What is the difference between divorce and separation?

Separation affects both married and unmarried couples.


Some married couples choose not to divorce following the breakdown of their marriage but still want the court to resolve their financial matters.  To do so they must apply to the court for a judicial separation as opposed to a divorce.  Then, apart for the stage of the decree absolute, the procedure is identical to obtaining a divorce.  This can be of interest to couples particularly where there are religious considerations to take into account.


Unmarried couples need to be careful.   Quite simply there is no such thing as common law wife or husband or same sex couples.  These are just widely used words to explain the situation of living together but have no legal meaning.


While there is a great deal of campaigning to get a change in law to give protection on separation for cohabiting couples, at the moment there is very limited protection.  The partner who does not own the property can be left in a very vulnerable position.


If one of the partners is caring for the children of that relationship then they might be able to claim child maintenance through the Child Maintenance Service and there might be other legal provisions under the Children Act for financial provision until the children become adult.  There are not, however, any automatic claims against property, capital or other assets such as pensions belonging to the other partner.  A partner does not automatically obtain a share in the other partner’s house simply by virtue of moving in.  There is not even any guarantee of acquiring an interest even if you make payments towards the property although sometimes these can create rights.  The process is complicated.  It can be clarified by the existence of a pre-living together agreement but, in any event, specialist legal advice is essential.


Whether you were married or unmarried and considering separation make sure that you get in touch with us to get expert specialist advice.  We will be pleased to meet with you to explore the options open to you.