Are you thinking about separating from your husband, wife or partner?
Are you wondering what to do next in separation?
We are going to give you vast amounts of information and point you in the right direction to get the resources you need to plan your future. You can also chat to others who are going through separation in our safe online forum.
Do you consider yourself to be a common-law husband or wife?
Firstly, there is no such thing as a common-law husband or wife. Just because you might have lived as a married couple for years, doesn’t mean that you have the same rights as a couple who are actually legally married or who have entered into a legal civil partnership. You are not considered to be a “spouse” unless you have entered into a formal and legal union.
You’re a cohabitee if you live with, or used to live with your partner and have never formally married or entered into a civil partnership. You don’t have any formal “couple” legal rights, but it’s worth taking initial advice from a family lawyer or citizens advice bureau to see where you stand legally, especially if you have children or have purchased a property together. There will be no formal separation as there was no formal or legal union; no marriage or civil partnership.
When a couple say they are separating, it feels like a much softer term than “divorcing”, so what’s the difference? For most, divorce sounds so final, the end. It’s a harsh word and maybe that’s why Gwyneth Paltrow’s famous “uncoupling” term has become so popular.
If a couple are married or in a civil partnership and they are separating, inevitably, if they decide that the separation is permanent then they will probably end up getting divorced or applying to dissolve their civil partnership.
A judicial separation is not a divorce or a nullity and sometimes a couple will use it if, for example, their religious beliefs prevent them from getting divorced or dissolving their civil partnership. A couple can live as if they are divorced but are not actually divorced for religious reasons.
In some respects, it is similar to a divorce in that there are arrangements for the finances and children but the couple remain very much married. A decree of judicial separation does not end a marriage.
Another reason a couple may wish to opt for a judicial separation is when a retired couple want to separate but don’t want to divorce because that would result in one party losing a potential widows’/widowers’ pension.
For a couple who have been married for less than a year, who cannot divorce because of this reason, a judicial separation can be useful. It can set matters out while they wait for a year to pass, then start divorce or dissolution proceedings.
What does a judicial separation spell out?
The financial arrangements and any children’s issues are legally recorded and the issue of a decree of judicial separation sees the end of the legal duty to cohabit within marriage. This means that neither party can use desertion as a reason for a divorce or dissolution in the future.
There is a particular court form for a legal separation and although neither person can remarry or enter into another civil partnership, they are no longer obliged to continue living together. The separation is sanctioned by the court and it is legally recorded that you are no longer living together. The process is actually quite rare.
What’s the process of getting a Judicial Separation
As with a full-blown divorce, the procedure starts with the filing of a petition. The grounds for a judicial separation are the same as for divorce but you do not need to show that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The court can use the same powers to sort out financial matters as it does in divorce apart from pension splitting and it is still possible to carry on to a divorce petition if you wish to do so in the future.
A judicial separation confirms that the parties are financially independent of each other. Things such as where the children go to school, whether the house is to be transferred and if any maintenance is to be paid can all be covered in the deed of separation.
If you decide to get back together at any point in the future you can apply to the courts to rescind the decree of judicial separation. Also bear in mind that you are still married and things likes inheritance and wills, pensions, insurance policy entitlement and the like still stand unless they are specifically changed.
What’s a temporary separation?
If you and your legally-bound partner have arrived in that place where you are not sure what to do next; wondering if you should start the process of divorce or dissolution, it may be worthwhile considering a temporary separation to give you some breathing space.
For some couples, a short period of time living their own life and having space is enough to bring them to a decision. For others, at least 6 months is required to work on issues and bring matters to a conclusion. Ultimately, the question will be whether you are going to stay together or not. How you behave during the separation will also impact the situation.
If one half of a couple starts dating, that may not go down to well, so there have to be rules. Remember that even if you are separated and this includes separated and not even living under the same roof, a person commits adultery if they are still married and have sex with another person of the opposite sex. You cannot commit adultery in a civil partnership as even though you are legally bound together, you are not “married”.
What do you have to consider if you are separating?
A temporary separation can give both parties the time to work on themselves and to work on their relationship together, maybe with counselling or other expert help. At the end of an agreed time, the couple can decide whether the relationship can be revived before diving into a divorce or dissolution.
Every situation is unique and where it might be enough for one couple that one person moves into the spare room in order to be temporarily separated, for you and your partner, you may need to be living at separate addresses before you feel that there is enough distance to think and come to a decision.
Can a temporary separation help?
It can be refreshing to go into a mode of temporary separation when a relationship becomes complicated and very much “groundhog day”. Constant arguing results in exhaustion and in the end, can lead to a total absence of communication as it becomes easier to back-down than to try and get your point across.
A trial separation can allow you and your partner to look at things from a distance and from a vantage point of less emotion. Having the space to de-stress can help both parties to see issues from a different angle, and often couples are able to see things differently as they are no longer “in” the relationship. They are standing back, looking in from the outside. It’s a different perspective.
Of course, having a temporary separation doesn’t mean that the relationship will survive, as it could be that the couple or just one partner makes the decision to separate permanently and wants a divorce or dissolution.
So HOW do you temporarily separate?
You will need to decide where you are going to separate “to”. Will one of you be heading off to the spare room or will the separation mean that one person lives out of the home, staying with friends or relatives or renting their own place. These types of decisions will probably very much depend on the financial situation you are in, and the amount of space you have at home.
Will staying in the same home and sharing the facilities feel like a separation? You may want to draw up the ground rules for cohabitation around things such as cooking and eating; will you shop for food separately or eat together for the sake of the children? Are you going to have a cleaning rota and wash and iron your own clothes? If you have children, what arrangements will you have for them? If you are separating but still living together, will one of you be able to claim benefits such as housing benefit or universal credit as a single person? This would mean that you shop, eat and live totally separate lives.
What is a separation agreement?
For some couples who feel that their marriage or civil partnership is in trouble, a formal separation agreement can be a useful tool.
If you are thinking about a separation agreement, it is important to think about how long you wish the separation period to last.
If you have children, you may not want them to know what’s going on, but remember that children often “feel” that something is not right, so depending on your circumstances and the children’s ages, it might be better to tell them the truth. You can get advice on this from an expert such as a co-parenting coach in The Hug Directory It can be a very frightening and unsettling time for children.
How do you get a separation agreement drawn up?
Having a separation agreement drawn up will set out many of the points above, particularly the financial ones. The agreement will give both parties some clarity and certainty and is flexible so you can decide together what you would like to include.
A separation agreement is not legally binding, but if drawn up by a solicitor with both parties having taken legal advice, a judge may add more weight to it if you find yourself in divorce or dissolution proceedings further down the line. With this in mind, remember that the agreement is potentially legally-binding so do get legal advice before entering into such an agreement. Having a well thought out separation agreement put together by a family lawyer will be more impressive to a judge.
When working with the law, you always have to look to the future and potential proceedings; how will what you do now in separation, affect a future divorce or dissolution, if that goes on to occur. Consider that even though you may be looking at reconciling, your spouse may not be thinking the same way.
Separation and finances
It is really important that both parties are open and honest about their finances too. So discuss the following:
If the separation goes on to become a divorce or dissolution and there has not been a full disclosure on finances, it is possibly more likely that the separation agreement will be disregarded in a family law situation. Don’t be bullied into signing an agreement and take legal advice from your own separate solicitor. You will both need individual solicitors for a separation agreement to be drawn up which may be effective in the future.
What do you do during a separation?
There will be lots of thoughts and feelings when you separate and these could be around what you yourself want out of the relationship and your behaviour, and how you want things to be for your children. You may want some external help and advice to make sense of what is happening now and what could occur in the future. Some of the expert advice you may benefit from could be from the following experts:
How will being separated look financially? What about the future and pensions etc? Do you have an asset such as a family home? Would this need to be sold to house you and your ex partner separately?
Divorce and Separation Coach
A coach can help you think about the present and future and determine what you want out of life and from your relationship.
Is something in the past blocking your future? Sometimes it could be that a personal issue from the past is ruining your relationship now, so it is always worth speaking things through with an expert to see if this is the case.
It is worthwhile knowing where you stand legally if you were to go ahead and divorce or dissolve your civil partnership. Sometimes realising exactly what is at stake is enough to get a couple to revisit and really work on their issues. A Solicitor will give you some idea about financial matters and can discuss what would be likely to happen with regards to any children and areas such as the family home and pensions and the like.
If you take a look in The Hug Directory, you will find many experts who work in the area of divorce and separation.
How will your separation work?
If you have decided to trial a temporary separation there are a few things to consider
- How are you going to separate? Are you going to stay living in the same house or is one of you going to move out?
- If you decide to stay in the same property, how are you going to work out shopping, cooking, chores, childcare, use of the garden and maybe having friends and family over. Will you have to give each other notice of weekends away?
- If you have children and continue to live together, will you have particular times when one of you is “primary carer” and may be babysitting while the other goes out.
- If you are living apart and have children, what arrangements will you put in place for the children to see the parent who has moved out?
You must consider all the issues and possibilities
- Are you going to explain to the children what is happening? If so, how will that happen?
- Will you work on reconciling? If so, what will that look like? What needs to change? Will you attend couples therapy or have some individual counselling or coaching? How will things change if you don’t know what needs to be changed?
- If you are not going to work on issues, is there any point in a temporary separation if nothing is going to change?
- Are you allowing each other to go on dates? Bear in mind that if you are married and you have sex with someone of the opposite sex, you are committing adultery regardless of whether you are “separated” or not.
- How are the finances going to be organised? Who is going to pay for what? If you’re living in the same house, how will you organise the bills and food shop?
- Do you have a mortgage or debts, who is going to be responsible for those?
- As a couple, if you have a joint bank account, are you going to freeze it and use single bank accounts, or will you continue to both use it, but only in a certain way, which is agreed with the bank, such as joint signatures for withdrawals over a certain amount?
You are separated, what’s next?
At what point are you going to meet and have a conversation about what to do next and about whether or not you are going to reconcile? If one of you decides that they don’t want to get back together, what happens next? Do you move back in together to start divorce proceedings or do you agree to keep to the same arrangement as if you were living apart?
There are certainly many things to consider, and getting as much as advice as you can from experts such as financial advisors, divorce coaches and family solicitors is key. Being in a state of separation can make you feel anxious and unstable, so arm yourself with information so you know exactly what to expect and what could happen in the future. As we say frequently here at The Group Hug, “do not stick your head in the sand”.