Marriage and Separation
An alternative to divorce
Many marriages regrettably break down, but this does not necessarily mean that divorce should ensue. There are some other options open to married couples who wish to separate, namely:
- informal separation
- separating through a separation agreement
- judicial separation
If the couple do not wish to go to court then they can choose to simply separate informally. Since this is not a concrete legally-binding agreement, it is only a practical option for those couples who remain on reasonably good terms and can trust each other. If the breakdown of the marriage was particularly acrimonious then the parties are unlikely to be able to forge an agreement amicably.
Through an informal agreement you can make arrangements on how children, housing, money, etc will be divided without having to involve the courts. The courts can intervene, however, if it deems that one of these arrangements is not reasonable.
After coming to an informal separation agreement you should make sure certain relevant bodies are informed:
- if you are paying tax credits, HM Revenue and Customs
- if you pay council tax, receive Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit, your local council.
You also need to inform your benefits office if you receive any of the following:
- income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Pension Credit
- Income Support
There is also the option of drawing up a written separation agreement after a marriage has broken down. This can be advantageous over an informal agreement as it lays down more firmly what the terms of the agreement are and ensures that both parties fully comprehend them. A separation agreement might typically state that the partners are to live apart and not disturb each other, as well as making arrangements for how much maintenance is paid by each partner both to any children and the other partner, as well as who the children will live and have contact with.
A judicial separation is a reasonably rare type of separation which can be granted to couple who want to effectively divorce, but have a moral or religious objection to the institution of divorce itself.
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