What are the rights of a legally separated spouse? What You Need To Know

Legal separation is a way of living apart from your spouse without ending your marriage or civil partnership. You may choose legal separation for various reasons, such as religious beliefs, personal preferences, or financial considerations.

An image of a couple getting divorced
Divorce mediator [Photo courtesy of Family Ties]
Legal separation can also be a step towards divorce or dissolution, if you decide to end your relationship later.

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How to get a legal separation

To get a legal separation, you need to fill in a separation application and send it to the court.

You will need to pay a fee of £365 to apply for a legal separation in England and Wales.

You will also need to provide a reason for your separation, such as adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, or living apart for more than two years with consent.

The court will then issue a decree of judicial separation, which confirms that you are legally separated.

This decree does not end your marriage or civil partnership, and you cannot remarry or enter into a new civil partnership unless you get a divorce or dissolution.

What are the benefits of legal separation?

Legal separation can have some advantages over divorce or dissolution, such as:

1.You can remain married or in a civil partnership for religious or moral reasons
2.You can retain some legal rights and benefits as a spouse or civil partner, such as inheritance, pensions, or tax allowances
3.You can have more time to decide if you want to end your relationship permanently
4.You can avoid the stigma or social pressure associated with divorce or dissolution

What are the drawbacks of legal separation?

Legal separation can also have some disadvantages compared to divorce or dissolution, such as:

1.You cannot remarry or enter into a new civil partnership unless you get a divorce or dissolution
2.You may still have some financial obligations towards your spouse or civil partner, such as maintenance or debts
3.You may have less certainty or security about your future arrangements, especially if you or your spouse or civil partner change your mind or circumstances
4.You may have to deal with more legal issues or complications if you decide to get a divorce or dissolution later

What are the rights of a legally separated spouse?

When you separate from your spouse or civil partner, you will need to sort out various matters, such as:

1.Child arrangements

You and your spouse or civil partner must share financial support for your children (child maintenance) and agree on where they will live and how often they will see the other parent (child arrangements).

You can make these arrangements yourselves, or use mediation or solicitors to help you.

If you cannot agree, you can apply to the court for a child arrangements order.

2.Property and finances

You and your spouse or civil partner will need to divide your money and property, such as your home, savings, pensions, and debts.

You can do this by making a separation agreement, which is a written document that sets out how you will share your assets and liabilities.

A separation agreement is not legally binding, but it can help you avoid disputes and show your intentions if you get a divorce or dissolution later.

Alternatively, you can apply to the court for a financial order, which is a legally binding decision that settles your financial matters.

You can do this before or after you get a decree of judicial separation².

Legal rights and responsibilities

As a legally separated spouse or civil partner, you will still have some legal rights and responsibilities towards each other, such as:

1.You can inherit from each other if one of you dies without a will, unless you have a separation agreement that says otherwise
2.You can claim spousal or civil partner maintenance from each other, unless you have a separation agreement that says otherwise.
3.You can benefit from each other’s pensions, unless you have a separation agreement or a financial order that says otherwise
4.You can claim spousal or civil partner privileges in court, which means you cannot be forced to testify against each other in some cases
5.You can be held liable for each other’s debts, unless you have a separation agreement or a financial order that says otherwise

How to get legal advice and support

Legal separation can be a complex and emotional process, and you may need legal advice and support to help you make the best decisions for yourself and your family.

You can get advice and information from various sources, such as:

1.Citizens Advice: They can provide free and impartial advice on legal separation and other family issues
2.Advice Now: They can provide practical guides and resources on legal separation and other family issues
3.Find a legal adviser: You can search for a solicitor or a legal adviser who can help you with legal separation and other family issues
4.Relate: They can provide counselling and support for couples and families who are going through separation or divorce

Legal separation can be a difficult and challenging decision, but it can also be a way of finding a solution that works for you and your spouse or civil partner.

By understanding your rights and options, you can make informed and respectful choices that suit your needs and circumstances.

Conclusion

Legal separation is a way of living apart from your spouse or civil partner without ending your marriage or civil partnership.

It can have some benefits and drawbacks, depending on your situation and preferences.

You will need to sort out various matters, such as child arrangements, property and finances, and legal rights and responsibilities.

Do this by making a separation agreement, applying for a financial order, or using mediation or solicitors.

You can also get legal advice and support from various sources, such as Citizens Advice, Advice Now, Find a legal adviser, or Relate.

Legal separation can be a difficult and challenging decision, but it can also be a way of finding a solution that works for you and your spouse or civil partner.

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