Separation may be the start of the divorce process in Maine — or a trial period that serves for reflection and to remind a couple that they belong together and should try to make it work.
When the separation process begins, therefore, it’s generally best not to make too many life-changing decisions and to see what happens in the coming weeks and months.
Many couples make some common mistakes during separation that make things more difficult for themselves and their children in the long run. Here are the main pitfalls to avoid during a separation period in Maine.
Being unduly influenced by others
Every relationship is different. What works for some people may work for you but may not. It’s natural to seek the advice and support of close friends and family but don’t let others influence your decisions too much.
Family and friends will almost always see things from your perspective and “side” with you. This may be well-intentioned but a more balanced view may be more helpful.
Keeping things more private (at least at first) may be the best course of action — however difficult that may be emotionally. Posting on social media is especially inadvisable as this can inflame emotions and make the situation more adversarial than it should be.
Feeling like you can’t move out
This is a difficult one. Some people might tell you that moving out is always a mistake and that you should stay put in the marital home to protect your rights. However, if you’re experiencing emotional stress because of your relationship, it’s not healthy to remain in the same house as your spouse or partner.
Indeed, if your children’s safety (or yours) is jeopardized by remaining in the home, leaving may become a priority.
On the other hand, for partners who remain on relatively amicable terms, it may make more financial sense to remain in the same house together but live “separately”. Decisions can become complicated if you have dependent children and, generally, choices should be made in their best interests.
Note that under Maine law, a minimum 60-day waiting period applies between filing divorce paperwork and the final hearing. This provides time for reflection but unlike in some states, there is no mandatory separation period (usually 6-24 months) for a no-fault divorce filed on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences”. So, it is not necessary to “prove” that you have been separated before such a divorce can be granted.
Therefore, the decision to move out in Maine should be based solely on whether it will be beneficial for the parties involved (including you) rather than to satisfy any state laws.
If you are concerned about your legal rights being affected by moving out of the marital home, you may be able to prepare an interim separation agreement with your spouse — with your lawyer’s help.
This document can detail the terms of the trial separation and include financial matters such as who is responsible for paying expenses/living costs, child support and spousal support, as well as an interim parenting schedule. If all is in order with this agreement, it may end up forming an integral part of the final divorce agreement.
Discuss your situation with a family attorney so that you understand your legal rights, obligations and options.
Making rash decisions
A separation involves many decisions, some of which are difficult to make and which affect individuals emotionally, mentally, legally and financially. It’s important not to rush these decisions or do anything that comes back to “bite” you later.
Discussions with a seasoned divorce lawyer can help you understand the implications of decisions before you make them. This can also help you remove emotions from the decision-making process and consider the best interests of your children and you.
If you’ve decided to separate with a view to getting a divorce, how can you maintain an amicable relationship that will avoid an ugly, drawn-out and expensive process?
What are the main issues that you will need to sort out before you file papers?
Such important questions deserve careful consideration so that you make the best decisions possible as you and your spouse go your separate ways — even more so if you have children.
If you want to get back together, you’ll need to calmly decide what needs to change in the relationship so that you can patch up differences and prepare to live together again.
Attempting to “punish” your partner
Sometimes, couples separate under a cloud of bitterness and recriminations. One of the partners accuses the other of seeing someone else, financial impropriety, being abusive or another transgression.
It’s easy for these types of separations to spiral downwards into an adversarial process and a long, costly divorce process. The separation process may even be seen as a way to “get back at” or punish their partner for wrongful actions during the marriage. This is a mistake.
Separation should be used strategically to deal with feelings of anger or revenge — not to act on them. If you can’t forgive your partner, how can you work things out to either live together again or go your separate ways?
Trying to blame and punish your partner will complicate matters and rarely works out well for anyone.
In fact, a lack of cooperation and an adversarial divorce can end up harming both spouses — and, more importantly, the children. Better results generally come from remaining positive, amicable and cooperative as you try to work out your futures with or without each other.
Not considering alternative dispute resolution methods
Some couples separate, discover that life apart is better for them and decide to get a divorce — but don’t agree on the terms of separation.
In these cases, the best answer is often negotiation between lawyers or mediation— rather than litigation.
Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process facilitated by a trained professional. It is non-adversarial and private, while also leaving decision-making with the spouses rather than a judge.
Most divorces in Maine avoid a trial because there are many opportunities for mediation to be used to resolve disputes. The record of mediation is very good in helping couples resolve differences and is recommended by the State of Maine Judicial Branch.
The mediation option is normally best for separating partners who cannot agree on terms but are on talking terms and are prepared to work together for a resolution that avoids litigation.
Do you need help during a separation in Maine?
Separation may or may not end in divorce but understanding some of the pitfalls that affect separating couples should help you use the period wisely and avoid common issues.
If you need assistance during separation in Maine, speak to an experienced family law attorney at The Maine Divorce Group during an initial consultation.