If you are thinking of separating from your partner, you should think carefully and decide on the type of separation you want. This is because the law recognizes various forms of marital separation, and they each will have unique consequences for you. Here are the three major forms of marital separation:
A trial separation is when you and your partner agree to spend some time apart. It is mostly used by couples who are thinking of divorcing but haven't made up their minds. The separation period acts as a trial phase where you get to reexamine your life and decide whether to resume marriage or divorce. The government considers you still legally married even if you are physically apart during the trial separation. In fact, the assets you may acquire during this period are considered joint/marital assets even if you end up getting divorced. Although you don't need to make a court filing for a trial separation, there are issues you need to work out (such as child custody) between yourselves, so it's best to make a separation agreement first. Ask a divorce lawyer for advice on drawing up an agreement.
A permanent separation is when you and your partner decide that your marriage is over, decide to go your separate ways, but don't file for a divorce. The legal ramifications of a permanent separation vary by state. For example, in some places, assets and debts acquired during permanent separation are treated as separate things, and each of you will be responsible for the debts and assets you acquire during the permanent separation period. As you can see, a permanent separation is a chaotic type of separation because the legal repercussions are serious, but there is no legal filing involved, which would have offered some protection. Thus, you should be cautious before opting for a permanent separation.
The third type of separation is that of legal separation, which as the name suggests, takes place after a relevant court filing. A trial separation is somewhat halfway between a divorce and marriage. This is because you aren't considered divorced (which means you are not free to remarry) if you are legally separated; at the same time, you aren't considered married. However, legal separation involves most of the processes usually taken in a divorce, such as child custody and spousal support. This is what you should consider, for example, if you don't want to divorce because one of you depends on the other's health insurance plan, but your marriage has broken down irrevocably.