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Not Ready For Divorce? Here Are 3 Types of Marital Separation To Consider

Not all married couples that decide to split up end up divorcing. In fact, there are many factors that can make a marital separation a beneficial option.

A married couple thinking about a separation or divorce.
When you and your spouse are talking about a split, a separation might be an option to consider before jumping right to divorce.

That doesn't mean its an easy process. Separating from a spouse can be an emotionally painful and financially stressful experience. There's no sugar-coating it; separating from a spouse can feel like riding an intimidating roller coaster of highs and lows filled with a flurry of conflicting feelings like disappointment, fear, relief, confusion, and anticipation.

And then there are the immediate practical questions that pop up, like:

What are my options? Do I move out or does my spouse? How will the separation affect my children? What does this mean for my financial future? What will I do about medial insurance?

To help you navigate all of this, let's break down the three types of marital separation: trial, permanent, and legal. It’s important to note that all three options will technically keep you legally married, but the nuances and consequences will vary.

Here's the nitty-gritty:

1. Trial Separation

Think of trial separation as 'time-out.' If you embark on a trial separation you're still legally married but living apart to reassess your feelings. Couples opt for it to gain perspective, or some much needed space, or to scrutinize the relationship without noise.


  • It can be helpful for spouses to have some space from each other to consider if they want to reconcile or divorce.

  • It could be a less disruptive option for children involved.

  • Financial arrangements remain unchanged, ensuring security.

Cons: 3 types of marital separation

  • It can create ambiguity, leading to continued feelings of ambiguity about the relationship.

  • Legally your financial assets remain tied, which without proper preparation and agreements, can become complicated.

2. Permanent Separation

A notch above trial separation, a permanent separation often acts as the anteroom to a divorce. You and your spouse agree to live apart indefinitely without any intention of reconciliation.


  • It can be less emotionally draining than an immediate divorce.

  • You can have your autonomy while retaining specific benefits like social security and health insurance from your spouse's plan.


  • Uncertainty can take an emotional toll on partners and children.

  • You’re financially liable for any debt your spouse incurs after separation.

Most states recognize permanent separation and use the separation date when dividing marital property.

3. Legal Separation

Unlike the other types, a legal separation requires court involvement. You can hire a family law attorney or mediator to help you and your spouse negotiate the terms of your legal separation and file the necessary paperwork with the courts.


  • It provides the clarity of a divorce without ending the marriage.

  • It can secure your financial rights while living apart.


  • It can be just as extensive and costly as a divorce.

  • The possibility of going back to court for disagreements can lead to prolonged stress and cost.

A legal separation, although providing clarity in terms of financial division and rights, can come with quite a few disadvantages compared to a trial separation. It can be almost as extensive and costly as a divorce since it involves court intervention and you could find yourself continually heading back to court if disagreements arise. When weighing a legal separation against divorce, it's essential to understand that with a legal separation you're still married, which may keep certain family, financial, or medical benefits intact.

Did you know:

Six states, including Florida and Georgia, do not have legal separations, but others, like California, recognize it.

It’s so important to remember that every marital separation situation is unique, and what works for others may not work for you. Taking next steps toward a separation can feel overwhelming, and that’s where The Divorce Planner comes in.

With the goal to make the separation and divorce planning and preparation process as easy as possible, The Divorce Planner can provide resources and guidance to ensure you make informed decisions, including:

  • Insightful tips from divorce professionals we've interviewed for our 'In Conversation With' series. We keep our chats short and sweet, and cover the most frequently asked questions so you get valuable information and insights about separation and divorce. You can watch or listen to the 25 minute interviews on our YouTube channel.

  • Our bestselling Monthly Budget Calculator is a comprehensive and easy-to-use budget spreadsheet specifically created for anyone considering a separation or divorce. It takes the guesswork out of how to assess your finances and anticipate how they might change moving forward.

  • Digital tools that help you prepare all of your financial information, catalog your assets, and organize the essential documents you'll need in order to iron out all the details of your separation.

  • And our blog filled with divorce prep tips, tools and actions items you can implement on your own so you make smart choices and create the best next chapter of your life.

  • Subscribe to our mailing list and get separation and divorce prep tips and freebies discreetly delivered right to your inbox!

Don't Forget This Important Step

Before embarking on any marital separation you'll want to think through what tax implications might be involved. In a trial separation, a couple's financial situation does not legally change and you can still file your taxes as a married couple. Being legally separated may impact your tax filing status.

No matter which type of separation you choose, make sure to run it by your tax preparer or CPA to make sure you understand the implications your arrangement will have on your tax filings.

You should also keep in mind that divorce laws in some states require couples to live apart for a certain period of time before a divorce. Make sure to research what the requirements are in your state before embarking on a separation or divorce.

And one last thought...

No matter what type of separation you might choose, remember that once a spouse embarks on a new romantic relationship things can get a little sticky. Make sure to address this issue early in your discussions so you come up with guidelines to help you figure out how to incorporate new romantic partners into your 'separated but legally still married' arrangement.


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