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Legal Separation: How Does It Work?

Aug 18 2022 | Family Law

by Theresa Wright

by Theresa Wright

Head of Family Law

In this article

What are the differences between legal separation and divorce?

Legal separation and divorce differ in a number of ways. In most cases, it would be better for a couple to file for divorce. However, it is not always possible or the most feasible option at the time.

Listed below are the main differences between the two processes:

  1. Separation does not formally end a marriage in the same way that divorce does. The separation will only allow the spouses to live apart without actually ending the marriage. Divorce, on the other hand, will completely end the marriage.
  2. The marriage must have lasted at least a year to be eligible for divorce. There is no time restriction in place for when you can apply for separation.
  3. The divorce process is slightly more complicated. You’ll need to submit both a Conditional Order and Final Order when applying for a divorce. The route for legal separation only requires a single application to be submitted.
  4. During a divorce, the court can split a pension, whilst you cannot obtain a pension sharing order through separation. This is probably one of the biggest differences aside from the ending of the marriage.

Why would I choose legal separation?

There are several reasons why a legal separation may be the optimal route for ‘ending’ a marriage. For example, it could be because:

  • Your marriage has lasted less than a year.
  • There are religious reasons stopping you from applying for divorce (e.g. certain branches of the Catholic Church forbid divorce.)
  • You may not want the marriage to formally end but you wish to temporarily separate from your partner. This might include wanting a temporary break from your partner to see if the magic of your marriage is still ‘alive.’
  • You may wish to delay a divorce for your children until they are grown up.

As each situation is unique, it may be worth weighing up which route for you and your spouse to take when looking to end your marriage.

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