What is separation?

Separation, in the context of reasons for the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage, is when you have been living separately from your spouse/partner, even if this is under the same roof. This means you have not been having meals together, no sleeping in the same bed and no doing each other's washing up or washing. In some instances you may wish to apply for legal separation and our page on this topic describes the process you will need to go through.

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Separation explained

How can separation be used as a reason for a divorce?

Separation can be relied on in one of two ways to prove irretrievable breakdown, namely:

  1. 2 years' separation with consent
  2. 5 years' separation without consent

2 years' separation with consent

For separation between 2 and 5 years the Respondent has to consent to the petition. To qualify as 2 years separation, the period does not have to be continuous, as long as you have not lived together for more than 6 months and the total time is longer than 2 years. So, if you lived together for just under 6 months during the time of separation, your total period would have to be 2.5 years. Where separation is being relied upon the Respondent can ask the Court to consider financial issues before granting a final Decree/Order.

Can consent be withdrawn?

Even if consent is given at the start, it can be withdrawn right up until decree nisi/conditional order. The Court can also allow the consent to be withdrawn at a later date and before final Decree/order, but this only happens in very rare circumstances.

5 years' Separation without consent

Where separation is for longer than 5 years, the Respondent does not have to consent. However, this does not mean they should be ignored, as they can always oppose the petition and make a general nuisance of themselves if they want to. The Respondent can ask the Court to consider financial issues before granting a final Decree/Order. In some instances, they have been able to defeat the Petition by proving grave hardship will result, if a Decree/Final Order is granted.

Please read the related guide on Special Procedure for more information.

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