A trial separation allows a couple to go about their lives separately, while still legally married in the eyes of the law. Some people, unsure of whether they’re really wanting a divorce or not, want to try a legal separation first.

Is it worth the effort? If you go down that road, will it just inevitably prolong the process of the divorce that’s looming ahead — or does it really offer a shot at putting a marriage back together?

The answer really depends a lot on what both people want out of the separation:

1. Do you both need time away from the other person to understand your feelings?

If either of you are using the trial separation to avoid dealing with the conflict of divorce and really just want to enjoy your “freedom” once you’re legally separated, you’re wasting time and money.

A separation is only useful if you are both still trying to get a grip on your feelings about the marriage. If either of you are already done with the marriage mentally and emotionally enough to start dating again, it’s time for a divorce already.

2. Can you see your own failings as a spouse?

If your spouse is all bad and you’re all good, then the marriage is doomed from the beginning.

If you’re able to recognize that you’ve jointly caused the current breakdown of your marriage, the trial separation can help you get enough distance to see where the cracks started forming and what can be done to heal them.

3. Are you willing to go to therapy together?

Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but total absence can lead to an “out of sight and out of mind” mentality.

Separation works best when couples are willing to commit to counseling, and both of you still want the marriage to work — but recognize that the space apart helps calm things down and allows for personal reflection.

In the end, trial separations can help avoid divorce — but only if that’s what both parties really want, and both parties are willing to work on the marriage despite being separated.

For more information on how our firm approaches the idea of separation and divorce, please visit our page.