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        • Socials:

        • We also speak:

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          • Hindi
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A Guide to Trial Separation

Published on November 24, 2023

    Lauren Spence Family Lawyer Sydney

    About the Author

    Lauren Spence

    Lauren started legal work at a start-up law firm where she gained first-hand assisting with litigated family and criminal law matters. This included research tasks, appearing in the Local Court, and compiling evidence for a Family Court appeal.

    Lauren started legal work at a start-up law firm where she gained first-hand assisting with litigate... Read More

    Lauren Spence Family Lawyer Sydney

    Lauren Spence

    Lauren is a passionate family lawyer who genuinely appreciates the emotional difficulty that comes with divorce and separation. Since her admission as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of NSW, Lauren has practiced almost exclusively in the area of divorce and family law.

    Key Takeaways

    • A trial separation is a temporary break in a marriage to objectively assess the relationship.
    • It requires clear boundaries, communication and regular assessment, as well as legal advice for potential property settlement and child custody issues.
    • Tips from our divorce lawyers Sydney for a successful trial separation include seeking financial/legal advice if you’re unsure about how to handle assets, property and parenting during this time, maintaining productive communication and establishing timeline expectations.

    When the going gets tough in a marriage, trial separation can be a saving grace. It offers a much-needed breather, allowing couples the chance to assess their relationship and make informed decisions about its future.

    In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the ins and outs of trial separation, from its legal implications to the benefits and challenges it presents.

    What is a trial separation?

    Trial separations provide a temporary break in a relationship while couples remain legally married or still in a de facto relationship. This break allows them to evaluate their concerns and issues without the same everyday pressure they may be experiencing.

    Living apart or even in the same house, spouses follow mutually agreed-upon trial separation rules to create a structured environment for reflection. A separation agreement is pivotal in eliminating ambiguity and promoting adherence to the terms from both parties.

    The intent of a trial separation is to objectively evaluate any issues or concerns in the marriage without definitively concluding the relationship.

    This may be done with the guidance of family law professionals, like our family lawyers Sydney, to help in areas of understanding the ramifications of a separation. The effect of a trial separation on a marriage or relationship may be beneficial or detrimental, depending on the circumstances of the couple and whether they are on the same page.

    How does a trial separation work?

    A successful trial separation requires clear boundaries, effective communication, and regular assessment of the relationship’s progress. Establishing ground rules during a trial separation ensures each party is on the same page. Another important aspect is a time frame – this is because it offers the non-initiating spouse a sense of assurance that the separation will not be an indefinite situation, while also holding the initiating spouse responsible.

    Effective communication, where the focus is on issue resolution, is a key component of a successful trial separation. Spouses may facilitate a successful trial separation by drafting a written separation agreement that not only provides the timeline and regulations of the trial separation but also the rationale for the separation and how the spouses are meant to communicate during this time.

    While not compulsory, engaging with a family lawyer can streamline the process of deciding how to live apart for a while. This helps couples to come to an agreement on the particulars beforehand as the separation process can involve a lot of matters that many do not realise. This can then help in making the separation process more efficient if the trial separation results in a breakup.

    Legal implications of a trial separation

    It’s important to note that a trial separation does not require any formal legal process and does not alter marital status. If you were going through a legal separation or divorce, you would be required to divide your property, create well defined parenting arrangements and child custody agreements, and address financial matters like spousal and child support.

    While there is no formal or legal trial separation process, a separation agreement is necessary during a trial separation to determine the following:

    • financial obligations
    • child custody/parenting arrangements (if children are involved)
    • the physical possession of certain assets, such as who is responsible for payments on the current residence.

    Consulting a family law attorney during a trial separation is advisable if you have queries regarding the appropriateness of a trial separation or the potential consequences of a divorce proceeding. However, another important note is that a trial separation doesn’t directly influence divorce proceedings.

    Property settlement during trial separation

    As we touched on earlier, as part of a trial separation, the division of property, including assets and liabilities, should be addressed. The legal nuances of dividing property during a trial separation will be unique to your circumstances as this could be dependent on various factors, like contributions and responsibilities. It could impact other matters like parenting.

    Talking to a family lawyer about how to handle property during a trial separation is important. In some instances, you may not need to make many changes to how you’re currently living your lives.

    If you decide to end your relationship after your trial separation, you may need to readdress any initial property settlement and asset conversations you’ve had before finalising any arrangements.

    trial separation

    Child custody during trial separation

    Child custody arrangements during a trial separation are focused on establishing a temporary parenting plan and ensuring stability for the children. A provisional parenting arrangement should be suggested, providing a feeling of security, safety, and stability for children during the transition.

    When constructing a temporary parenting plan during a trial separation, the following elements should be taken into account:

    • Custody arrangements
    • Communication
    • Financial considerations
    • Stability and routine
    • Flexibility
    • Obtaining legal counsel

    This helps to address the needs of the children and maintain a sense of normalcy in their lives. As a trial separation will have an impact on any children you have, it’s important to ensure that decisions are made in their best interests and with as little disruption to their lives as possible.

    Tips for a successful trial separation

    It’s beneficial to seek legal and financial advice during a trial separation to prevent potential emotional and financial pitfalls. Legal counsel can help establish ground rules, identify legal matters, and approach your separation and possible divorce with assurance and guidance.

    Another important way you can ensure your trial separation is successful, is by maintaining productive communication. This allows a couple to:

    • Concentrate on problem-solving and discovering resolutions
    • Facilitate the preservation of respectful, candid, and open communication
    • Result in progress and the possibility of reconciliation.

    Finally, establishing a timeline for the trial separation period is extremely important. This assists in creating structure for the trial separation process, keeping both parties accountable and focused on their goals. While a trial separation can be a helpful tool in dispute resolution and the maintenance of a relationship, if it is left open-ended or poorly planned, it can have negative consequences for all parties.

    Benefits of a trial separation

    A trial separation can pave the way for personal growth, allowing individuals to:

    • Indulge in introspection
    • Develop self-awareness
    • Address deep-seated issues
    • Enable increased self-discovery and reflection
    • Result in personal growth and development

    Heighten self-confidence

    Trial separation can potentially enhance communication within a relationship, affording both partners the opportunity to:

    • Contemplate their individual needs and aspirations
    • Have a break from the customary routine
    • Facilitate clearer communication
    • Gain a greater comprehension of each other’s perspectives.

    Being afforded the time to think about the relationship can make a world of difference for both spouses.

    What you’ll need for a trial separation

    Preparing for a smooth and organised trial separation requires:

    • a checklist
    • rules; and
    • a separation agreement


    A separation checklist helps in outlining the necessary steps and considerations to take during the trial separation period.


    Securing legal and financial advice before embarking on a trial separation is helpful in establishing ground rules, as well as identifying legal issues. With legal and financial advice understanding, navigating the process is likely to be more effective and you can mitigate potential issues.


    Your agreement should cover the rules you agree upon as well as the time frame of your trial separation. The agreement acts as a tool that both parties can use to ensure they understand the entire situation.

    Is trial separation in the same house possible?

    Trial separations are frequently conducted while living in the same home, particularly when there are minor children present or other logistical reasons, such as financial constraints. It is extremely important to contemplate the logistics of how everything will operate, such as:

    • securing legal and financial advice
    • discussing living arrangements
    • establishing boundaries and expectations
    • creating a parenting plan (if applicable)

    Before proposing a trial separation with a partner in the same residence, it’s important to consider whether you both want to remain sexually intimate during this period. This can be a crucial factor in determining the success of the trial separation and maintaining a healthy connection with your partner.

    For a successful trial separation within the same household, clarity in guidelines and boundaries, open and constructive communication, and timely legal advice are key. This helps both partners navigate the unique challenges of living under the same roof while separated.

    How long should a trial separation last?

    Establishing a duration for a trial separation is of great importance, as it allows for sufficient time to evaluate the relationship and make informed decisions, as well as ensures that the trial separation doesn’t run indefinitely. The average duration of a trial separation can vary, from a few months to a few years, depending on whether the couple reconciles or opts to conclude the relationship.

    Taking a break can be beneficial in determining the commitment of the couple and possibly preserving the relationship. However, there is no exact amount of time that a trial separation should last for, it’s different for everyone and your unique circumstances should be considered when creating a trial separation plan.

    Need legal advice for your trial separation?

    Understanding the necessity of legal expertise during a trial separation can help overcome potential hurdles and reach the most favourable resolution. A family lawyer can offer legal counsel and assist in the process of:

    • negotiations
    • establishing ground rules
    • identifying legal issues
    • providing legal advice
    • assisting in the division of assets and property
    • helping with child custody and parenting matters

    Consulting legal and financial professionals during a trial separation is highly recommended to navigate the financial implications and avoid costly mistakes. It is crucial to seek legal advice, ensuring that both parties are well-protected and well-informed throughout the trial separation process.

    Whether you’re considering a trial separation or you’re in the midst of a separation, you can discuss your situation with our experienced and empathetic family lawyers Australia here at Unified Lawyers. Our services are available Australia-wide.

    Call us today on 1300 667 461 or book a free consultation by using the button below.

    Lauren Spence Family Lawyer Sydney

    Lauren Spence

    Lauren is a passionate family lawyer who genuinely appreciates the emotional difficulty that comes with divorce and separation. Since her admission as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of NSW, Lauren has practiced almost exclusively in the area of divorce and family law.

    “All materials throughout this entire website has been prepared by Unified Lawyers for informational purposes only. All materials throughout this entire website are not legal advice and should not be interpreted as legal advice. We do not guarantee that any of the information on this website is current or correct.
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