Trial Separation In Ohio Explained. Seek Experienced Divorce Lawyer For Input And Counseling Tips
Several weeks ago, I explained the characteristics of what a legal separation is in Ohio. Click here to read that post. Today, I will share some of my thoughts about a “trial separation” – which is an informal agreement for 2 people to live apart. Essentially, it is an experiment in living apart. During this time the parties of course remain married, but live apart. A party may move back home, in with a friend, or rent an apartment.
This arrangement is typically done for one or both parties to have space apart to evaluate their feelings towards each other, their long term goals and overall compatibility. In addition, many parties may choose to separate before filing for a legal separation or a divorce. Some parties agree up front to a time period for the separation, while others don’t. I have seen trial separations that last from hours to ones that last for years.
Can Trial Separations Involve A Court Order?
Trial separations typically do not involve a Court Order. A written separation agreement is not mandated under Ohio law but having one may be smart. Before moving out, be sure to try to have hammered out the finances, debts, child care etc. Also, confirm the “agreement” in writing even if by an email. In Ohio, an “automatic” ground for divorce is having lived separate and apart without cohabitating for a period of 1 year. So, any trial separation period would count towards 1 year period. Probably not a concern, but my being a lawyer made me add this.
Trial separations can be productive in certain situations. Certainly, having a therapy/counseling component is beneficial for both sides if there is a true desire to possibly reconcile. If you are not already in counseling or couples therapy, this would be an excellent time to begin. The counseling can afford the parties an opportunity to work on the issues that have divided them. Counseling can be also helpful if there is no compromise in sight, to start working on divorce transition issues too.
Trial Separation Planning Tips:
- Try to Agree on the Goals – If you and your partner are not on the same page about the purpose and goals of the informal separation, you are off to a bad start. Both parties should openly discuss in advance his/her concerns in order to get on the “same page”. Vague reasons such as “I just need to get away” seldom provide needed clarity. Don’t assume that your partner wants the same things as you do.
- Set Specific Rules and Boundaries – It is important to agree upon an end date rather than leaving the trial separation term wide open. Many folks will set a three to six month term. Realistically, being apart for much longer diminishes the chances of reconciliation.
- Commitment to the Process – For a trial separation to be successful the mutual commitment of both parties is crucial. What is good for him should equally apply to her.
- Establish Couples Counseling Sessions – If you are serious about reconciling, lining up couples counseling sessions is very important. You can both establish goals. Be sure to do the required homework and be conscientious in the process. Be open in all communications.
- Living and Financial Arrangements – Who will move out? Can the other party drop in with an invite or advanced notice? How will the bills be divided? How will any marital funds be spent? Be sure to tackle the financial aspects head on to avoid huge future problems.
- Stay off Social Media – I would STRONGLY caution you to stay off Facebook and all social media during any trial separation. Nothing good will likely come from any posts.
- Seek A Lawyers Input – Before separating be sure to meet with an experienced divorce lawyer to share your plan and seek his/her advice. This can protect you from unforeseen problems down the pike.
A trial separation is a second chance to rebuild and restore your relationship. It does not have to be the prelude for a permanent split. Work hard, exercise good faith and be realistic. As indicated in number 7 above, seek an experienced divorce lawyer to bounce off all aspects of your “plan”. You want to be sure that your actions are all prudent. Also, I can’t overemphasize the importance of initiating couples therapy as soon as possible. Good luck!
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Robert L. Mues
Attorney Robert "Chip" Mues has been focusing his legal practice throughout Southwest Ohio primarily in divorce and family law matters since 1978. Chip is passionate about family law and has proudly published the Ohio Family Law Blog since 2007. In addition, he is the managing partner of Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues. To learn more about him or the law firm, visit the firm's website at www.hcmmlaw.com. Appointments are available in person, over the phone or by Zoom. Call us at 937 293-2141.