Divorce can be stressful, emotionally and financially draining, and a big step for those who want to separate from their partner. The breakdown of any relationship can be a difficult process, but if you’re married, or a part of a civil partnership, the inclusion of the courts can add to this.
Here we take a look at some alternatives to divorce for those who are unsure if they would like a full and legal separation, whether for emotional, religious, or cultural reasons.
Couples Therapy or Counselling can be an overlooked alternative to divorce and separation as a whole. Some may suggest that the ultimate alternative to divorce is to save your marriage. This can be a difficult decision to come to as it means accepting external help to rectify the issues you’re facing. However, the rewards can be limitless.
Therapy or counselling for your marital issues may not resolve and rectify the issues you’re facing, and you may still end up wanting to separate; however, they can help you both work towards discovering what you do want. Many couples have experienced counselling and therapy services and report that discovering what they did want helped them move forward without animosity.
Judicial separation is simply a legal separation without the dissolution of the marriage itself. Whilst applications for Judicial Separation are rare, they are most commonly used by those who do not want to officially end the marriage for religious or cultural reasons.
This option allows the two parties to separate and allows the courts to handle all financial aspects of the separation, with the exception of pensions. Court orders regarding pensions can only be filed as part of the dissolution of the marriage.
When judicially separated, neither party can remarry as they are still legally married. This separation is simply a release from living together and financial cooperation.
Applications for judicial separation can be filed at any time; you don’t have to wait a year.
A Separation Agreement is a written document detailing how separating couples intend to divide their assets and finances once the marriage has concluded. The agreement between both parties can be beneficial during divorce proceedings have started, as the financial side of the marriage has already been rectified.
This agreement benefits those who want to divorce based on 2 years of separation with consent. Consent refers to the absence of any ‘fault-based’ grounds as the reason for the separation, these include;
- Adultery – where one partner has cheated
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Desertion – Your partner has left you, and you’ve lived apart for 2 years.
Should either party wish to divorce within 2 years of separating, they must provide a fault-based reason.
A separation agreement is typically prepared within the first 2 years of separation, reducing stress when it comes to the official divorce proceedings. This formal agreement, whilst not legally binding, will be upheld in court during the divorce if;
- Both parties have obtained independent full legal advice on the agreement
- Both parties have fully disclosed all details
- Both parties entered into the agreement freely
- All terms listed in the agreement are fair and reasonable for both parties.
What should you consider before entering into a Separation Agreement?
There are a few things to consider before you enter into a separation agreement;
Financial circumstances, either yours or your ex-partners, may change in the 2 year separation period. This could lead to reviewing the whole agreement again and starting afresh based on your current financial situation. Changes to financial situations constitute loss of a job or receiving an inheritance.
To account for any changes, the courts will only review your situation at the stage of divorce proceedings, not when the separation agreement was drawn up. This ensures that all divisions are fair and reasonable for both parties. If the courts rule that division of the assets as outlined in the agreement is unfair or unreasonable, renegotiations will ensue to create a revised agreement.
Separation agreements do not include pensions. Pensions can often be one of the most valuable assets, especially if the marriage has been long-term. Pensions are also subject to change substantially during the 2 years separation period as such pensions can only be handled during divorce proceedings.
Entering into a separation agreement before entering divorce proceedings is a logical step to allow amicable divorce proceedings in the future. But be sure to formally agree to the document once both parties agree that the details as set out are fair and just for both of you.
Annulment is an alternative to divorce, but only if one or both parties believe that the marriage itself was legally invalid or has become invalid.
A marriage can be void if one party was already married, the parties are closely related, or one party under 16 years old.
Reasons a marriage is voidable include; the marriage not being consummated due to incapacity or refusal, either party entered the marriage under duress, mistake or unsoundness of mind, one party was already married.
Another alternative to divorce is to do nothing. Legally this option may not be advisable due to the potential for issues further down the line. Should either party wish to remarry, both parties would need to come to an agreement and conclude the dissolution of the marriage before that is possible.
Whilst this may seem like the most emotionally beneficial option at times, both parties’ situations can change dramatically by the time it comes to a dissolution of the marriage later down the line, which can impact the split of assets and finances.
Speak to us
If you’re unsure about your options and would like more information, please see our Divorce Services page. Our team of lawyers and solicitors have the expertise and experience to help in any divorce-related case. Based in London, we can help both local clients and those further afield across the UK.