Even when they are unhappy, spouses might still be hesitant to file for divorce for many reasons. After all, divorce can be a complex and stressful process for the entire family.

That is why many couples attempt a trial separation first. A trial separation can give both spouses the chance to experience what a divorce might be like. However, trial separations are rarely easy. They take a lot of work and require careful preparation.

So, what steps should spouses take before a trial separation?

1. Spouses must agree to the terms of the separation

The most important step that spouses must take before a trial separation is to establish the rules. Trial separations will not work effectively without rules. For example, spouses must determine details including, but not limited to:

  • The duration of the separation;
  • Each spouse’s financial responsibilities during the separation;
  • How they will divide parenting time between them; and
  • Where each spouse will live during the separation.

While California couples do not have to obtain a legal agreement for a trial separation, it can be incredibly helpful to craft an informal separation agreement that lays out these rules.

2. Determine how to tell the kids

A trial separation can be a helpful step for spouses in tough situations. However, even a trial separation can still be a lot to process for children.

The popular parenting app, WeParent, provides some advice for how parents should tell their children about a trial separation. For example:

  • Speak with the children together;
  • Be honest with children about what is happening;
  • Make sure the conversation is age-appropriate; and
  • Ensure that children know both parents still love them, no matter what.

Telling the children about the separation can be stressful, but parents should not spring the separation on their children.

A trial separation can be a helpful option when spouses run into challenges in their marriage. It can help them determine whether or not they wish to get a divorce, but they must also ensure they take the proper steps before a trial separation, so it is productive.