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By Natasha Burton

Ending a marriage is one of the most difficult decisions you can make. But sometimes, taking the in-between step of separation before a full-on split could be the right move for you and your family. Here, real women and divorce experts share which questions to ask yourself before you call it quits for good.

1. Do you and your spouse both want out?

When one person wants a divorce, and the other wants to work on things, a separation could be a good option, says Jacqueline Newman, a partner at a law firm in New York City specializing in divorce. It gives the reluctant party time to adjust to no longer being married, which may smooth the in-court process. It goes more quickly and amicably when both parties are ready to divorce.

2. Do you know why you want out?

If you aren’t completely sure, consider separation, advises Cari Andreani from Jacksonville, FL. She separated from her husband after three years of marriage and is grateful she took the time to identify why she thought splitting was the best option before going through with it. “We were young and thought, ‘I don’t have to put up with this. I can find someone else who’s better,'” she says. “But many of the things we thought made us incompatible seemed petty in hindsight.”

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