Judicial Separation -v- Divorce
When a relationship comes to an end, couples often feel reluctant to draw a line under the marriage for a variety of reasons, sometimes emotional, sometimes practical, sometimes religious. There is an alternative which couples can consider and that is Judicial Separation (or a Separation Order in relation to a civil partnership).
Judicial Separation can be a precursor, or an alternative, to divorce or civil partnership dissolution proceedings. It is a less common process of formalising the end of a relationship as it does not legally terminate the marriage or civil partnership. In September 2018, the Ministry of Justice Family Court statistics found that there were 96 Judicial Separation petitions filed in the third quarter of 2018, as opposed to 29,971 divorce petitions filed.
Judicial Separation may be considered as an alternative to a divorce or dissolution on religious grounds where that religion does not support divorce. A divorce can only be petitioned for after 12 months of marriage, and therefore, if the marriage breaks down prior to the one year anniversary, then a Judicial Separation may be considered. A very important reason to consider a Judicial Separation over a divorce would be to protect pensions or other benefits which would be extinguished on divorce or dissolution.
Judicial Separation precludes the need for spouses to continue to co-habit. The Court may still make an order in relation to finances and should one party die intestate, the surviving spouse will not benefit.
Judicial Separation does not terminate a marriage or civil partnership nor does it preclude either party from eventually, or concurrently, filing for a divorce or dissolution and you would, therefore, need to consider your options carefully as you may run the risk of duplicating the costs of formally bringing your marriage or civil partnership to an end.
Carol Robinson is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.