Attorney, Cordell & Cordell
In 2011, the news of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “love child” glossed over a far more common and problematic issue that you are more likely to face – a trial marriage separation.
“My wife wants to separate but is not ready for a full divorce,” is something I hear frequently. Unfortunately, divorce and separation often go hand in hand.
When clients come to me for questions regarding legal separation advice, I tell them a trial separation is a break – from your spouse, from “it all” – to determine whether you are just going through a low point in your marriage or you should divorce.
At first blush, it sounds like a good idea. No one wants to spend money divorcing needlessly, particularly when money is in short supply to begin with.
But, if you are not careful, that separation to help you determine whether to divorce can snowball into the biggest problem in your divorce.
There are some rules of separation in marriage that you should follow if this is something you are going to pursue. Think of this as a marital separation checklist on what you should not do during your trial separation.
1. Don’t publicize it
Tell someone you are getting a divorce or separation, and suddenly everyone has something to say. You’ll hear horror stories, preaching, “legal separation advice” (c/o Google), etc., most of them inaccurate or exaggerated.
And that means people are talking about you and your spouse. Like the game “Telephone,” what you say will come back to you contorted, and your spouse will have heard it, too. That often perpetuates a divorce.
So leave your Facebook status alone, skip the public statement and keep to yourselves.
2. Don’t move out
Move out of your home, and your chances of retaining even equal time with your children or your precious belongings are slim to none. Moving out before the divorce is final is listed by Joe Cordell as the No. 1 stupidest mistake men make when facing divorce.
Those news stories about couples living in separate homes and sharing time with the kids are just that – stories. It rarely happens in real life, and it probably does not happen much in Hollywood life, either.
To a judge, you look like the parent who gave up and the spouse who evidently did not care much about the baseball card collection to take it with you when you left.
Judges rarely care how helpful you thought you would be by letting your wife stay with the kids or how much you intended to return to retrieve your belongings. Your wife, who’s angling to keep the kids and your stuff, will make you out to be nothing more than an abandoner.
3. Don’t maintain the status quo
You might agree to pay the bills for your wife while you rent a one-bedroom apartment during your marriage separation, but you are fitting yourself for disaster if one of you files for divorce later.
For one thing, if she really needs a job, you give her no incentive to get one. Moreover, by continuing to pay the mortgage, the insurance, the utilities, the grocery bill, etc., you are making her case for alimony. You send the message that you can support her, even if you can’t, and are comfortable doing it, even if you aren’t.
The better thing to do is determine, before you separate, who is responsible for what bill, put the bill in that person’s name (if possible), and follow-up to make sure the bill is paid.
4. Don’t date just to date
A trial marriage separation is supposed to be a time to discover what you want, but that does not mean you have to test out different women.
Take this time to reflect on your marriage and your goals, and leave the casual dating alone. Otherwise, you could end up with your own “love child” and an unintended reason to get a divorce.
5. Don’t delay the inevitable
The separation should be a short time to reflect. Believe it or not, many go on for years, both spouses waiting for the other to make the first move. The problem is, neither is happy, and one spouse (probably you) is stuck paying the bills.
Although, in some states, your separation agreement before a divorce begins will not replace an agreement to divide your property and debts made during your divorce, it is a good precedent.
To schedule an appointment with a men’s divorce lawyer to rev, please contact Cordell & Cordell.
Read Related Article: “Legal Separation Advice: What To Do During A Separation“
Jennifer M. Paine is an Associate Attorney in the Detroit, Michigan office of Cordell & Cordell. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims.
Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.