Deciding to separate from your spouse is never easy. In fact, it is so unpleasant that most people give the idea months of thought before ever addressing the issue with their husband or wife. But proceed carefully. Keep in mind that you can do things during your separation that may come back to haunt you in the future. Here are some ideas about what to avoid when considering a break from your spouse.
Divorce is the dissolution of a marriage, and finalizing a divorce requires a final order issued by a family court judge. Conversely, marriage separations can be either legal or informal.
In a typical informal separation, a couple physically separates with no court intervention. The terms of their break do not exist in writing. Conversely, if a couple chooses to legally separate, the process actually looks a lot like a divorce. Sometimes, the only difference is that the couple is still legally married at the end of the separation. The positive aspects of a legal separation are that the couple must discuss how they wish to pay bills, child expenses, handle child custody arrangements, and more. They must agree on how they will proceed throughout the separation and write those terms out in a separation agreement. This act of agreeing on terms and writing them out can avoid many potential pitfalls down the road.
What to Avoid When Considering a Separation
Do Not Publicize Your Separation
In the age of social media, you may be tempted to post how you are feeling about your separation on Facebook, Instagram, and the like. This is never, ever a good idea. Once you publicize your separation, you open yourself up to a barrage of opinions, suggestions, and horror stories from friends and acquaintances that will not help you or your family. Everyone has an opinion nowadays, and you will be better off not subjecting yourself to most of them. Obviously, you will tell close family and friends about what you are going through. But do your entire family a favor and don’t broadcast it until you’ve made a final decision about your marriage.
And if that is not enough of a reason, think about this. Every word or photo you post regarding your marriage, spouse, and separation becomes evidence if you ultimately decide to divorce. A divorce is a court proceeding, and in court, the evidence speaks louder than anything else. If you spout off on social media about your spouse, your marriage, or some new person you’ve begun dating—it can all come back to hurt you in court. Photos of you and the guy you’ve been dating can contradict your explanations about how hard you worked to make your marriage a success. And if your kids met him, you can be sure your spouse will use that to make you look as bad as possible in the judge’s eyes. There is an infinite number of ways that advertising your split can harm you going forward. So keep it to yourself, and keep it off social media.
Never Rush into a New Relationship
Separation is supposed to be a time when both partners reflect on what they want going forward. It is a time to step back and try to gain some clarity on your marriage. It is also time to heal. Jumping into another relationship can muddy up the waters. It can steal the clarity you seek and can cause even more pain and strife between you and your spouse. So take this time to breathe. There will be plenty of time for dating later.
Don’t Put Off Reworking Your Finances
When you separate from your spouse, both of you are “trying on” a new life. This usually involves splitting a unified household into two separate units, which inevitably costs more to maintain. And should you divorce, that costs even more money. So it is best to begin preparing now. Gather all your financial documents and records together so that you can go through them meticulously searching for areas where you can shave off expenses. And after a close examination of necessary expenses, you and your spouse should work together to come up with a plan for paying for two households.
But it is best not to tie yourself down to a plan without speaking to an attorney first. It’s great to be kind, but you should be careful about setting up an expectation that you are willing and able to cover all your spouse’s expenses. If you set that expectation up during your separation, you may find it difficult to later argue that you can’t afford alimony, etc.
Don’t Ever Bad Mouth Your Spouse in Front of Your Kids
No matter what is going on in your life, parents should always put the needs of their children first. This includes when parents are dealing with separation and divorce. You and your spouse should work together to come up with a routine for sharing time with your kids during your separation. Your goal should be to upend the kids’ lives as little as possible.
And watch what you say at all times. It is never a good idea to vent your frustrations with your spouse in front of your kids. First of all, it is just bad form. You should never use your children as weapons or pawns in your relationship with your spouse. The separation is hard enough for kids to deal with. Don’t make it worse by unloading adult grievances onto your unsuspecting children. If you do, you can be sure that your spouse will bring it up during the divorce. And you can be sure that those comments will make you look bad to any judge and may even result in losing time with your kids going forward.
We Can Help
The experienced attorneys at Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S., have decades of experience in Washington family legal matters. If you feel that it is time for a separation from your spouse, the most critical thing you can do is speak with an experienced lawyer. We can help you navigate the often perplexing area of domestic relations, and we will look out for your best interests every step of the way. So call us directly or contact us online today for an initial consultation.