Mediation for Separation

Are you considering separation? If so, it may be helpful to decide on the terms. Generally, there are two types of separation—informal and formal. Whether informal or formal, a separation can be physical, financial, or both.


In an informal separation or trial separation, couples can use a mediator to agree to terms, including finances, custody, support, and other arrangements, without signing any legal documents. The agreements can be oral or written. Most mediation couples will incorporate oral agreements into the process, and these agreements are helpful but are only legally enforceable if signed by both partners.


In a formal separation, a couple can use a mediator to agree to terms, including finances, custody, support, and other arrangements, by drafting and signing a legal document. Many couples stay formally separated for many years. The individuals will lead separate lives financially and physically and may even enter into relationships with other partners. Couples will not be permitted to remarry without a divorce decree. There are many reasons couples agree to stay formally separated, most often, it is for religious, financial, or health insurance purposes.


Separations are different from a marriage sabbatical, although mediation can be helpful in this case. A marriage sabbatical usually involves a spouse taking time from day-to-day obligations to explore professional growth, education, and creative or spiritual retreats. Author Cheryl Jarvis suggests in her book The Marriage Sabbatical: The Journey That Brings You Home, that a marriage sabbatical may involve short or long-term travel, including opportunities to obtain a degree, write a book, or travel on a mission trip. Mediation is a tool that can help couples navigate terms around expectations and responsibilities when one partner wishes to take a marriage sabbatical.


Separations or marriage sabbaticals tend to work best if the couple can establish basic ground rules, such as agreeing to work on their issues with a therapist, mediator, or clergy member. One of the very first decisions couples will make in mediation is to decide how long the separation will last. The terms can be temporary or long-term, and when the separation time period expires, the couple can explore more options, including reconciliation, pursuing a legal divorce, or returning to mediation.


Stop and think before you make a life-changing decision. Ask yourself, what options are best for my family? The separation terms should be mutual and negotiated, and when using a mediator, you and your spouse have an equal say in the outcome and terms of your separation. Consider scheduling a mediation consultation BEFORE separating physically or financially. The mediation process can offer a gentle process to help each of you smoothly transition into separation.


Finding an experienced, professional mediator can help you and your family move forward in a peaceful, affordable, and respectful manner. If you would like more information about whether mediation would be right for you, please schedule a consultation:

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.