How to Prepare for a Trial Separation

The decision to get a divorce is a tough one. If you and your spouse have been having marital problems, you might decide to try a trial separation rather than jump right into the divorce process. A trial separation is a temporary living arrangement that gives you both space to consider your personal needs and whether the relationship still meets those needs.

Married couples may consider a trial separation for many reasons, including the following:

  • To “cool down” and focus on each individual’s mental health
  • To gain clarity on the situation and the relationship
  • To experiment with different approaches to resolving marital issues 
  • To give themselves a chance at reconciliation
  • To see how life would feel apart

Ultimately, a trial separation can help a couple decide whether to continue working on their relationship or get a divorce.

Establish separation ground rules

Trial separation typically involves two spouses living in separate residences, establishing boundaries, and often receiving marriage counseling or couples therapy to learn how to better communicate with and understand each other.

Before you embark on a trial separation, it’s a good idea to agree on some basic ground rules. These rules are sometimes referred to as a separation agreement – a meeting of the minds in terms of what will happen and how each of you will behave. It could be an informal agreement or one you draft and sign with the help of a  professional.

Where each of you will live

Will one of you move out? If so, where? If paying for two residences isn’t financially possible, how will you create “separate” spaces under the same roof to explore your life apart?

The answers to the above questions depend on the agreement made between spouses. Some couples prefer that both spouses remain in the marital home. Others believe it is best to live in separate physical spaces.

Who will pay the bills?

As a couple, your shared financial obligations continue whether you’re together or apart. In some cases, the spouses may split all of their bills equally during their separation period. In other cases, one spouse may assume full responsibility for paying certain expenses, such as rent or mortgage payments, while the other pays for different bills, like utilities or groceries. 

Without a financial plan in place, the results of a trial separation could be disastrous for a couple’s shared finances. Although you may not feel like talking to each other about anything right now, it’s a good idea to hash out financial terms before you part ways.

The kids’ schedule 

Parents going through a trial separation may have different ideas about what their kids' schedules should look like. First and foremost, where will the kids live during the separation? If one parent is staying in the family home, it would likely be in the kids' best interest to stay at their home base.

Parents will need to come to a consensus on other important parenting issues as well, such as how to divide and share parenting duties: school drop-offs, picking up from activities, meal preparation, homework help, and more. Further, a  joint custody schedule should be established so each parent has designated times with their children during the week. 

Although you are living apart, you will still be co-parenting. As such, it's important to remember to put the kids' well-being first as you plan their schedule.


During your trial separation, you might want to date each other. You might want to date other people. Or, you might not want to date at all. Whatever you decide, both parties should be aware of it. Open, honest communication is vital here. 

How long you’ll stay apart

A trial separation could last any period of time, from a few weeks to several months or longer. You might a few weeks apart is all you need. Or, you might decide you’d like a longer amount of time apart to get a feel for what divorced life would be like.

It's important for couples to talk about the time frame they expect to devote to a trial separation so neither person is caught by surprise later on. You might want to establish a concrete end date, at which time the two of you will re-evaluate the situation.

How to re-evaluate

Eventually, it will be decision-making time. When it’s time to come together and re-evaluate your relationship, it’s a good idea for each person to think, beforehand, about the criteria by which they’re evaluating their marriage. It’s also important for the couple to agree on the criteria by which they’ll re-evaluate their future together.

A trial separation allows both partners to gain perspective without making a hasty decision. 

If you and your spouse decide divorce is right for you, Hello Divorce is here to support you. We offer online divorce plans and a host of professional services intended to lighten your load as you make this important life change.


Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.