Attorney, Cordell & Cordell
When I give legal separation advice for men, I tell them a trial separation is usually not a good idea. However, if you find yourself in a separation, you need to protect yourself.
My other divorce article explained what you should not do during your trial separation. In this article on marriage separation advice we'll look at five things you should do during a trial separation.
1. Do tell close family:
You should tell close family that you and your spouse are separating. By "close," I mean the family members you can trust, your confidants. Don’t publicize it to the world.
Be upfront about your plans so they are not surprised. This is a time to rely on your family for help – financially, morally and otherwise – so keep them informed.
2. Do see the kids if you have to move out of the marital home:
If you have already moved out of the house, or have no other choice, then make a schedule to see your kids and stick to it. Have them spend overnights with you.
If you do divorce, then you will have already established a pattern for parenting and shown your ability to provide for your children in a new environment.
A parenting pattern and your ability to provide are two key factors a judge will consider when deciding who receives custody.
3. Do open a separate bank account:
It's amazing how many guys will move out of the house but keep their paychecks directly deposited to their joint account for their wife's use.
This might make sense if she traditionally paid all the bills, but it’s no good if she's getting ready to file for divorce. She has complete control over your money, and she could easily, and probably will, withdraw all of it right before she files.
While you are separated, open a separate account and put some money there for reserve – you'll need it if things get ugly.
4. Do be honest about a new relationship:
You don’t want to date just to date, but if you have met someone be honest about it.
All states now have "no fault" divorce, which means a girlfriend (including one you cheated with) makes not one difference. Even when an affair does matter, it matters only slightly or in cases of egregious sleeping-around that has confused your children and left you penniless. In other words, it is a limited consideration.
It is a sad thing, but a true one, that marriages fall apart. That does not make you a bad person. If you have found someone else and believe it is time to move on, you are better off being honest about it than lying the rest of your marriage to your family, your kids and yourself.
5. Do have a separation agreement:
This will help define the parameters of your trial separation.
Who will pay what bills? Are you allowed to date? Who picks up the kids from school? How long will you wait before making the decision to divorce or reconcile? Will you go to counseling? Will you cancel joint credit cards (you should)? What is the best way to communicate with your spouse (phone, e-mail, text)?
Although, in some states, your separation agreement before a divorce begins will not replace an agreement to divide your property and debts made during your divorce, it is a good precedent.
To schedule an appointment with a men's divorce lawyer, please contact Cordell & Cordell.
Read related article: "Legal Separation Advice: 5 Things To Avoid In Your Separation"
Jennifer M. Paine is an Associate Attorney in the Detroit, Michigan office of Cordell & Cordell. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims.
Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.