What Happens During a Marriage Separation?

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You’ve tried and tried again to make it work, but the magic that held your marriage together just doesn’t seem to be there anymore. Sometimes a separation works as a cooling-off period with “absence making the heart grow fonder” so that the two of you can come back together and rediscover each other with new respect. Sometimes, however, a separation is the beginning step to saying goodbye.

Decide Who Will Leave

When the separation occurs, it usually involves deciding who will leave and where he or she will go. If involved in a heated argument at the time, that decision may be made by the one who storms out the door. Don’t expect them to peek their head back in and say, “Oh, by the way, I’ll be at Phil’s if you need me.” These decisions usually occur later after tempers have cooled. Both husband and wife may be tired and weary from the problems in their marriage, so the decision may be made in a calm, rational discussion taking place when all alternatives that involve living together have failed. At that time, the couple may decide who leaves, when they leave, where they go and whether the children and any pets stay or go.

Determine Your Relationship

Depending on the level of animosity in the relationship, a discussion as to the future of your marriage may take place in that calm, rational dialog before the separation or in the cooling-off period after a heated argument. It is crucial if the intent of both parties is to put the marriage in a holding pattern while resolving other issues that both spouses are in agreement with this course of action. It can only cause further heartache if one party’s ultimate intention is to break all ties, yet they are dishonest, leaving the other spouse struggling to save a marriage that is unsalvageable. Separation may be the first step toward divorce, or it may be time for an action that may ultimately save the marriage--marriage counseling.

Set Parameters

As part of determining how to live separate and apart, the couple may, out of respect for each other, decide to set parameters for their separation. They may decide to only converse when it involves their children. They may decide to remain friends and date each other again, or they may, under rare circumstances, decide to see other people. If the intent of the separation is to see whether the marriage may be made whole again, then these parameters need to be honestly and clearly defined for both parties.

Establish Financial Obligations

Many separations involve extreme emotions, and hurt feelings don’t pay the bills. One or both spouses will need to keep a clear head about their best course of action regarding financial obligations or an emotionally-charged separation may also become a financially-stressed one.

Make it Legal

Occasionally couples will actually contact an attorney to file a legal separation with the courts. Much of the same paperwork is required as in a divorce, including an agreement as to debt obligations and custody, but instead of a decree of divorce, the couple will be awarded a decree of separation from bed and board. Although there may be many reasons for this course of action, one may be to continue health insurance coverage for an ailing spouse.