In this article, we’ll explain what legal separation is and discuss the differences between legal separation and divorce.
Legal separation is a legal process very similar to divorce, but without the ending of the marriage. It is relatively rare.
It is important not to confuse legal separation with a separation agreement. Legal separation is the formal process of going through the courts to legally separate from your spouse. A separation agreement deals with how finances should be divided during the period of separation.
Legal separation enables a couple who have broken up to live apart, without divorcing. Many couples choose to do this informally, without seeking a legal separation from the courts.
A legal separation can be requested by filling in a judicial separation petition and submitting it to your nearest divorce centre.
The same reasons can be used as for divorce. The difference is that, unlike divorce, you do not need to show that your marriage has irretrievably broken down.
Legal separation does not bring a marriage to an end. Therefore, you will not be free to remarry.
Couples may choose legal separation over divorce for a number of reasons, such as:
• Religious beliefs mean they can’t get a divorce
• They’ve been married for less than one year (it’s necessary to be married for at least one year in England and Wales before getting a divorce)
• They want time to work out whether to get a divorce
Legal separation enables couples to spend time apart from each other to decide whether they want a divorce. Legal separation may, in some circumstances, result in reconciliation, with relief that a divorce was not sought earlier.
However, legal separation is not very common. For many couples who have separated and are considering whether or not to get a divorce, a separation agreement, which sets out financial and child arrangements during the separation, may be enough on its own, without the formal legal separation process.
Legal separation costs £365. If you decide to divorce in the future, you will still have to submit a divorce petition and pay the £550 court fee for this.
The key difference between legal separation and divorce, is that while divorce ends a marriage, legal separation does not.
When you legally separate, you will have a court order which details the rights and responsibilities of both you and your spouse.
A separation agreement addresses the same issues that are addressed during the divorce process (division of assets, child arrangements etc).
Whether you opt for legal separation, informal time apart from each other or a divorce, will very much depend on your circumstances.
As always, it’s best to seek independent legal advice before deciding whether a legal separation would be right for you.
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