The Difference between Divorce and Legal Separation

Legal Separation


A legal separation allows you to live apart without divorcing or ending a civil partnership. You and your partner remain legally married while choosing to live separate lives apart. It’s worthwhile to remember that a legal separation is different to a Decree of Judicial Separation, which is arranged through a family court. A legal separation also protects your financial interests until you make a decision to file for divorce or not.

You can ask for a legal separation for the same reasons you could file for a divorce, for example:

  • your partner has had a sexual relationship with someone else, known as adultery
  • your husband or wife is behaving unreasonably unreasonable and as such they are now impossible to live with

One of the main differences between a legal separation and a divorce, is that you don’t need to show that the marriage has broken down irretrievably to get a separation.

Why you may want a legal separation

  • There are a range of reasons why you may want to separate, but not divorce. These could be:
  • you have religious reasons against divorce
  • you’ve been married less than a year
  • you want time and space to work out a problem
  • you want time to decide whether you want to end the marriage permanently
  • you want to keep medical benefits and certain other benefits that a divorce would bring to an end
  • you want to make arrangements for the children without a costly or long court battle or involve third parties

How to file for legal separation

It’s actually relatively easy to get a legal separation. You simply need to fill in a judicial separation petition form, governmental form D8. Then you send two copies of the petition to your nearest divorce court. Just remember to keep your own copy. You also need to include a copy of your marriage or civil partnership certificate when you send in the form. There is a cost for getting a legal separation and processing the forms, and that cost is £365.

Separation agreements

You should also have a separation agreement written up that addresses aspects such as shared assets, debts, arrangements for any children and visitation rights. A legal separation is an informal settlement agreement which both partners are morally bound to keep to. However there is no legal penalty for failing to follow all the terms that you set out.

This agreement also protects you and your partner’s interests until you decide to file for a divorce. A separation agreement can then be converted into a divorce settlement agreement. Just bear in mind that any decision by a judge in the case of a divorce will usually take this agreement into account. This is why a separation agreement should normally be written up by a solicitor.

After separating

  • If you’re moving out, make sure your name is removed from any rental leases. If your partner misses a rent payment, you won’t be held accountable.
  • Forward any mail to your new address to make sure you get all your mail.
  • Get your name removed from any accounts that you no longer want to be responsible for, such as bank accounts or utilities.
  • Have your name removed from any bank accounts. If you can’t do this, freeze the account to prevent your partner from taking out any money.
  • Take any important belongings with you and make sure that you have any special items included in the agreement, to decide which partner they belong to.
  • If you want to have a legal separation so that you can keep insurance cover, such as health insurance, check the policy language carefully to ensure that a legal separation doesn’t invalidate your policy. This also goes for any pension plans or retirement benefits.
  • Inform your local authority if any benefits are dependent on being married and not legally separated.

If you would like help on any matters of legal separation or divorce, then call our friendly and understanding We Talk Law solicitors today on 0203 002 4898. We provide advice on all matters of family law and are available 7 days a week to help you. You can find out more information on our contact page.

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