When you and your spouse decide it might be time to go your separate ways, it can be challenging to know whether a trial separation or a final dissolution of your marriage is the right choice for you and your family.
Understanding the differences between these circumstances can help you determine whether you would like to live separately from your spouse on a temporary basis or end your legal union permanently.
Many couples seek a temporary separation as they consider divorce. These circumstances allow you to divide your households with agreed-upon terms, yet maintain a legal marriage until you move forward with a divorce or decide to reconcile.
Trial separation agreements provide couples with the chance to eventually reconcile, without seeking a formal remarriage. In the meantime, an agreement can dictate important financial, residential and familial matters similar to a divorce. Verbal or written separation agreements can set forth guidelines for child custody and visitation, joint accounts, bills and expenses, spousal and child support and other matters.
In order to formalize a separation agreement, the couple must draft a contract to settle important matters, though the marriage remains undissolved in the eyes of the law until the filing of a formal divorce petition.
A divorce legally and permanently ends a marital agreement between two spouses, and the decree is more enforceable by the courts than an informal separation agreement. Divorce decrees address the many same matters as a trial separation agreement, often more thoroughly.
However, the courts can hold one or both spouses in contempt or penalize couples with greater legal consequences for violation of the divorce agreement.