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3 Divorce and Separation
What do I need for a legal separation?
If you separate for two years or more and both agree to the separation, this can be the basis for a future divorce.
The courts have only limited powers to make financial orders for separated couples (those who are not yet divorced). This generally means that you have to reach an agreement between yourselves about money. If you plan to divorce soon, you may only need to deal with maintenance.
If you think your separation will last a long time, you may need to sort out who will keep the house and other assets. You should get legal advice about these arrangements.
Can we make the terms of our separation legal?
A deed of separation can cover all the financial arrangements between you and your husband or wife. It can also deal with what you have agreed about the children, and any plans that you may have to divorce, or not divorce, in the future.
Do I need legal advice for a deed of separation?
If you divorce after making a deed of separation, you can both agree to keep to the terms of the financial settlement in the deed. If one or both of you want the court to make other financial orders, the court has the power to do this, even if you have a deed. However, if you were both given proper advice by solicitors when the deed was drawn up, and you were both honest about your financial position, the courts will be reluctant to change the original arrangements. They may only be able to do this if circumstances have changed in a way that makes the terms of the deed unfair.
Is there any other alternative to divorce?
The main difference is that, at the end of the proceedings, you cannot remarry. But you no longer have any legal duty to live together and the court can make all the financial orders it would make in divorce proceedings.
Judicial separation is not be a stepping stone to divorce - they are different things, and you cannot convert a judicial separation into a divorce. Divorcing later will simply increase your legal costs.
What if we can't agree on financial matters when we separate?
This leaflet is published by the Legal Services Commission (LSC). It was written in association with Imogen Clout, a solicitor specialising in family law.
Leaflet version: May 2019
CLS Legal Info Leaflets
(Legal Information Leaflets)