Divorce and Separation Overview

The word divorce spelt out in dice facing the screen
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On this page, we’ll guide you through the key aspects of both divorce and separation, focusing on the things you need to know from a legal standpoint.

What is a divorce?

Divorce is one way to end a marriage. To get a divorce, you must have been married for at least a year and your relationship with your spouse must have permanently broken down. This is different to a separation, where you remain legally married but live apart. If you and your spouse have been separated for five years, you can get a divorce without your spouse’s consent. It’s also possible to annul a marriage at any time if you can show that the marriage was not legally valid.

We recommend that you speak to a legal expert about divorce as early as possible in the process so you can decide on the right option.

How to start the divorce process

To get a divorce, you have to apply to the courts with the correct paperwork. Divorces can either be defended or uncontested. A defended divorce is when there is a disagreement between parties that is addressed in court. An uncontested divorce is when you and your partner can agree on the divorce. Most cases are uncontended following brief discussions over the basis of the divorce set out in the divorce petition.

It is important to note that when lawyers talk about ‘divorce’ we are talking about ending the legal marriage only (Decree Absolute). Division of finances and arrangements for children are completely separate matters to the divorce.

What are acceptable reasons for a divorce?

There is only one ground for divorce- that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This is evidenced by one of the following:-

  • You and your spouse have been separated for two years and you are both prepared to consent to a divorce.
  • If you can to prove without a doubt that your spouse has committed adultery, you can apply for a divorce right away. But, if you knew about the adultery and continued to live with your spouse for longer than three months, you are considered to have condoned the adultery and cannot proceed with a divorce on that basis.
  • You are able to prove that your spouse’s behaviour has become unreasonable and it’s no longer possible to live with them. This is commonly referred to as unreasonable behaviour. Unreasonable behaviour includes a range of facts from physical abuse, emotional abuse or other negative behaviours such as alcohol or drug addiction to more common unreasonable behaviour such as working long hours neglecting the family, not having had intimate relations for some time and continual disagreements about money, family and lifestyle.

What is a separation and how is it different from divorce?

A deed of separation is a legally binding agreement that allows couples to set themselves up financially as individuals and live apart.

A separation differs from a divorce because although you and your spouse will be apart, you will still be married. This is often the chosen solution for couples who are yet to make a final decision about applying for divorce, or for religious reasons.

Are you in need of legal advice about divorce or separation? KMJ Solicitors has a team of London divorce lawyers with years of experience in all areas of family law. We are at your disposal, so please get in touch today and schedule your FREE no-obligation consultation.

Clayton spent five years working in family law with a firm in Australia before moving to the UK in 1999. He deals with all aspects of family law, specialising in all family matters, offshore trusts, company structures, international law, prenuptial agreements, high net worth cases and cohabitation law.