A legal separation is a court process designed to define the rights and obligations between spouses when they live apart, but do not want a divorce.
It is helpful to think of a trial separation as a break from each other to figure out whether you’re just hitting a rough patch in your marriage or to divorce.
While this might sound like a good idea on the surface, there are several mistakes to avoid or else you risk the separation turning into one of the biggest problems in your divorce.
Here are some mistakes to avoid during your trial separation.
Keep it private.
The second you announce you’re getting a divorce, everyone will have an opinion.
Rumors will suddenly start flying. It’s like a game of “Telephone.” Whatever you say is sure to come back twisted and contorted, and there’s a good chance your spouse will have heard it, too, which can make matters worse and perpetuate a divorce.
Don’t post about what you’re going through on social media. Don’t chat about it with anyone except your closest family members and trusted friends. Keep this between you and your wife.
Don’t leave the house.
Moving out of the marital home has been called one of “The 10 Stupidest Mistakes Men Make When Facing Divorce” by Cordell & Cordell co-founder Joe Cordell.
If you leave the house, your odds of gaining equal time with your children dramatically diminishes, and you might lose possession of some of your valuable belongings.
A judge is likely going to look at you as the parent who gave up on the marriage. You might have thought it would be helpful to let your wife stay with the kids, but it’s doubtful the judge will see it that way.
By leaving, you make it easy for your wife to portray you as a husband who didn’t care and abandoned his family.
Don’t pay more than your share.
Sometimes guys will agree to continue paying bills for their wife while they rent an apartment during the separation, but this is a recipe for disaster if one of you later files for divorce.
For one thing, she has no incentive to get a job if you’re still covering all the expenses. By maintaining her standard of living by paying for the house, insurance, utilities, groceries, etc., you’re making her own case for alimony. It’s going to look like you’re fully capable of supporting her, even if you’re barely making ends meet.
It’s a better idea for you and your wife to determine, before separation, who should cover what bill. If possible, put that bill in the person’s name, and follow up to ensure that it is paid.
Don’t jump into a rebound relationship.
A trial separation is a time for self-assessment to reflect on your marriage and goals. Avoid casual dating.
Don’t put off the inevitable.
While you should never rush into divorce and need to consider all the ramifications of ending your marriage, you also do not want a separation to drag on for years. A lot of spouses get stuck waiting for the other to initiate the divorce.
This likely leaves both of you unhappy and one spouse (probably you) stuck with the bills.
For more questions about legal separation, please contact Cordell & Cordell.