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Some couples choose informal separation to prevent divorce

Some couples today who are experiencing the opposite of marital bliss are choosing informal separation in order to avoid divorce and to spark their former romance. Even though a separation seems like one step away from divorce for many, many marriage therapists recommend temporary separation as a final attempt to save a marriage.

According to marriage therapists, temporary space and time can be enough to rekindle a troubled marriage. There are not reliable statistics on the effectiveness of such measures but a recent The Wall Street Journal article featured a marriage therapist who had a 50 percent success rate. Over the last 20 years, the therapist has recommended trial separations to 40 couples and about 20 have met success.

According to the marriage therapist, an informal separation should not start with one partner walking out of the door. There should be structure. Partners should discuss who is going to live where and who is going to pay for what. Partners should also discuss child-raising and how long the separation should last. Experts believe a separation should last around six months since it is long enough to gain perspective and short enough to not feel permanent. Couples who have experienced infidelity should address those issues in counseling before separation.

A family law attorney and the president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers believes couples should beware. Sometimes one partner may use the separation time to prepare for a divorce or may sell assets in preparation for divorce. Also, agreements on finances and child custody during separation may be used for future divorce proceedings, so the family law attorney suggests consulting with a divorce attorney before separation.

One couple married for over 40 years found success with an informal separation. Seven years ago the long married couple could no longer stand each other and rarely spoke to one another. They agreed to take a break to rediscover themselves and ended up rediscovering their relationship. Today the everyday annoyances of the past have turned into lovable idiosyncrasies.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "To save a marriage, split up?" Elizabeth Bernstein, Aug. 9, 2011

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