When the love dies in a relationship or you find that you and your spouse are no longer compatible, divorce is often the most practical option. And if it were just you and your soon-to-be-ex, it probably wouldn’t be a problem. Separating after a few years is perfectly normal for modern couples, but everything gets more complicated when there are children involved. Many parents who want to separate are torn between their lack of desire to live together anymore and their shared concern for the emotional well-being of their children.

There Are Options

Everyone knows divorce can be very hard on children, but also that a troubled marriage between parents can be even worse. It can be difficult for parents to know the right course of action when seeking what is best for both them and the kids. Realistically, you have four options: Unofficial separation, legal separation, divorce, or sticking it out until the kids are older. Let’s take a detailed look at each option to help you determine the best course of action for your family.

Unofficial Separation

Unofficial separation is the first step for a great many divorces. This occurs when one parent moves out of the family home, into a separate room, or an apartment over the garage. The couple do not share a bed, but they still share finances and assets. This is a good place to start any kind of legal end of the marriage but should not be a long-term arrangement.

Extended unofficial separation leads to complications. You will still be financially and legally entangled with your still-spouse and relationship ambiguity can confuse your children.

Legal Separation

When someone says they’re “Separated” they could mean that dad just moved into an apartment or they could mean that they have gone through the process to split the household without ending the marriage. Legal separation is something you file for like a divorce and comes with most of the same bells and whistles. Split assets, child custody, and child support are the major features of legal separation while still allowing you the tax, financial, and healthcare benefits of being married.

Many couples choose legal separation for religious or financial reasons instead of divorce. This arrangement is a divorce for all lifestyle purposes. It allows you to split your households and be direct with your children about the marriage.


Approximately half of all modern couples who marry get divorced. If you aren’t going to live together anymore and won’t be reconcilling, divorce is the most practical option. It officially releases you from your marriage and allows you to split your assets as fairly as possible.

Divorce also frees you up to legally marry someone else and removes any confusion about your availability to other singles. For more information see our article “Everything You Need to Know About Divorce In Michigan“.

Staying Together for the Kids

Many parents read the statistics on how divorce affects childhood emotional development. There are fewer stats available for the effects of parents who ‘stay together’ for the kids. In reality, this can lead to far more complications than simply making a clean break with divorce. Children are not oblivious and they will be able to pick up that there is something emotionally wrong. Staying together can confuse them or, worse, give them the impression that all marriages are loveless. And if one of you finds someone new? Then it’s a damaging affair instead of healthy moving forward.

Honesty is the Best Policy

If you are friendly enough with your soon-to-be-ex to consider living together, put that energy into a healthy divorce. Explain to your children that you and your spouse are separate people. Remind them you will both always love and support the children. But be clear that everyone will be happier when the two of you can seek happiness separately.

This is also true if you have reasons to legally separate instead of divorce. Your children should have a solid grasp of reality and be eager for both parent’s happiness. They will be healthier, happier children themselves.