You’ve decided it’s not working anymore. Perhaps the reason is simple life change — you’re a different person now. Or maybe there’s just a mountain of little things that have built up over the years, and you’re not sure how they can be untangled again. Whatever the reason, you know your marriage is in trouble. But is divorce the only option?

Trial Separation

Unlike divorce or legal separation, a trial separation is not a legal decision, it’s a personal one. It’s not necessary for paperwork to be drawn up or lawyers brought in. In this scenario, the goal is to take a step back to decide if and how the relationship can be repaired. In short, a trial separation is when spouses mutually decide to take a break.

But by “take a break”, we don’t mean like Ross and Rachel. In fact, the infamous Friends couple, while unmarried, is a prime example of the pitfalls of not treating a “break” with careful consideration or explicit rules. While it may not be a legal agreement, a trial separation should still have clear boundaries, such as child custody and visitation, how financial decisions will be handled, whether seeing other people is permitted, and if the separation is limited to a specific period of time.

Legal Separation

Many trial separations eventually lead to legal separations. This is where we lawyers get involved. In many ways, a legal separation is similar to a divorce, since a court often must rule on decisions like child custody, divisions of assets, and spousal or child support.

However, there are several benefits to trying a legal separation before heading into divorce. If you oppose divorce for moral or religious reasons, a legal separation may be more palatable. Moreover, in addition to leaving open the possibility for reconciliation, a legal separation allows spouses to retain some benefits from one another, such as health insurance, government benefits, and tax breaks. Just be advised that some policies treat legal separations similar to divorce, prompting cessation of benefits to the separated spouse. An attorney can determine what you’re entitled to during a legal separation.


If, in the end, you find your best option is to end the marriage, a legal separation can be easily turned into a divorce. For some couples, starting with a separation can be a way of easing into divorce proceedings, especially if one spouse desires the marriage’s dissolution more than the other. Likewise, the crucial decisions regarding finances and assets that are made during a separation can make the transition to divorce smoother.

Wherever you are in your marriage, contact the family law attorneys at Bellah Perez, PLLC at 602-252-9937 to have your legal questions answered. We’re on your side from beginning to end in any situation, through separations, annulments, and divorce. Our experienced lawyers will give your marriage their personal attention to ensure we find the right solution.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.