It has been a rough week for Hollywood marriages. Both Courteney Cox and David Arquette and Christina Aguilera and Jordan Bratman announced that they were taking a trial separation from each other and their marriages. Neither couple stated whether their plans include divorce, but experts say a permanent split may be inevitable.

According to divorce lawyers, a trial separation is a mere stop on the road to an eventual divorce. Attorney Stuart Slotnick says that almost 100 percent of the couples who attempt a separation end up in divorce. "It's a baby step on in the direction of divorce that two partners take when they are not ready to make the decision, but are already on that path," he said.

Famous couples may embark on a trial separation as a strategic move, attorneys say, in an effort to de-sensationalize their breakup and make it appear less newsworthy. It also may be used as a way to buy time until couples get the details of their divorce figured out. "It means they have made a statement to no longer live with each other but have not actually consulted or chosen an attorney yet," said divorce attorney Laurence Greenberg.

Unlike a legal separation, a trial separation has no legal or financial consequences. Therefore, it can be a useful tool, and is occasionally recommended by marriage counselors. The couple can take the time apart to remember the feelings and events that drew them together, says attorney and family law specialist Steve Mindel. "It can allow them some time to concentrate on what is important in their relationship," he said.

So perhaps there is hope for the Cox-Arquettes and Aguilera-Bratmans, each of whom have one child. "If the parties are physically separated from each other but they are taking actions such as going to marriage counseling, or having a calendar or schedule of goals they want to reach together," said Greenberg, "then this type of non-traditional trial separation may work."

Source: New York Daily News, "Couples like Courteney Cox, David Arquette who try 'trial separations' are likely to end in divorce", Rosemary Black, 13 October 2010