What is Legal Separation?

Legal Separation vs Divorce

Are you separating from your wife, husband or civil partner and need legal help?

If you are considering separating from your spouse or civil partner and you do not want to divorce, but you need the court's help and assistance to sort out finances, then you might want to consider legal separation, otherwise known as judicial separation.

How and Why Should We Legally Separate?

Family Law Solicitors - Legal Separation Help and Advice

Why consider legal separation?

People often consider legal separation because:

  • it lets you take time away so you can make up your mind as to whether you really want to end your marriage or civil partnership and get a divorce
  • your religious views conflict with the notion of divorce
  • you have only been married a short while and it is less than a year
  • you are unable to resolve financial matters whilst separated and you need the court to consider your financial situation and make financial orders including maintenance, property adjustment, transfer/assignment of assets etc

If you go down the route of having a separation decree or order drawn up then if you do decide in the end to get a divorce it can accelerate the process later.

How do I get a legal separation?

In England and Wales you need to apply to the court for a legal separation. For people who are married they will need to apply for a judicial separation whereas people who are in a civil partnership need a separation order.

You apply for these by sending to the court a 'separation petition' which is the same document that is presented if you are commencing divorce proceedings. In this document you will have to state that you are requesting a judicial separation/separation order and your reasons as to why you want to pursue a legal separation.

Three copies will be produced of the separation petition. One for you, one for the court and one for the court to send to your husband, wife or civil partner.

How much does it cost to legally separate?

A fee is payable to the court with the separation petition and currently at the time of writing it is £340. However if you are on a low income or benefits you may be able to get a reduction in the fee payable. More information can be found here on court fees here.

The court will not consider your financial situation unless you specifically apply, and this is called an application for Ancillary Relief. This is a separate application and incurs a further court fee of £240. Again, you may be able to get a reduction if you are on low income or benefits.

We must suggest you get legal advice before making your applications, to ensure you are aware of the effects of legal separation and financial orders, particularly in relation to inheritance and pensions.

While you are legally separated, you are not allowed to remarry or enter into a new civil partnership. This is because, in legal terms, you are still married or in a civil partnership.

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Emma Pearmaine - Director of Family Services - Leeds

Emma Pearmaine
Director of Family Services

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