A trial separation is an informal arrangement that a married couple will spend time away from each other for a while. This is not considered to be a legal separation, as the couple remains legally married, although they may be physically separated. A couple may undergo a trial separation prior to divorce, or the trial separation may be one of the steps leading up to a divorce.

What are Some Characteristics of Trial Separations?

Some characteristics of a trial separation include:

  • Often a temporary arrangement: Sometimes the couple will be separated for a while in order to "cool off" or to work out various disagreements. They may reconcile soon in the future, or the trial separation can turn into a legal separation or divorce.
  • The couple stays legally married: Thus, the couple can still file legal documents as a married couple. Also, any property that is accumulated by either partner during a trial separation is usually considered as marriage or shared property (depending on state laws).
  • Does not require legal filings: Trial separation is an informal process that doesn’t require the filing of any legal papers. However, the couple might need to work out some issues during the trial separation, such as child custody or some support payments.

Thus, trial separation can actually allow a couple to experience a separated life without having to make a final divorce decision. This in turn leaves them with other options open in the future in case their situations or outlooks towards each other change.

Are There Any Other Legal Effects of a Trial Separation?

In states that allow for no-fault divorce, one of the prerequisites is that the couple must have been physically separated from each other for a certain amount of time before they can file for no-fault divorce (for instance, a minimum number of months). While trial separation is not a legal separation, the time spent away from each other might be counted in terms of the separation requirements for no-fault filings. This of course will depend on the rules of each jurisdiction.

There is usually no property division in a trial separation, since it is often an open-ended situation, and involves no legal filing. If the couple needs to discuss property division, they may consider more final options such as a legal separation or divorce.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Trial Separation Issues?

Trial separation often requires the assistance of a divorce lawyer, as it can sometimes be the first course of action prior to a divorce. You may wish to hire a lawyer if you need assistance with any separation or divorce matters. A qualified attorney can inform you of how a separation might affect you, your family, and your property. Also, your lawyer can represent you in court if you do decide to proceed with a legal filing.