How to Behave During a Legal Separation

Updated 05/14/19

Liliya Rodnikova/Stocksy

A legal separation gives you the space you need to solve marital problems, come to terms with your emotions, and start over, either in your marriage or alone. Like most things in life, how you behave during a legal separation will determine how successful you are in whatever your motives are for separating.

As with divorce, a legal separation is about ending one life and starting another, getting a new center of balance and making it work spiritually, emotionally, and practically. Whether your legal separation leads to divorce or reconciliation, you want to behave during the separation in a way that means getting the most out of whatever you are trying to do. In legal separation, your behavior will either work in your favor or work against it.

Being a Jerk

Don’t engage in behaviors that will be hurtful to your spouse or your children. For example, don’t defame your spouse by discussing personal issues with friends and family. Whatever the problems in your marriage are, it took the two of you to cause them.

Instead, use your separation as a time to reflect on your part in the marital problems and not as a time to point fingers and blame. If you have children and are living apart from them, put extra effort into seeing them regularly and considering their emotional needs. We all end up paying for behaviors that hurt others, so be careful because your bad behavior will come back at you.

Not Setting Boundaries With Your Spouse

Think about the legal and emotional ramifications of having sex with your spouse. If you live in a state that requires a legal separation for a certain period of time before you can file for divorce, having sex with your spouse can set you back legally. It will cause you to have to start the separation period over from the beginning. In addition, if you are still emotionally attached to your spouse, sex can give you false hope of reconciliation.

Engaging in New Relationships

A legal separation is not a divorce. It is not an opportunity to go out and become involved in a new relationship. It is the opportunity to heal, reflect on your part in the marital problems, and to learn how to live as a single parent if you have children. Before becoming involved in a new relationship, you should also consider what it will mean legally during divorce negotiations.

Be Civil With Your Spouse

Keep the lines of communication with your spouse open. If you are angry, deal with your anger in a way that will enable you to remain civil and respectful toward your spouse. Being able to communicate and treat each other with respect will mean less stress for you, your spouse, and your children.

Maintain a close bond with your children 

If you have children, set up a parenting plan that allows them time with each parent. A separation and divorce should disrupt your child’s life as little as possible. Talk to your child daily, remain involved in school and other activities, keep a regular visitation schedule, and make your children your main priority. If you are suffering emotionally, don’t allow it to bleed over into your relationship with your children.

Keep Your Promises 

You are legally and morally obligated to follow the separation agreement. Not doing so will mean ending up in court, and possibly alienating your children due to your bad behavior.

If you agree to help pay expenses of a child who is in the school band, but don’t follow through when the time comes, causing that child to have to drop out of band, don’t be surprised when your child becomes angry with you.

Follow through with any support obligations, visitation schedules, and other issues stated in your agreement. If you don’t, you will find yourself in a one-down position if you go to divorce court. A judge will not look kindly on someone who did not follow through with the stipulations set out in a legal separation agreement.

Related Stories