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Divorce and judicial separation.

In order to formalise your separation in the eyes of the court you will need to bring an application for either divorce or judicial separation. We have extensive experience dealing with all aspects of this process.

Our team of divorce and judicial separation solicitors have extensive experience in advising on the best way forward for you. We can also advise on your options if your relationship has broken down but you are not married or in a civil partnership, however the applicable law is not the same as there is no concept of common law marriage in England & Wales.

Do you think you need legal help with Judicial separation and divorce?

Call the family law team to discuss your options

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7870 3877

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There is only one ground for bringing an application for either divorce or judicial separation: ‘irreconcilable breakdown of marriage.’ A divorce allows you to re-marry once the final decree (the Decree Absolute) is pronounced. A Judicial Separation takes place in rare cases such as where one party has strong religious views and do not want the stigma of being a divorcee and/or if the parties have been married less than a year. You will need to bring either a divorce of judicial separation application if you would like to agree to a financial settlement and in order to formalise the end of your marriage.


The legal position on divorce and judicial separation is governed by the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. There are changes being implemented that will allow no-fault divorce but these are still making their way through Parliament. Judicial Separation proceedings can be issued even if the 12 month period has not expired.

Occasionally, and in rare cases (such as when a couple separate without ever living together at all), it is also possible to apply for an annulment but the process is not straightforward. The divorce process in encouraged by the courts is deliberately a relatively straightforward one that can be brought after a year of marriage.


There is one basis for a divorce which is the marriage has broken down irretrievably. As of 6 April 2022 it is no longer necessary to “blame” your former spouse for why the marriage broke and you can simply confirm there were “irretrievable differences.” You can divorce as long as you have been married for over a year. Contrary to common misconceptions, what you put on your application remains private and usually does not alter your financial claim.

Judicial Separation is another option for couples who do not wish to go through the divorce process. It is usually used when the parties want to agree a financial separation and have been married for less than a year. Occasionally couples who do not want the stigma of divorce owing to their religious beliefs may wish to apply for a Judicial Separation. It works in a similar fashion procedurally to a divorce and is administrative but allows parties to bring a financial claim that results in a pronouncement that the parties are Judicially Separated rather than divorced. Some couples may wish to then go on and obtain a divorce decree in any event.

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    Can't I just download the online application and do everything myself?

    Not all divorces are straightforward and there are often complicated financial and children issues to be dealt with. In some cases there are complex jurisdiction issues to be considered. We can assist and advise you on the divorce or dissolution process and also advise and guide you on how to approach your divorce or dissolution to protect your position on children and financial issues.

    Do I need to go to a court hearing to divorce?

    No. The process in England and Wales is deliberately designed to be an administrative process and in most cases is relatively straightforward. However financial and children applications are often not that straightforward and can involve court hearings.

    My spouse has said they will not sign the papers, what can I do?

    Unlike you sometimes see in some films or on television, your spouse not signing the papers does not stop a divorce. You can apply to court for an order deeming that they have been served or, if you cannot find them, you can apply to dispense with service.

    My spouse has behaved very badly throughout the marriage, is there somewhere I can mention their behaviour and will it help me in my financial claim?

    No. A common historical misconception is that what you write on(in) a petition /divorce or dissolution application will affect your financial entitlement. In reality, it rarely does. No-fault divorce is deliberately designed to end the “blame game” and have parties focus on the core issues of settling their finances.