Trial Separations: Do They Work in the Long Run?

Young couple undergoing a trial separation symbolised by being on separate sides of a vertical divide in the middle of the image

Updated Sept 2019

When a marriage breaks down or a couple experiences serious marital issues, a decision has to be made about the future of their relationship. While most people either attempt to work things out or get a divorce, others opt for a temporary legal separation in an attempt to save their marriage, but do they work in the long run?

A divorce is a tough experience for even the most resilient and strong-minded of people, so it’s no surprise that many couples do everything they can to avoid it, especially if there is a possibility of saving the relationship and preventing the heartache of breaking up a family and the various expenses of divorce. 

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at trial separations and discuss whether or not they can work for couples over the long term. 

What Is a Legal Separation?

A legal separation allows you and your partner to draft a “Separation Agreement”, which sets out your and your spouse’s rights and responsibilities while you are living apart. Although you will no longer be living together, you will still be legally married. If you do eventually get a divorce, having a separation agreement in place will help with certain aspects, such as dividing assets.

A separation agreement is particularly beneficial if you and your partner are attempting a trial separation and want to establish both of your obligations going forward. It will also help with decisions about which parent your children will live with, as well as how assets, such as shared finances and property, are dealt with during the trial period.

Benefits of Trial Separations

You’ll Have Space to Decide What You Want

A divorce is a complicated and daunting process, so it’s not a decision that should be rushed or taken lightly. It’s for this reason that a trial separation can be beneficial for couples who are hesitant to end their marriage. Doing so not only gives you the time and space to think clearly, but it also provides you with an opportunity to miss your spouse. The latter is often what makes or breaks a couple following a trial separation. 

It Gives You Time to Prepare for a Divorce

Most would assume that the sole purpose of a trial legal separation is to save a marriage, but it’s also ideal for couples who fully intend to get divorced and need time to prepare. Aside from the fact that one of the grounds for divorce in the UK requires you to be separated for two to five years, being apart will remove you from a stressful environment and allow you to think clearly about important factors that come into play after a divorce, such as parenting plans and child support. In cases of high-net-worth divorce, taking this time can allow you to take stock of your business or other financial assets and put plans in place outside of the stressful home environment.

You Will Still Have Marital Benefits

Despite no longer being in a relationship (for now, at least), a separated couple is still legally married. This means they can enjoy certain benefits, such as tax cuts, pensions and health insurance. A married couple might also decide to wait until their mortgage is paid off before they get divorced and divide their assets. This will be easier for couples who are amicable, but those who aren’t will equally benefit if they manage to settle their differences — if only temporarily. 

Seeking the Help of a Family Lawyer

Although a separation agreement isn’t legally binding and, therefore, not enforceable by the courts, you will need the assistance of a family lawyer to draft one. This will establish the terms of the separation and the rights of each party during this period. At this stage, it’s essential to seek the help of a reputable divorce solicitor.

Failing to do so could see you missing out on your fair share of the marital assets in the event you do get a divorce, especially as a separation agreement can play a role in the decision made by the court, should your case progress that far. Your choice of family lawyer will be vital for your quality of life and financial stability not only during a trial separation — when you determine if you’re ready to completely sever ties with your spouse — but also in the event of a divorce. 

Are you and your spouse considering a trial separation? At KMJ Solicitors, our reputable team of divorce solicitors specialises in all areas of family law. We can guide you through the entire separation process and ensure that, in the event of a divorce, you are prepared. Get in touch with us today to discuss your case.

Clayton spent five years working in family law with a firm in Australia before moving to the UK in 1999. He deals with all aspects of family law, specialising in all family matters, offshore trusts, company structures, international law, prenuptial agreements, high net worth cases and cohabitation law.