Trial Separations: Do They Work? (2023)

What Is A Trial Separation?

A trial separation agreement is often a flexible, informal agreement between a husband and wife who have hopes of repairing their marriage and rebuilding their relationship. It’s a stepping back period and a time to figure out if repair of their marriage is even possible.

Some trial separations in troubled marriages are no more than one spouse moving to a different part of the house or going to stay with friends or family for a while. In fact more and more women who contact Midlife Divorce Recovery say that they can’t afford for one partner to pay for an apartment, so they co-exist in the same house.

(Video) Do Trial Separations Work? The TRUTH Exposed.

Trial separations in marriage where both partners stay in the marital home are considered because of insurance, issues concerning child care, or lack of financial ability to formally separate. A trial separation while living together is sometimes necessary, but usually extremely stressful on everyone, including the children.

Trial Separation vs. Legal Separation

“A separation isn’t the same as a divorce. Separation means that you are living apart from your spouse, but you’re still legally married until you get a judgement of divorce from a court (even if you already have a judgment of separation).

Generally, a legal separation does affect the financial responsibilities between you and your spouse before the divorce is final. There are three different types of separation. (trial separation, permanent separation and legal separation) In most states, only one (legal separation) changes your legal statusbut all three have the potential to affect your legal rights.”

Consult an attorney regardless of what kind of separation you are considering. Different states have different rules about the legal ramifications of any kind of formal or informal separation.

Why Try A Trial Separation?

Sometimes a trial separation is agreed upon while the husband and wife still stay in contact and are both trying to fix things. For example, some spouses are working on forgiveness for infidelity while their spouse is supposedly readjusting to life without the affair partner. (In truth, from my experience in my divorce recovery work, many times the spouse who is having an affair welcomes a separation because it makes connecting with the lover easier!) In those cases, the trial separation is usually more of a bridge to divorce than a bridge to reconciliation.

Other couples embark on a trial separation if there is a lack of communication, or too much fighting or not being able to come to an agreement in other important areas of married life.

(Video) How Often Does a Trial Separation Work | Paul Friedman

For instance the following situations may get so intense that they suggest the need for a temporary or trial separation:

  • Sexual incompatibility
  • Financial incompatibility
  • Emotional incompatibility
  • Controlling and manipulative attitudes and behavior
  • Substance abuse
  • Any kind of verbal, physical or emotional abuse
  • Arguing and fighting on a regular basis
  • Serious disagreements about child rearing
  • Problems with ex-spouses
  • Extended family issues

Do Trial Separations Work?

Since many informal separations are not considered in research, the reconciliation rates after separations are hard to know for sure. However, the general consensus is that divorce after separation is more common than reconciliation.

“A research study, conducted at Ohio State University, reports that 79% of couples who separate eventually divorce. Researchers found that the average separation lasts a year or less. For couples who eventually reconciled, most did so within the first two years. Beyond two years, there is little chance that a couple will reconcile. Many couples who end up divorcing do so after three or four years of separation.”

Rules & Boundaries

There are several things to consider when a marriage is struggling and a couple is deciding whether to end the marriage or try to fix it. In my opinion, marriage is a sacred trust and every marriage deserves an opportunity for healing and rebuilding stronger and better than ever before.

No one should be forced to stay in a relationship that is toxic and destructive. If you feel as if you cannot be the person you were created to be and stay in a relationship, you have to do some serious soul searching. Can we reconcile? Is our marriage so damaged that it cannot be fixed?

If you are considering a trial separation agreement, the first question to ask is, “What are we trying to accomplish in this trial separation?” What do we want the end result of this separation to be? The answer should be something like, “A new and better marriage for both of us.” If that sentiment is not part of either partner’s goal, then a separation will probably not work. Below are some things to agree on before you even start a trial separation:

(Video) Does Trial Separation Really Work? | Paul Friedman

Set A Timeframe

It seems as if the best results from a trial separation come when there is a specific time frame for the separation. In my work, it seems that often women, especially when infidelity is discovered, immediately send the spouse out of the home. Continued infidelity is one of those breaches of trust that are not compatible with staying married or sometimes even staying in the same house before the divorce is final.

When I first learned of my ex-husband’s affair, I didn’t want to see his face!. I didn’t want to hear his voice! I was so angry and sad that I wanted him to fall off the face of the earth, never to be seen again, so I told him to get out!! I later calmed down because I desperately wanted to save the marriage. I contacted an attorney, and we decided on a legal separation. However, no specific time frame was included.

Determine The Living Situation

In some situations, a couple can continue to live together while trying to work things out. In other cases like abuse, infidelity, and substance abuse, things become so difficult that it is impossible to be in the same house.

There must be pre-determined trial separation boundaries in several areas.

  • Are we going to live in the same house during the trial separation?
  • Are we going to have sex during the separation?
  • What activities are acceptable? Dating? Online dating site exploration?
  • Will there be equal access to the marital home?
  • How will co-parenting work during the separation?
  • How will finances be handled?

Discuss Finances

It is very important to determine the financial details during a trial separation. I am not an attorney, but the financial questions are of utmost importance. Please check with an attorney in your state to make sure that you are protected even during this time of trial separation.

One of the benefits of a legal separation is that vital financial protections for both parties are put in place and legally binding. My attorney early on suggested that we institute a legal separation to secure binding protections for both of us.

(Video) What are the Benefits of Separation | Dr. David Hawkins

Questions to answer before starting a trial separation:

  • Who is responsible for what, financially?
  • How will the payments be made?
  • Will the spouse who leaves the home have access to bills and other financial records?
  • Who is responsible if a bill is not paid?
  • Who has access to bank accounts?
  • Who is paying for insurance? For spouse? For children?
  • What about educational obligations for children?
  • What legal protection does each spouse have?

Separation or Divorce?

In my case, I wanted an open-ended separation until my then-husband decided to give up his girlfriend and commit completely to our marriage. For three long agonizing years and three different separations, he continued to maintain a relationship with the other woman even though he promised to end it. Because I wanted to save our 33 year marriage, I kept extending the deadline for him to give her up. He didn’t.

We also were in couples counselling during some of that time. I wanted to give our marriage every opportunity to heal and succeed. I wanted to know that I had tried everything that I thought might help before filing for divorce. A trial or legal separation is usually a final step in trying to save a marriage. Some couples, for religious reasons never divorce, but have a permanent separation agreement.

Even though statistics show that more than three times as many separations end in divorce than end in reconciliation, I believe it’s still worth a trying to save your marriage.

If you are in a trial separation, or a legal separation and are trying to save your marriage, or if you are considering divorce, or already on the divorce road, sign up for our FREE 5 Day Crash Course. It’s 5 days of free encouragement sent to your inbox that will explain a little more about who we are and what we’re all about.


Trial Separations: Do They Work? ›

If a temporary separation is done in the right way and for the right reasons, and there are clear agreements, it can help couples gain perspective on their relationship and actually strengthen it.

How successful are trial separations? ›

SHS: I've read that about 25 percent of couples reconcile after a trial separation, which is in line with my own experience. The odds of reconciliation and clarity are greatly improved when there is absolutely no contact because that's how it most deeply sinks in what it would be like to live without the other.

How many marriages survive a trial separation? ›

According to U.S. statistics, 87 percent of couples who legally separate eventually get a divorce, while only 13 percent choose to come back together.

Do most trial separations end in divorce? ›

Statistically, 80% of couples who enter a marital separation end up divorcing. And, on average, they remain separated for three years before finalizing their divorce. On the other hand, 10% of those who separate end up reuniting, on average within two years.

How long are most trial separations? ›

A trial separation involves an informal separation of married couples that usually extends for three to six months. The motive is to give each other space and time to rethink their decision about divorce.

Can trial separation save your marriage? ›

The benefits of a trial separation differ from couple to couple. However, it's common for spouses to feel like a trial separation is beneficial because: if you're hoping to reconcile, it allows you and your spouse to work through marital issues at a distance. it eliminates premature divorce filings.

Should you see other people during a trial separation? ›

Agree to abstain from dating if you are trying to reconcile.

If you're uncertain about whether you're headed for divorce or are trying out a trial separation, most professionals advise against dating someone else. In most of these cases, dating outside of the couple renders reconciliation impossible.

Why avoid trial separation? ›

It's not a good way to let someone down gently. If you're positive you want a divorce, don't use a trial separation as a way to ease your partner into the transition more gently. It'll just prolong their pain, and they may end up doing a lot of hard work for nothing. Problems might not get resolved.

Does time apart help a marriage? ›

Taking time apart can allow you both to think about the issues in your relationship, cool off, learn new coping strategies, and come back together with a different lens or perspective that can be difficult to have when you're together and actively fighting through your issues.

What is the average length of marriage separation? ›

The average length of a first separation is three years for those who end up divorcing and two years for those who reunite with their spouse. 80 percent who go through a marital separation ultimately divorce, most within three years.

How do you split finances during trial separation? ›

Here's how to handle your finances during a legal separation:
  1. Have tough financial discussions.
  2. Understand your financial picture.
  3. Keep accurate records.
  4. Open new, separate accounts.
  5. Pay joint debts.
  6. Think about retirement accounts and insurance.
Feb 21, 2023

How do you reconcile after a trial separation? ›

Tips For Getting Back Together After Separation
  1. Listen To Your Gut. ...
  2. Ask Yourself If You Can Forgive and Forget. ...
  3. Be Honest With Yourself. ...
  4. Communicate Clearly With Your Spouse. ...
  5. Slow Down. ...
  6. Accept That Disagreements Will Not Disappear. ...
  7. Learn From The Past. ...
  8. Acknowledge And Appreciate Your Partner.
Mar 16, 2023

What is the most common month for separations? ›

Although much to disappointment, most divorces don't happen for a while after January. Figuring out how to approach the proceedings, the legal jumbo, and various personal reasons take into effect first. One could say that the real divorce month is March, simply because the legal part of separation tends to start then.

How do trial separations work with kids? ›

Under ideal trial separation circumstances, Gadoua notes couples live separately for at least six months while the kids remain in the house and household finances stay the same. “The idea is just to give spouses a break from each other but to minimize disruption to the rest of the family,” she says.

Can you sleep with your husband while separated? ›

Sleeping with Your Soon-to-Be Ex

Under this law, there is no penalty for sleeping with your spouse during the separation, but it can impact your case if you sleep with them within 30 days of your divorce beginning.

What are the disadvantages of separation rather than divorce? ›

The Cons of a Legal Separation

Disadvantages of legal separation include: The inability to legally remarry; Extra cost if you later decide to divorce; and. Lack of a no-fault option.

How long do separated couples stay separated before reconciling? ›

Statistical research shows that the average length of separation before reconciliation is six to eight months. Thus, it is a safe period when the spouses can cool off and decide whether they want to give their marriage another chance or get a divorce.

Do husbands come back after separation? ›

Occasionally and against the odds, some couples are able to reconcile after a period of separation. Statistics based on couples getting back together after a separation show that while 87% of couples finally end their relationship in divorce after a separation, the remaining 13% are able to reconcile post-separation.

Who suffers the most in a separation? ›

Both ex-spouses take a loss, but typically, men suffer a larger hit to their standard of living than women — between 10 and 40% — due to alimony and child support responsibilities, the need for a separate place to live, an extra set of household furniture and other expenses.

How do you communicate during a trial separation? ›

How to Communicate with Spouse During Separation
  1. Establish Boundaries, and Make Them Clear. Start off by discussing your preferred method of communication and how often the two of you will discuss issues. ...
  2. Take Your Time to Respond. ...
  3. Focus on the Issues at Hand. ...
  4. Pay Attention to Your Tone. ...
  5. Mediate.
Jun 29, 2017

How do you set boundaries during a trial separation? ›

Setting Healthy Boundaries During Separation and Divorce
  1. Create physical boundaries first. ...
  2. Agree on the timeframe for physical separation. ...
  3. Set expectations around how you divide your belongings. ...
  4. The same applies to your money and bills. ...
  5. Managing time with your children.
Jun 10, 2021

Should you date while separated? ›

Once your separation agreement is in place you are legally OK to date but we generally recommend against it. When you do start dating, take it slow. All details of your relationship may be scrutinized by a judge. Your new partner may be depositioned to talk about it.

Why separation is better than divorce? ›

A legal separation would mean one spouse may still be eligible for health insurance coverage from the other spouse's job, whereas a divorce would end this coverage. A legal separation also allows you and your spouse to continue filing taxes jointly, which can lead to some tax benefits.

How much time apart is too much? ›

Coan advises every couple to adhere to the 70/30 rule: For the happiest, most harmonious relationship, the pro suggests spending 70% of time together, and 30% apart. That gives each of you enough freedom to explore your own interests while still being rooted and invested in your relationship.

How do you give someone space without losing them? ›

Here's how to give someone space without losing them:
  1. Ask how much time they need. ...
  2. Find out what “space” looks like. ...
  3. Don't ask for an explanation. ...
  4. Thank them for communicating their needs. ...
  5. Honor their request. ...
  6. Encourage them to do their favorite things. ...
  7. Avoid constant texting. ...
  8. Do your own thing.
Jun 23, 2022

How many couples reconcile after separation? ›

Statistics show that while 87 percent of separated couples end their relationship in divorce, the remaining 13 percent are able to reconcile post-separation.

What is the #1 cause of divorce? ›

According to various studies, the 4 most common causes of divorce are lack of commitment, infidelity or extramarital affairs, too much conflict and arguing, and lack of physical intimacy. The least common reasons are lack of shared interests and incompatibility between partners.

What year of marriage is most common for divorce? ›

While there are countless divorce studies with conflicting statistics, the data points to two periods during a marriage when divorces are most common: years 1 – 2 and years 5 – 8. Of those two high-risk periods, there are two years in particular that stand out as the most common years for divorce — years 7 and 8.

Who loses the most in a divorce? ›

While many men are quick to say that their ex-wives took everything, including the dog—or that is what many country songs lead you to believe, anyway—the truth is that women often fare worse in a divorce. Men are typically the ones who go on and live their lives as if a divorce never happened.

Does my husband have to pay the bills until we are divorced? ›

When the spouses are legally separated, any new debts are usually considered the separate debt of the spouse that incurred them. However, not all states recognize legal separation. In that case, debts may continue to allot until the divorce filing or the divorce decree, depending on state law.

Do I have to financially support my wife during separation? ›

Yes, you generally have to support your wife during separation in accordance with the laws in your jurisdiction. Depending on where you live, your wife may be entitled to receive alimony (or spousal support) from you.

Can I empty my bank account before divorce? ›

You can safely empty your bank account before divorce so long as: It says so in a prenuptial agreement. It is regarded as “separate property” by the state, irrespective of the property distribution principle it follows (community property distribution or equitable distribution).

Why moving out is the biggest mistake in a divorce? ›

You Can Damage Your Child Custody Claim

One of the most significant ways moving out can influence your divorce is when it comes to child custody. If you move out, it means you don't spend as much time with your kids. Not only can this harm your relationship, but it can also damage your custody claims.

What are the dangers of separation? ›

Children who have suffered traumatic separations from their parents may also display low self-esteem, a general distrust of others, mood disorders (including depression and anxiety), socio-moral immaturity, and inadequate social skills. Regressive behavior, such as bedwetting, is a common response to separation.

What should a husband not do when separated? ›

5 Mistakes To Avoid During Your Separation
  1. Keep it private.
  2. Don't leave the house.
  3. Don't pay more than your share.
  4. Don't jump into a rebound relationship.
  5. Don't put off the inevitable.
Oct 19, 2016

Is sleeping with someone else while separated cheating? ›

It is not adultery if you have already separated

If you engage in a sexual relationship with someone while you are still legally married, it is technically adultery even if you and your former partner do not live together anymore and are no longer emotionally or physically in a relationship.

How often do trial separations work? ›

SHS: I've read that about 25 percent of couples reconcile after a trial separation, which is in line with my own experience. The odds of reconciliation and clarity are greatly improved when there is absolutely no contact because that's how it most deeply sinks in what it would be like to live without the other.

How do you know when separation is best? ›

The 9 Silent Signs of Separation Checklist
  1. You're Actively Avoiding Your Partner.
  2. They Don't Act Like Your Partner.
  3. You Don't Trust or Respect Your Partner.
  4. You've Tried and Tried and Tried … But Nothing Changes.
  5. You're Worried About What Others Might Think.
  6. You're Staying Together For the Kids.
  7. It's Cheaper to Stay Together.
Apr 11, 2022

What is the hardest part of marriage separation? ›

Many people say that the loneliness is the hardest part. It takes a very long time to get used to being single. Not only have you lost your partner, and perhaps your best friend, but you have possibly also lost your in-laws and the extended family that you married into.

How do I tell my 5 year old about trial separation? ›

How to Tell Your Kids You're Filing for a Separation or Divorce
  1. Tell them the truth. While you are entitled to your privacy, they will likely want to know why you are divorcing. ...
  2. Remind them that you love them. ...
  3. Prepare them for changes. ...
  4. Point out what won't change. ...
  5. Listen. ...
  6. Avoid placing blame. ...
  7. Avoid arguing.
May 25, 2022

How do I tell my 6 year old about trial separation? ›

Talk to the kids together, if possible. Use a calm approach to explain the reasons and the plan going forward. If both parents cannot do this together, then their messages should be the same with no blame cast on the other. Keep the details minimal, non-specific and age appropriate.

What are red flags in dating a divorced man? ›

Dating a Divorced Man Red Flags

The bad mouth: If someone is constantly trashing their ex, it's doubtful that they're emotionally ready for a new relationship. Unresolved hurt and anger block the heart. It will be hard for them to love again until they face their issues and heal.

How do you separate but still live together? ›

Boundaries and rules when living together while separated
  1. Plan your living space. It is important to organise where each of you will be in the house and when each of you comes and goes. ...
  2. Budget. ...
  3. Tell the children together. ...
  4. Create a co-parenting schedule. ...
  5. Date discreetly.

How long to date after separating? ›

Family Therapist Dr. Teresa Albizu said there's no set amount of time you should wait to date after a separation, but she suggests at least six months.

What is the success rate of healing separation? ›

In fact, studies show a 75 percent success rate for couples who complete the program, even though at least a third are separated when they come to the weekend.

How do I protect myself financially during separation? ›

Here are six things you can do to prepare:
  1. Hire an experienced divorce attorney. Ideally, this person will emphasize mediation or collaborative divorce over litigation. ...
  2. Open accounts in your name only. ...
  3. Sort out mortgage and rent payments. ...
  4. Be prepared to share retirement accounts.

Is a trial separation healthy? ›

A trial separation can give you and your partner a chance to respect one another's view of your problems—even if you feel that they're wrong or shouldn't feel the way they do. One thing is almost certain. If you and your partner are not willing to compromise, then the relationship isn't likely to improve.

How common is it for separated couples to get back together? ›

According to surveys, around 13 percent of separated couples get back together.

Should I reach out to wife during separation? ›

If you are separated, it is very important to keep open communication with your spouse. After all, you are still married even though you are apart. But because you are apart, it is easy to let the poor communication that contributed to the decision to separate evolve into no communication at all.

What is the first thing to do in a separation? ›

7 Tips for Starting a Healthy Separation
  • Treat your co-parent as you would treat a business partner. ...
  • Don't make any significant changes. ...
  • Discuss the various options for pathways to an amicable divorce. ...
  • Choose your family mediator and/or lawyer. ...
  • See a counselor and/or doctor. ...
  • Wait to start a new relationship.

What God says about separation in marriage? ›

To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.


1. Marriage Separation - Pros And Cons
(Marriage Helper)
2. Trial separation? What that really means and what will happen
(Listen My Son - George Bruno)
3. Are trial separations a good idea? Do trial separations really work?
(Marriage Restoration with Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin)
4. Five (5) Reasons To Say No To Trial Separations
5. Trial Separation or Divorce? Ladies over 40, this is for you. Save Money and Heartache.
(Michele Paiva Therapy & Self-Help)
6. 4 Reasons To Say No To Trial Separations | Paul Friedman
(The Marriage Foundation)
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