Divorce and Seperation

The breakdown of a personal relationship is recognised as a traumatic event in any person’s life, with long term financial and emotional implications. When you decide to end your marriage, you can choose to divorce, separate or agree a judicial separation. Outlined below are the key issues relating to each option.


To get a divorce in England and Wales, you need to show that you have been married for more than a year and that the marriage has broken down. If you want to get a divorce, you have to prove that your marriage or civil partnership has broken down for one of the following reasons:-

  • That your spouse has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to live together.
  • Unreasonable behaviour (that your spouse has behaved in such a way that you can’t be expected to live together).
  • That your spouse has deserted you for at least two years.
  • That you have been living apart for two years and your spouse also wants a divorce.
  • That you have lived apart for five years.


Ending a marriage is a legal process which follows a specific procedure, which is set out below:-

  • Divorce Petition is sent to the Court
  • A copy is sent to your husband or wife
  • Your husband or wife completes an Acknowledgement of Service
  • If undefended, you sign a Statement confirming details of truth
  • Judge considers all the papers and decides if you are entitled to a divorce
  • Court sets date for pronouncement of decree nisi (an interim Order)
  • Six weeks and one day after the decree nisi you can apply for decree absolute.

Occasionally, there are difficulties in proving service of the Divorce Papers and it may be necessary to arrange for the papers to be personally served. It may also be possible to pursue the costs of the divorce against your spouse. If there is no agreement reached regarding the issue of costs, then the decision will be made at the discretion of the District Judge upon the pronouncement of decree nisi.

An undefended divorce, as set out above will usually take 4-6 months, provided there is no difficulty with the service of the documents. Alongside this process, you and your partner will need to work out arrangements for any children and sort out your family finances and housing arrangements.

Judicial Separation Process

This is dealt with in the same way as Divorce Proceedings, but you will remain married at the end. You will be formally separated and the Court will have power to deal with financial and other issues. Judicial separation is an option for some married couples for whom divorce is not an option, for example on religious grounds.


There are no formal procedures to go through if you simply wish to separate, rather than divorce. It is however advisable to agree a division of the financial assets and for that agreement to be recorded in a formal Separation Deed.

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