In dysfunctional marriages, the partners either suffer silently and endure all the problems, or they say "to heck with this" and file for divorce.
There can be many reasons for divorce. A partner may be beating the other or harassing him or her emotionally. Some spouses are control freaks and just refuse to allow any freedom to the other. They make life of every family member hell. Yet others take total control of family finances and starve everyone of money. Then there is infidelity. An extra-marital affair is a serious breach of faith and few marriages recover from it.
Regardless of the reason due to which a family splits and the partners go their own separate ways, the result is the same - the spouses separate permanently, are unburdened of any obligation or responsibility toward each other and become free to remarry. Divorce has a measure of finality attached to it. Once the partners are divorced, the decision just cannot be reversed and their marriage restored. Many couples come to grief later and regret their move as the consequences of divorce slowly sink in.
Divorce is often impulsive. When the relationship starts going downhill, it generates a lot of ill will and bad blood between the partners. There are frequent quarrels, sarcastic comments or a cold war lasting days where they do not speak to each other. After sometime, things become too much and it is impossible to stay together in such a tense and stress-full atmosphere.
In anger or desperation, a partner announces he or she intends filing for divorce to break free and start a fresh chapter in life. Later when heads cool down a little and the emotional and financial consequences of divorce begin to bite, then many people want to reverse their decisions, but by then, of course, it is too late.
For such situations, trial separations provide an ideal alternative. In this, the partners enter into an agreement to stay separately for a fixed period of time (say, six or ten months). They live exactly as they would after divorce. This has many benefits, the main one being that it allows the spouse itching for divorce to experience what post-divorce lifestyle would look like and the emotions that would rise to the fore.
The other advantage of trial separation is that, unlike divorce, it can be reversed and the partners can go back to their old married life. Trial separation provides a divorced lifestyle without the divorce. After the period of trial separation is over, you have the option of undergoing counselling and reconcile, or to proceed with the divorce.
Trial separation is of two types - informal or formal. In the former, both of you come to a working arrangement yourselves about various issues that have to be settled. Who will move out of the house? Who will take the car? Who will have access to bank accounts? Who will use the credit cards? With whom will the children stay? It is common in these cases for men to move out of the house and live somewhere else, particularly if there are children involved.
In rare instances, the partners enter into a proper legal contract before embarking on trial separation. However, since this agreement is thorough and written with the help of a high-street solicitor, it comes out to be as expensive as an actual divorce. Going for divorce after a formal trial separation costs double the money. Not only you have to shell out a large chunk of money in getting the formal separation-contract made, you have to do the same expense again to get divorce papers drafted. As expected, formal trial separations are much less popular. Most people come up with a working arrangement on their own.
Increasingly, trial separations are being used by marriage counsellors as a therapy to mend the marriage and get the partners back together after some months of separation. When the spouses live separately, they are able to come up with better solutions, put things in perspective and reconcile their differences because they are freed temporarily from the strain of living together.
Looking at their marriage and the other partner from a distance, coupled with professional counselling, clears their head and gives them a chance to investigate their own behaviour with a critical eye. Trial separations thus make it easier for the couples to solve their marital problems and return with a fresh mind to the relationship.
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