The Separation Agreement
If you’re thinking about a marital separation or are going through one – learn how a Separation Agreement can increase your chances for a successful outcome.
(Not the legal kind!)
I so often hear from couples in unhappy marriages, “We tried a separation but nothing changed.” Partners say that time away from one another helped for awhile but when they got back together they went back to the same old behaviors that caused them to argue and separate in the first place. There is often some magical thinking that if we just stay apart for awhile, “my partner will change” or “things will be better when we get back together”. When time apart does not result in change, then at least one partner, if not both, become more discouraged and start thinking about divorce or a permanent parting.
NOT making a separation agreement can be a BIG mistake! Why?
A few of the benefits of a Separation Agreement:
- Decreases the amount of conflict between partners
- States why you are separating and whether you will be working on your relationship during the separation period, making expectations on both parts clear.
- Sets a time frame.
- Outlines each partner’s responsibilities
- Defines the type of separation and who will leave the home if it is an out of the home trial separation
- Goals can be set and clearly stated.
- Family does not “fall apart” allowing for a sense of control by the parents and a feeling of reassurance for the children.
One type of separation does not fit all! What type do you have?
Pick from a menu of separation types which include: physical separations such as in-house, brief, trial (which is often out of the home); psychological and therapeutic separations (which is working with patterns of how you relate as a couple) and combinations of physical and psychological separations.
In-house separation – Jill will be sleeping in the spare bedroom;
Brief separation – Jim will be spending weekends at his family’s camp; Jill will plan on being out of the home every other weekend so Jim will be responsible for caring for the children.
Trial separation – Jim will be leaving the home and living with his brother. Both partners will be rotating in and out of the home weekly so the children will remain and live in the home.
Psychological/Therapeutic Separation Goals – Jim will be working on anger/conflict management; Jill will be working on managing her depression; As a couple, we will learn improved ways of managing anger, communicating and having more intimate contact in our relationship (therapeutic separation for the relationship.
Other necessary tasks you must consider in a separation agreement:
- Sharing and Caring for Children – How do we communicate about our children?
- Dealing with Finances
- Family responsibilities do not disappear when partners separate, especially if there are children involved. “Do we eat meals together or apart?”; “Do we go to school functions together?” “How do we deal with holidays and extended family functions?”
- Length of Separation – Weeks, months…a specified period of time including review time. ie. “We will separate for a three month period and then review progress on the goals and changes to the agreement of our separation at that time”.
Legal Involvement – The Separation Agreement I offer is not a legal document. You must each decide whether you will be contacting attorneys or do mediation during this time. If one partner is leaving the home for any reason for any length of time, I recommend you seek legal advice before doing do.
The most often asked question that one partner asks when thinking about a separation is: “Are we working on our relationship while we are separated?”
Expectations of Partners during separation period. How partners will or will not communicate with each other; work on themselves and/or the relationship; attend counseling together or separately; problem solve during conflicts, spend intimate time together, or not, etc..?
How will impasses be resolved? ie. counselor, mediator, lawyers, etc.
*For more information on how to structure separation agreements, examples of many other couples separations please refer to my book – Taking Space, or the Audio Course on How to Structure and Manage a Separation.