Structured Separation

Structured Separation

Not ready to divorce?  Want to do a “trial separation” so you can find yourself?

Some couples choose to separate without committing to getting divorced.  Their hope is that, during the separation period, they will have time to think about things and eventually come up with the answer: Do I want to stay married, or do I want to move on?

However, in most cases, the couple do not actively work on the marriage during the separation period.  They each simply live alone, maybe think about how to answer the big question, talk with one another every few days.  And time passes on.  Perhaps a year goes by, maybe two.  And still no answer.  Because they are not taking proactive steps to figure out the answer.

If the marriage is not to be, then you shouldn’t postpone your new life.  You want to find happiness in your life.  So, either work on revitalizing your marriage, or move on.  Letting a separation drag on and on is wasting your time and your emotional energy

Structured Separation is just that: a structured approach to the separation period.  In a single meeting, we create a plan and a set of agreements, taking proactive steps that will lead to the answer – the answer that says whether you can (and want to) make your marriage loving and happy again, or you want your life to lead elsewhere.

When we meet for this mediation, we first set time limit for the length of the separation, either 3 or 6 months.  That is plenty of time to figure out the answer to the big question.  And if you don’t have an answer at the end of the period, usually it is accepted that the answer is: We’re getting divorced.  Again, you’re either working on the marriage, or you’re not.  And if you’re not, then accept it and move on.

Then we set up a timeline of activities, how often you talk with one another, what you will talk about, how often you will see one another.  There are rules of behavior.  You will work with a couples counselor and maybe individual therapists.  No permanent actions are taken – assets are not exchanged, and agreements for sharing finances and parenting the kids are temporary.  And every two weeks you will send me a status report.

The Structured Separation mediation is handled usually in a single meeting of a couple of hours.  A contract is produced, which both of you will sign.  This is not a legally binding contract;  you cannot take it to court.  But, if either of you does not stick with the contract, then you are not working on winning back the marriage.  If you are not working on the marriage, what are you doing?  Swaying from the contract is tantamount to saying that you want a divorce.

If the two of you decide to stay married, then the Structured Separation is completed and my services are finished.  If, however, you decide to divorce, then we start over with a formal “divorce mediation” that is the topic of the rest of this website.

[Our fee for this service is $260 per hour, usually for just a couple of hours, and a one-time fee of $260 for monitoring your progress during the separation.]


Structured Separation vs. Divorce Mediation

Structured Separation:

  • Goal: to determine whether you want to remain married or move on.
  • Usually completed in one session of 2 or 3 hours.
  • All agreements are temporary.  There is a written contract, but it’s not legally binding.
  • If the the agreements are not adhered to, there rises the question: Are you truly working on preserving the marriage, or is this a message that you want to get divorced?
  • Nothing in this process requires you to get divorced.
  • If you want to get divorced, you start fresh with divorce mediation.

Divorce Mediation:

  • Goal: to agree on all of the terms of the divorce
  • Usually completed in 3 or 4 sessions of 3 hours each.
  • All agreements are in the form of a legally binding
  • Agreements are enforceable in court.
  • Nothing in this process requires you to get divorced.  However, that is the purpose of the mediation.  It is assumed that you will carry through with the steps leading to the
  • court proclamation of your divorce.  Until the divorce happens, or until you reconcile, the terms of your agreement remain in force.
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