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What is Judicial Separation and how does it differ from Divorce?

Published on 28 October 2021 | Modified on 14 December 2022

Written by Stacey Bennett
Judicial Separation

Judicial separation in the UK is where the parties to a marriage legally separate whilst remaining legally married. The effect of this is that all marital obligations stop such that the parties no longer have to live together. 

A person may choose to apply for judicial separation rather than divorce due to religious, cultural or personal reasons that may require them to remain legally married. 

The process of applying for judicial separation is similar to that of divorce, in that the person applying must rely on one of five facts as the grounds for the application: 

  1. Adultery;
  2. Unreasonable behaviour;
  3. Desertion for a minimum of 2 years;
  4. 2 years separation with consent of the parties; or 
  5. 5 years separation. 

One key difference is that you can apply for judicial separation at any time during a marriage, whereas with divorce you must have been married for a minimum of 12 months. 

Furthermore, with judicial separation, the Court does not have to be satisfied that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, as the parties remain legally married. 

Due to remaining legally married, a judicial separation has a different effect than divorce on policies such as pensions and life insurance policies and thus, specific advice is necessary. 

If you are seeking separation as the first step towards divorce, you may wish to consider a separation agreement rather than beginning judicial separation proceedings with formal applications to Court, as if you are granted a decree of judicial separation and then decide that you would like to pursue a divorce, a separate petition will need to be filed which would result in you paying two sets of court and legal fees.

If you would like any further information or advice on whether judicial separation is suitable for you or how you can go about applying, please get in touch with our Family Law and Divorce team today.

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