When to Consider Separation Instead
By Susie and Otto Collins
It's clear to Liz that things will never be the same
again between herself and her husband Doug. He has
had two affairs over the course of their 10 year
The trust between them is practically non-existent.
At the same time, Liz panics whenever she thinks
about filing for divorce. She has been a
stay-at-home mom to their 4 kids for the past 8
She can't even imagine how she'll find a job
that can support herself and the kids, plus provide
health insurance and other benefits for them all.
Liz has literally been having panic attacks whenever
anyone even mentions the possibility of a divorce.
To make matters more confusing, Doug has ended his
latest affair and has entered counseling. He keeps
promising Liz that he will change and that he
wants to make it up to her.
She doesn't really believe him, but a part of her
For some people, the decision to get a divorce is
clear. They feel like they have granted as many
second chances as they can and that they've tried
all of the techniques and strategies out there for
These people have had enough, are ready to move on
and are sure that divorce is the next best step for
There are also people who are far less certain about
what the next best step is for them.
For this second group of people, there may be an
internal push-pull going on that is preventing a
final decision from being made.
We're not here to criticize those who are certain or
to judge those who are uncertain.
Making the decision to end a marriage or to remain
in one that is troubled is not to be taken lightly.
It requires introspection and clarity.
Sometimes, in those cases where there is confusion,
mixed feelings and particular extenuating
circumstances, obtaining a legal separation is a
wise move to consider.
Here are just few reasons why...
You need space from your spouse for an extended
period of time.
Maybe your spouse betrayed you in some way, such as
having an affair, and what you want most of all is
to get away from him or her. You aren't in a frame
of mind to make a final decision to get a divorce.
Of course, you can always stay with a friend or
family member for this period of time without
considering yourselves separated.
If you need to be away from your spouse for an
extended period of time, however, you may want to
Note: You can informally separate to get space,
but your assets and property will still be jointly
held as if you were married. A legal separation
involves court approved agreements on how you will
divide up debt, assets, property and how child
custody will be handled. Please consult with a
reputable attorney for more information about legal
You need time to resolve your differences, but
from separate residences.
Perhaps you are hesitant but still open to a
possible reconciliation with your spouse. You two
might have agreed to enter couple's counseling and
learn trust rebuilding and communication strategies.
Even as you've agreed to this, you might not want to
be formally married during this interim time. You
may especially want your own space to process what's
Your religious beliefs forbid divorce.
Some churches or religions prohibit divorce, but do
allow legal separation.
For people who follow such faiths and want to
continue to do so, this may be the most appealing
option rather than either remaining in a troubled
marriage or risk losing one's religious community.
You want to be covered.
The fact of the matter is, if your health insurance,
spousal military benefits or other financial (or
other) supports for your well being and livelihood
are linked to your spouse, you may choose to
separate instead of divorce.*
Specific policies will be different depending on the
company, governmental entity or initial benefits
agreement, so do your research.
But, in many cases, this will allow you to continue
share in the coverage or particular benefits offered
by your spouse's work even after the two of are
living separate lives.
You just aren't ready for a divorce.
For even those who are very sure that they want a
divorce, there can be moments of doubt.
You need to tune in to you and keep listening to
what you want.
If you consistently hear that you are just not sure,
perhaps separation is going to feel like a more
certain step to you than is divorce.
For now, you might decide that you are most
comfortable gaining distance having more
independence from the relationship while remaining
Be aware that even though you two will still be
married, the marriage agreements that you made may
not be upheld.
With a separation, it is vital that the two of you
discuss what each of you expects from the other.
You might employ a mediator or counselor to help you
with such communication and an attorney to assist
you with legal agreements.
*Susie and Otto Collins are NOT attorneys. They are
not and will not give advice that is legally
binding. Consult with an attorney who is skilled in
the areas of divorce and separation before making
any final decisions.