Many couples who experience problems in their relationships choose a trial separation in the hope of having some time off and then improving their marriage. It is my experience, as a divorce lawyer, that trial separations lead to divorce. When it comes to separations, absence does not make the heart grow fonder. My experience is that absence makes the heart grow suspicious and jealous.
The biggest problem in separations seems to be the one year lease. Most couples who separate don’t have the luxury of two homes. Typically, one person moves out of the home and rents an apartment. For most people, this means that they sign a one year lease and obligate themselves to pay rent for a year. As a result, the person who moves out thinks that the trial separation will last the full year. During this year, one person remains in the home with the children and the other enjoys the social freedom of independent living. The person in the home lacks the social opportunities available to the other. The natural inclination is to consider the apartment rented for a year as a year long opportunity to enjoy sex with other partners. It doesn’t matter if the person commits adultery, the spouse remaining in the home will suspect that adultery occurs on a regular basis. This attitude won’t help the couple reconcile.
When a couple separates, they have to maintain two households instead of one. This will cost more money and put a strain on the finances of the couple. In addition, the couple will talk less about expenditures and there is an opportunity for either or both to spend money in ways that the other spouse would not approve. This lack of financial control can drastically increase the combined debt of the couple which must be addressed in the event of a divorce. Just as assets are divided at the time of divorce, debts must be divided as well. In addition, maintaining two households and increasing the expenses can result in a lower standard of living. The standard of living is one factor in both property division and alimony if a divorce occurs.
A long term separation allows the other spouse the opportunity to hide assets. The longer the period of separation, the more money can disappear. While one party may be trying to reconcile, the other may be trying to improve their position for the future divorce.
A separation is the equivalent of treading water. If the parties are trying to reconcile, the separate residence makes it difficult. Yet, as long as they are trying to reconcile, they won’t be looking for new relationships. Their life is put on hold.
If a couple is thinking about separating, they should consider other methods of working on their relationship. They should consider therapy. They should also remember that without intimacy, almost every relationship will fall apart. Many couples consult with divorce lawyers to understand the reality of the cost of divorce and life after divorce. For most couples, separation leads to divorce and not improvement in their relationship.