Many couples decide to separate to give themselves time and space to think about their relationship. For some this will lead to reconciliation while others will eventually decide to divorce.

You can apply for a legal separation on the same grounds as for divorce i.e. adultery, unreasonable behaviour or separation. Unlike divorce, you do not need to wait a year until you apply for a legal separation so it can be used as an interim measure until you file for divorce.

If you are considering reconciliation or are unsure about divorce then it would be a good idea to talk to a relationship counsellor. In the meantime there are options open to you to ensure that you take care of any practicalities such as who will remain in the marital home and where the children will live.

A Separation Agreement is a legally binding agreement that deals with any financial and family arrangements while a couple are living apart. An agreement can be reached directly or through mediation and is drawn up by a solicitor for both parties to sign. It is revised or confirmed when the couple divorce.

Alternatively a couple may opt for a Judicial Separation which requires the grounds for separation set out in the same way as a divorce. Finances, assets and arrangements regarding children can be settled through mediation or formally in court if necessary. This may suit couples who, for example, do not wish to divorce on religious grounds.

You can find out more about legal separation at

If you were not married and are separating, see our section on Cohabitation.

Legal Links

Community Legal Service
Government Agency offering advice on a range of legal issues including family law

UK Court Service
Information and leaflets about the UK court system

Resolution (formerly Solicitor's Family Law Association)
Find a solicitor who is a member of resolution, encouraging amicable settlements for children

See our links page for further links and support