Married Couple Arguing

If divorce isn’t the right option for you, you may want to consider legally separating from your partner instead. Understandably, this isn’t an easy step to take. With that in mind, we’ve gathered everything you need to know about legal separation.

How Is Legal Separation Different From Divorce?

Divorce permanently ends the marital relationship, while a legal separation leaves the marriage intact.

Legal separation is not to be confused with physical separation, which often occurs in the early stages of divorce, when one partner moves out of the marital home. Legal separation is a formal way to separate that is recognised by the courts. It allows you to negotiate the division of your assets and liabilities. You can also establish a parenting plan and have the option to change your name.

What Benefits Does Legal Separation Provide?

When you decide to legally separate you will be negotiating for the same things as during a divorce process, so you will still incur legal fees.

However, legal separation may help you overcome certain obstacles with your spouse to help transform your relationship into one you’re both comfortable with.

If divorce seems too final for you, legal separation is a good alternative. Let’s not forget that some individuals cannot apply for divorce on religious grounds. Faith can prevent people from asking for a divorce and so they sometimes file for legal separation instead.

Others may use legal separation as an interim step towards divorce. This gives you the time and space to consider if your marriage is worth fighting for, rather than jumping in at the deep end and going straight for a divorce.

You may also find it emotionally easier to agree to legal separation with the intention of divorcing fully in the future. As we know, each couple is unique, so it’s all about finding the best solution for you. It’s worth weighing up the options and identifying which one provides you with the best benefits.

How Can I Legally Separate From My Spouse?

To gain a legal separation, you first need to fill in a judicial separation petition, known as form D8, and send it to the court. This allows you to live separately without divorcing or ending your civil partnership.

Next you need to send two copies of the petition to the court dealing with your case. It’s always advisable to keep copies for your own records too. You also need to include a certified copy of your marriage or civil partnership certificate with the petition.

As of May 2016, the current cost of a legal separation is £365, but this can be subject to change.

Grounds For Legal Separation

You can ask for a legal separation for the same reasons you could file for a divorce. The grounds for legal separation include:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Money

You may decide that legal separation is right for you if:

  • You have religious reasons against divorce
  • You’ve been married less than a year
  • You want time and space to work out if you want to end the marriage

Will This Affect My Tax Status?

A legal separation can affect your tax status. If there is no option for “separated” when you’re deciding if you should file your tax return as “married” or “single” then it’s best to discuss this with a tax professional.

Your tax status is unique to you and your current situation, so if your personal details change you need to inform HM Revenue & Customs

If you have questions about how a legal separation will affect your tax status, you should contact an accountant, legal expert or other tax professional for advice.

What Impact Does This Have On My Parental Rights?

When you separate from your partner, it’s important to be in the know about your rights and responsibilities regarding your children. If you have parental responsibility, you are entitled to have a say in your child’s upbringing even if they don’t live with you anymore.

The general day-to-day decisions will remain with the parent that the child resides with. But other factors like religion, education, medical treatment and so on should be made by both parents.

We’ve got a whole host of posts to get you up to speed with fathers’ rights. Take a look at “What rights do fathers have during child custody?” and “How to establish paternity.”

Parental responsibility also means that you have a duty to support your child financially. You are legally obliged to do so.

You can set up regular payment through the Child Maintenance Service. Read our post on Child Support to find out more about the process.

Further Divorce Resources

Deciding to end a marriage is rarely an easy decision. Legal separation could provide a way to do so in a way that works for you.

If you’re trying to decide whether divorce is right for you, get in touch with Cordell & Cordell today for trusted advice.

Take a look at Cordell & Cordell’s other useful divorce resources, including “Divorce In The UK: Stats and Facts” and “A History of Men’s Divorce.”