Types of Separation 7

Understanding Your Options When You Decide to Split Up

Many couples choose to try separation before divorce for a number of reasons. It may be that the couple just “needs space” and has the intention of trying to work things out after they both cool off. At the other extreme, the couple may have already decided to get a divorce and the separation is merely a tool to start splitting the property and working through the issues.

But if you are considering a separation, you should know that there are different “types” of separation, each with its own legal ramifications:

Legal Separation

Many people think that, if they split up and file for divorce, they are “legally separated.” That is not actually true. The term “legal separation” has a specific meaning under the law and it is not what most people think it is.

A legal separation is granted by the court. The couple separates anddivision of property is ordered. Child support and alimony is also typically granted, although it is usually referred to as “separate maintenance”. Anydebts incurred or any property acquired during a legal separation is normally considered to be separate property and not part of the marital estate. A legal separation is every bit as involved and time-consuming as a divorce, except you’re not actually divorced. Though a legal separation is considerably similar to a divorce, the parties are still considered to be married and cannot marry someone else.

Permanent Separation

This is the equivalent of a legal separation but without a court order. The couple separates and establishes separate lives. Child support and/or alimony may or may not be paid but it will depend upon the agreement between the two parties (not a court order) as the court has not become involved in this type of separation. Parties are still considered to be legally married but most states will treat a permanent separation as a legal separation when it comes to property and debts acquired during the separation. There are some exceptions to this so you should check the laws of your state to be sure.

One exception worth noting is that most states do consider debts incurred as a result of maintaining the marital home or in caring for the children are still considered to be jointly owned rather than separately owned.

Trial Separation

This type of separation may last as little as a few days, a few weeks or even a few months but the key distinction is that the intention behind the separation is limited. No decisions have yet been made about property division, child support, spousal support or even the divorce itself. In fact, many trial separations result in a reconciliation between the parties. While the parties usually live apart during this type of separation, one party is often merely staying with friends or family until the couple decides how they want to proceed. Any property or debt incurred during this time is considered to be jointly owned or owed.

In addition to these basic three types of separation, the couple may also simply be “living apart” and incorporate various distinguishing factors from one or more of the above definitions. For example, the couple may live apart but still maintain joint lives for the most part and have not yet divided property and/or debts. Joint checking accounts, credit cards and the like may or may not be in use by both parties and depending upon the laws in your state, debts and property acquired during this time may or may not be considered jointly owed or owned. You’ll need to consult your state laws and/or an attorney to be sure.

Many states now require that the couple be separate (legally or otherwise) for a certain period of time before a divorce will be granted. This is often referred to as the “cooling off period.” In addition, many states also will convert an order of legal separation into a divorce decree after a certain period of time and assuming that it is requested and certain requirements are met.

If you are interested in learning more about separation, check out this book about “controlled separation ” as well as this book about separation management techniques.


  • christianhousewife27

    I am married and my husband and I never communicate, we don’t sleep together, I am a Christian but he has changed and doesn’t respect my beliefs, he always spends more time with new friends than our kids or me and he says he’ll slap me if I wont shut up about it or leave him alone he won’t leave. He has become rude calls me name in front of our children curses at me daily and has been very controlling.Since these new friends he simply won’t help with the children anymore the way he used to he just joined a football league and after work he spends time there or hours at his Xbox360 .Every time I try to ask him to leave my home he threatens me he’ll hurt me to just shut up or have sex and go to my room and leave him alone.I was adopted so I don’t have friends or much family so he’s all I’ve known since I was a teen aged girl he has always taken care of me now he treats me horrible.
    I’m tired of crying, I didn’t want to call police because my children have never seen a physical fight but he has hit me twice ( when the kids weren’t around) I pretend things are fine for the kids to be happy.He always takes them on trips, buys gifts, and has play time with them but now excludes me. He calls me name and laughs, throws food at me and yells at me but he never yells at the kids he says to them your mother is just young and dumb. I said I want to separate he laughs and said I’m not going anywhere nobody can make me.Then he tells me and the kids go to my room and go to sleep “daddy loves you” he tells them while he has the house to himself all night.When I come down for something to drink he tells me hurry up go back with the kids so they don’t bother him while he’s with friends or in the basement playing games, talking on the phone or hanging out. I want him out!! What can I do to separate and since we both are on the lease can I make him leave? Please help

  • christianhousewife27

    I have asked the local non emergency police phone number to explain but one dispatcher said that if he is one the lease they can just make a report but can’t make him leave without a court order. they came and spoke to him once but he left then came right back.now he won’t leave and threatens me if I even bring it up.So I am still locked away in my room with all my kids all night and he gets to have his fun with friends in my house whenever he wants as long as he’s in the basement drinking he says “just don’t eat after 9:00 you should be in bed as my wife you do what I tell you to now go to your roomif I feel like being bothered I call you down here ” and that was just last night.So I won’t come downstairs,he still call me names, throw things and he is still here.

  • Unbelievable

    The first problem is that you are a housewife. You have no outside escape, and have no way to get out of the situation you are in. I would highly suggest you look up a women’s shelter in your area, explain them to what you said here, and they will help you and your kids get out. Then I suggest finding a job, so you can support your family and never have to be subserivant on a man again. I support those who choose to be housewives, but under the right circumstances. A man who treats his wife this way will eventually start abusing his children as well. Good luck to you.

  • maribel

    im married to a girl for 4 years same sex we leave together but in different rooms for 1 year she want to leave we dont have financial debt together i own the house she just want to leave can you tell me what i need to do

  • Helen

    Dear Christian Housewife,

    I found your story heartbreaking – the abuse you are experiencing is not in any way a reflection on who you are so don’t let it define how you see yourself. You must fight to get out of this situation and you must see that in witnessing this abuse – your children knows what he thinks about you is very damaging to their emotional wellbeing. Go to the nearest church of your denomination and tell the pastor there what is happening and ask them to get you in a refuge – stop concentrating now on getting him out think about refuge and getting strong for the longer term battles ahead do you really want to be somewhere he can come and get at you in the future? Go for a clean break and make sure he only gets supervised access to the kids as right now you think he’s being nice to them but later with space and time you will see he wasn’t. He is capable of hurting them just as much as he’s hurt you. Please act soon – be as screwed as a serpent and meek as a dove – Jesus would not expect you to tolerate this as you are a princess in his kingdom not a doormat who is enslaved. I am praying for you God will defend you remember he has already won this battle and he can not be defeated, discouraged or depressed – he doesn’t want you to be – be like David when he faced the Giant philastine – stand firm and let God lead you out of slavery into the life he has planned for you a promised land. I am praying for you and will continue to pray for you and the children. Helen x

  • staystrong

    Dear Christianhousewife27,

    When I saw your story, it broke my heart. There is something you can do….file a restraint order for your children and yourself at local courthouse and he will no longer be able to hurt or threaten you or your children again as long as you keep that restraint current. What you are dealing with is considered physical and mental abuse. If he should hit you again, call police and let them know you are in fear. They will help you file a restraint. This will temporarily keep him away for so long unless u keep on restraint order, and he will no longer be able to be near you or your children. If he does, call police and they will arrest him for breaking the restraint order. Hope this helps.

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