Separation Contract

Couples who decide to separate have found it important to discuss the following issues. Separation may lead to strengthening a relationship or the first step in ending the relationship. In our experience it is difficult to predict, but working out a separation contract is helpful regardless of the outcome.

  1. DURATION OF SEPARATION.  (6 week minimum) The length of the separation period may be longer depending on the severity of the marital disruption, the specified objectives of the separation, financial considerations and client preference. At the end of the separation contract period, additional separation time may be renegotiated by the partners with the therapist.

  2. NO FINAL DECISION.  For the contract period the couple commits to no final decision to either divorce or remain married.

  3. THERAPY.  Each individual agrees to continue in therapy on a regular schedule during the separation period.


  5. SEXUAL CONTACT BETWEEN PARTNERS.  The couple should reach an agreement regarding whether or not the possibility exists that they have sex with one another. The contract should stipulate whether both are free to initiate sex or if initiation is restricted to one or the other .

  6. DATING.  While the couple may not agree with one another that dating is desirable, it is necessary to specify in the the contract what can be expected with regard to dating behavior. The couple may agree to not date specific persons and to avoid going to certain places on dates (favorite club or restaurant). These stipulations are to be made explicit in the contract.

  7. SEXUAL CONTACT WITH OTHERS.  The freedom to have sex with others or the restriction against such freedom is to be stated in the contract.

  8. PRIVACY.  Each partner is expected to honor his/her partner's privacy rights through committing to: 1) no drop-by visitations; 2) restricting telephone contact to the specified frequency and 3) not overseeing spouse activities.

  9. CONTACT WITH CHILDREN (OUT-OF-HOME PARENT).   The frequency of contact of the out-of-home parent is to have with the children should be made clear in the contract.

  10. FINANCIAL SUPPORT.  Financial support should be clear in the contract.

  11. RENEGOTIATIONS.  The spouses are asked to agree to participate in renegotiating the separation at the end of six weeks should there be an interest in sustaining the separation period. Furthermore, in the event either partner wishes to alter any part of the contract, they commit to discuss and renegotiate that term during therapy.

Adapted from Granvold, D. K. (1983). Structured separation for marital treatment and decision-making.
               Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 9, 403-412.