Judicial or Legal Separation

In some cases divorce might not be your preferred option.

It may be that for religious or cultural reasons that you would like to stay married, but you can also be officially recognised in law as separated from your spouse.

A Judicial Separation allows a couple to no longer be officially recorded as a couple, without legally ending their marriage.

When a Judicial Separation is granted the following happens:

  • You won’t have to live together
  • Any Will that names your spouse as beneficiary is no longer valid (you can choose to make your spouse a beneficiary after your separation)
  • The court is given powers to divide financial assets as it sees fair, in the same way it would during a divorce

Making a will

A court still has power to divide your finances (except any pensions).

Unlike divorce, a Judicial Separation does not end your marriage. Instead, the courts issue a Decree of Judicial Separation.

To divorce in the UK and Wales, you will need to have been married for a year. A Judicial Separation can be issued in the first year of marriage. You can still choose to divorce after the first year is up.

A Judicial Separation does not guarantee divorce. You will still need to go through the divorce process as normal and prove your marriage or partnership has irretrievably broken down.

How Judicial Separation Differs from Divorce

Unlike divorce or civil partnership, you do not have to show a court that your marriage or relationship has irretrievably broken down.

But you will need to show the grounds on which you want the separation. These are the same as those for divorce.

  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Adultery (except in the case of a civil marriage or partnership)
  • Desertion
  • 2 years separation (with consent)
  • 5 years’ separation (without consent)

To grant a divorce, a court will issue two decrees. These are Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute.

For a Judicial Separation a court will only need to grant a Decree of Judicial Separation.

A divorce also allows you to remarry. A Judicial Separation doesn’t. This is because legally you are still married.

And in a divorce, the courts have the power to split pensions. It is not the same for a legal separation.

The court fee for a Judicial Separation is £365

How Long Does a Judicial Separation Take?

A straight forward, uncontested judicial separation will usually take between four and six months.

However, you and your spouse or partner will need to resolve other issues, which can delay things.

As with divorce, this might include:

  • What happens to your property
  • Child arrangements including maintenance and contact
  • The payments of bills or debts
  • How your joint assets are divided

If the respondent doesn’t agree to the separation, or doesn’t respond to the petition, the separation becomes ‘contested’.

In this case our solicitors can help you choose the right course of action.

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