Legal separation: what does it mean and how does it work?
Legal separation (or judicial separation being the legal term) is an alternative to divorce. People often seek legal separation over divorce due to the stigma attached to divorce from religious or ethical beliefs. The grounds for legal separation are the same as those for divorce, being adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, and either 2 or 5 years separation i.e. living apart. The important difference between divorce and legal separation is that you do not have to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
No need to wait to be married for a year – unlike with divorce which cannot take place within the first year of marriage. You can apply to the court to resolve your financial and property affairs as well as handling custody matters for children. Your spouse is automatically prevented from benefiting from your existing will (if you have one) or your estate under the intestacy rules. In effect the spouse is treated as having “died” for inheritance purposes. Disadvantages Technically you are still married and will not be able to remarry, but you can claim maintenance lump sum orders, arrange provision for children. There isn’t a great difference in cost and the process is very similar to divorce. If at a later date you wish to get a divorce, you will need to petition for Divorce which will incur further cost.
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