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Four Do’s (and Three Don’ts) of Marital Separation

When it comes to marriage, things can get hard sometimes. Divorce is always an option if things get too difficult, but there are some other options that you might consider first. For example, taking a break – a physical separation or some other form of time apart – may be a valuable opportunity to take a step back and see the bigger picture.

That said, a marital separation isn’t a license to go nuts, and it’s important that you set some ground rules with your spouse. In addition to anything you and your partner agree to, here are some great do’s and don’ts for your break.

Things You Should Do During a Separation

  1. Get up to speed on your joint finances. Especially if your spouse is the primary finance manager in your relationship, it’s important to know how much is coming in and going out of your bank accounts.
  2. Sign up for a credit card in your own name. If you don’t already have a credit card in your name, starting to establish good credit can make your life significantly easier if you wind up on your own after a trial separation.
  3. Close your joint credit card accounts. One key to a successful split, even if it’s temporary, is to keep your mutual debt from growing beyond its current level. Until a divorce is finalized, you are still responsible for any debt your spouse accrues, so this is an important step.
  4. Contact a divorce attorney and put together a legal separation agreement. Even if you aren’t ready to commit to getting a divorce, having defined terms of your separation while you’re still legally married can go a long way toward protecting yourself it things end up going south.

Things You Shouldn’t Do During a Separation

  1. Don’t start a new relationship. This is the most critical don’t of this entire list. Starting a new relationship isn’t only going to be a bad idea for your mental and emotional well-being, but can also really hurt you when it comes to settling matters at the negotiating table if it comes down to getting a divorce.
  2. Don’t ramp up your spending habits. It may be tempting to enjoy some retail therapy during your break, but treating yourself too much won’t only strain your finances, but could get you accused of dissipating assets during legal divorce proceedings.
  3. Don’t air your dirty laundry on social media. A trial separation is a time for you and your spouse to work on the things that were hurting your relationship – not to vent to the world on Facebook about all the things you hate about your partner. Especially if your goal is to stay together, it’s better to make this time private – after all, some damage is difficult or impossible to repair once it’s done.

About the Author

Richard Austin
Richard Austin