Getting divorced

Girls Hands Drawing HeartsCan I separate from my spouse?

If you choose to separate, you will still be legally married. So you cannot marry anyone else until you get divorced.

Both of you will need to think about whether you will live separately, or continue to live in the same home. You will also have to think about whether and how you divide assets you both own, who will look after your children and other issues in which you were both involved. You will have to inform your benefits office (if you claim benefits), local council (if you pay any Council Tax) and, if you have a mortgage, the lender.

You and your spouse can make informal arrangements or a formal separation agreement. The latter may help to reduce your legal costs if you do later divorce; it can act as evidence that you have chosen to cooperate if you apply for legal aid. The arrangements you make at this stage may also affect the way the court divides your assets at a later date.

If you and your spouse cannot agree on separation arrangements, you can use a family mediation service, but both of you have to go voluntarily. Any decisions and agreements you make during mediation are not legally binding. 

When can we divorce?

You cannot get divorced until you have been married for at least a year. The court will only grant a divorce if you can prove your spouse:

  • has behaved unreasonably (including domestic violence)
  • committed adultery (had a sexual relationship with someone else), unless you stayed together for six months after you found out
  • has deserted you (left you without a good reason or without your agreement) for at least two years
  • has not lived with you for at least two years and you both agree to the divorce
  • has not lived with you for at least five years and one of you objects to the divorce

What about child maintenance?

Both parents have legal responsibility for child maintenance, even if they have divorced and one does not live with the child. Child maintenance is financial support to help with a child’s everyday living costs, including food, clothes and providing a home.

If both parents can agree on who pays for what and how much, you can make a family-based arrangement.

Alternatively, you can also arrange child maintenance and enforce payment through the court. You cannot obtain legal aid for this. Often claims for child maintenance form part of the divorce, meaning they can be agreed upon during this process.

If you are unable to agree with the other parent on maintenance, then you can apply for maintenance arranged by the Child Support Agency or Child Maintenance Service

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