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How to Get a Legal Separation UK

Getting a legal separation creates a space between a husband and wife (or partners). Check how to get a judicial separation if you want to live apart before filing papers to end a relationship.

FORM D8: You would need to use the ‘separation petition’ to ask a court for a legal separation (see below).

Having a legal separation means you can live apart, without having to divorce or end a civil partnership.

Typical reasons for some people to get legally separated include:

  • Having religious reasons against getting divorced.
  • Couples who have been married for less than one year.
  • Wanting some time and space as an opportunity to work out whether to end the marriage or partnership.

You can use the same reasons to ask for a legal separation as you would when filing for a divorce. Typical reasons to file for a divorce include adultery, desertion, or unreasonable behaviour.

But, there is one significant difference between getting a legal separation and divorce. Legally separating does not require you to show that the marriage has ‘irretrievably’ broken down (as permanent arrangement).

As a rule, a separation agreement is more often used as a stepping stone. It sets out clear guidelines on who will pay for certain household costs (e.g. the mortgage or rent). It creates a space for couples to work out whether to proceed with a divorce or a dissolution.

Note: Ask the court to end make a (judicial) separation decree or order. Fill in Form D8 and return it your nearest Regional Divorce Centre.

The divorce centre will need two (2) copies of the separation petition and you should keep a copy for your own records. Remember to include a certified copy of your marriage or your civil partnership certificate when sending the form.

Note: You will need to pay small claims court fees when getting a legal separation. Check to see if you can get help with court fees if you are on a low income or receiving welfare benefits.

Popular Questions on Separation Agreements

What is a Separation Agreement UK?

The written agreement is most useful for couples who have yet to decide whether to divorce or dissolve a civil partnership. In some cases, it also helps those who need to wait before they can do so. In simple terms, it sets out some financial arrangements during a separation.

Typical areas that informal separation agreements cover would include things like:

  • Who would get to live in the family home and what would happen if you decide to sell it.
  • Who will pay the household utility bills, mortgage, or rent.
  • What will happen to the finances (e.g. debts, loans, or overdrafts) and assets like investments and savings.
  • What is going to happen to any valuable belongings, especially those jointly owned (e.g. vehicles, furniture).
  • Will either partner pay maintenance to support children and what will happen with childcare arrangements (e.g. parental access).

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Separation Agreement

Key Advantages:
  • It rules out any allegations of desertion because you both agree to live apart. It also shows a fixed date when the relationship ended, adding clarity and certainty.
  • As a rule, a court will uphold this kind of judicial agreement if made correctly and negotiated ‘fairly’.
  • In most cases, you can be flexible with what you decide to include, and whether you stick to it or decide to change it.
Key Disadvantages:
  • Separation agreements can sometimes be difficult to enforce.
  • Both partners must endorse any changes made to the written agreement.
  • If you continue through the divorce or dissolution process a court can decide to disregard some of its details (or all of them). It would be wrong to consider it as the final word!

What is the Financial Disclosure?

In simple terms, it means you should be open and truthful about your financial status. Being honest will help to ensure a separation agreement does not get challenged. The financial disclosure lets both parties know what the other has in things like:

  • Debts (e.g. personal loans)
  • Property
  • Savings and investments

Note: Relying on a separation petition in the future would be an unlikely experience if you are not open to each other about your finances. Always seek legal advice if you are unsure how to draw up a separation agreement.

Can a Separation Agreement be Legally Enforced?

The process that uses the judicial separation through the courts is legally enforceable (see above). Even so, it is a formal process if compared to drawing up a separation agreement.

You cannot use the legal separation to ‘end’ a marriage or a civil partnership. In effect, it frees the two partners from their obligations of having to live together. Thus, neither partner would be free to remarry or to enter into a new civil partnership.


Making Child Arrangements After Separating | Looking after children if you separate from your partner.

Money and Property When Relationships End | Working out financial affairs after ending a partnership.

Getting a Legal Separation in the United Kingdom