Are you responsible for your partner’s credit card bills? Jumping in without a plan could have real consequences.
Don’t wait until the legal separation period ends to start making divorce decisions.
If you’ve decided the marriage is over, starting the process of divorce once you separate can prevent some unpleasant surprises. Working out issues such as finances and child custody before the divorce can make the breakup a little less stressful and less expensive. You don’t want to come home and find the locks have been changed or discover that your joint checking account has been drained. Separation is a time to work out issues in advance.
Should you stay in touch?
Staying in touch while you are choosing whether you want to remain married can be tricky. If your relationship is amicable, regular contact may help you decide. If friction is intense or you don’t feel safe, staying away could be the better choice so that you can make unpressured decisions. A marriage therapist can help you weigh the options.
How long should a separation last?
While living apart can be the prelude to divorce, not all separations end in divorce. Separation can give partners a chance to evaluate whether or not they want to continue the relationship. How long should deciding on a reconciliation take? Usually, it’s one partner who wants out, and the one who has been rejected will be suffering while awaiting the decision. Marriage therapists counsel that separations should last no longer than three to six months.