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Considering a trial separation? Here's what you should know.

Deciding to get a divorce is life-changing. Even if individuals are unhappy in their marriage, they might still wonder whether or not a divorce is the right choice. This is why many couples undertake a trial separation before moving forward with a divorce.

Here are a few things couples should know if they are considering a trial separation:

First, evaluate the goals of the trial separation

Generally, the goal of a trial separation is to determine whether or not spouses should stay together. However, spouses should clarify - and agree on - whether their goal is to:

  • Take time to clear their heads and work on repairing the relationship; or
  • To experience what a divorce would be like before taking that big step.

Figure out the logistics

Even though this separation is only a trial, there are still many details spouses should arrange beforehand to make it work. Spouses should determine:

  • How long the trial separation will last;
  • What each spouse's living situation will be during the separation;
  • How spouses will explain the situation to their children;
  • How they will approach parenting during the separation;
  • Whether spouses will keep the separation private from family members and friends until they know how they want to move forward; and
  • How they will handle financial responsibilities during the separation.

Spouses should establish an agreement

This is probably the most critical aspect of any trial separation. Even though North Carolina law only requires a separation agreement and court orders for a legal separation or divorce, it is still a good idea for spouses to create an agreement for a trial separation.

An agreement is recommended so that both spouses know the rules they have agreed to abide by during the separation. For example, the agreement can cover all of the logistics listed above. It can also:

  • Divide responsibilities and duties during the separation;
  • Determine boundaries spouses must follow; and
  • Establish rules about relationships during the separation period.

Documenting these rules in a written agreement can help a trial separation work more effectively for both spouses.

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