Trial Separation - Sherman Oaks Divorce Therapy - Sherman Oaks Divorce Counseling

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I am a big believer in the therapeutic value of a prescribed trial separation when a marriage is on the brink of divorce. I have seen this work time and time again. It can be the last best hope for reconciliation. A trial separation with strict guidelines, is used by experienced marriage therapists where couples have reached the breaking point. They have usually tried various other interventions and tactics to get the marriage back on track and are now at a place where there's nothing left to do but divorce. Under the right circumstances, a trial separation can be a powerful tool to stay together. This seems counter intuitive when a marriage is in trouble, but nonetheless it is true.

A trial separation allows each spouse to experience some of the feelings of being separated without making a final decision to divorce. It can be the last best hope for reconciliation.Right QuoteThe key is a “controlled separation, a cooling off period not a getting out period”. One of the main advantages of a trial separation is that it is easily and successfully reversible.

There are some people for whom this strategy and tool will not work. It is crucial that each spouse is honest with themselves and honest with each other about why they are doing this exercise. If you or your spouse is trying to make the splitting up process gentler and easier, this is NOT the tool to use. If you don’t intend to stay with your partner, the worst thing you can do is pretend to be interested in working things out. Don’t assume that you both have the same goal. If one spouse thinks the separation is a step in the divorce process but the other thinks it's a temporary “time-out”, this can cause a major rift in the trust levels between the two.

Having the same goal in this exercise is particularly important in making it a successful exercise. There are some people for whom this strategy and tool will not work.Right QuoteOne group who should not try a trial separation, are those who have had repeated breaches in fidelity and trust. This exercise can cause more difficulty and more damage for each spouse.

Some of the advantages of a well thought out trial separation include:

  • Puts a stop to the fighting.
  • Spouses get to experiment with living alone and having more freedom.
  • A chance to grow and assess your role in the marital problems.
  • A true test of how you feel about your spouse once you are not seeing them regularly.
  • Being able to retain your marital status for religious reasons.


  • If the couple does not reconcile, the experience will have given them a chance to prepare for a different kind of life.
  • Being able to continue insurance benefits on your spouse’s coverage.
  • Continuing to remain married in order to meet the ten year requirement to qualify for certain social security benefits of a spouse.
  • Possible tax benefits by continuing to file taxes jointly.