Sometimes, relationships reach a point where they can't continue. The reasons why are endless: a betrayal of trust, a shift in life goals, financial strain, or simply drifting apart. In these cases, separation might be the path forward.

Separation means living apart from your partner and taking time to figure out what you both want for the future. It isn't always the end of the road - in some cases, it can be a way to take a break and work on the relationship. However, in other cases, it may be a step towards permanent separation or divorce.

Many couples considering separation choose to draw up a separation agreement. This is a written contract outlining how you'll handle finances and child custody (if applicable) when living apart. If you choose to enter a separation agreement, it’s crucial to get legal advice before signing - these agreements can be binding in future court proceedings.

At Sousa Law, our experienced family law solicitors have helped countless couples across Southampton navigate separation. Below, we'll cover everything you need to know about the process: the difference between separation and divorce, whether it's the right path for you, and how we can guide you through it.

What’s the difference between divorce and separation?

The main difference between divorce and separation is whether or not the marriage is legally ended.

Separation allows couples to live apart while still being legally married. This can be a temporary situation to see if reconciliation is possible, or a longer-term arrangement for religious reasons or to maintain certain marital benefits. There's often a separation agreement outlining finances and child custody, but it doesn't have the force of a court order.

On the other hand, divorce completely dissolves the marriage in the eyes of the law. It requires going to court to finalise details like asset division, child custody, and spousal support. Once finalised, you’re legally single and free to remarry.

What types of separation agreements are there?

There are three main types of separation agreement: trial, permanent, and judicial (or legal). Here’s a breakdown of each type:

Trial separation

A trial separation agreement outlines financial arrangements and, if applicable, child custody during a break in the relationship. The goal here might be to see if living apart helps the couple decide if they want to reconcile or divorce.

Permanent separation

A permanent separation agreement is for couples who are sure they won't reconcile. It lays out a plan for dividing assets and debts, spousal support (if any), and child custody and support (if there are children). This agreement can be a stepping stone towards an eventual divorce.

Judicial separation

A judicial separation is a legal way for a married couple to formally separate without getting a divorce. It addresses similar issues as a permanent separation agreement, but it's enforceable by the court. A couple may choose this option if they don’t want to divorce for religious or financial reasons.

What does a separation agreement involve?

A separation agreement outlines a couple’s rights and responsibilities during their separation. It’s designed to avoid disagreements about finances and other arrangements in the future.

Here are some of the key things a separation agreement may cover:

  • Division of assets and debts: This includes things like the marital home, cars, savings accounts, and any debts the couple has accumulated together. The agreement will specify how these assets and debts will be divided.
  • Spousal support: This refers to financial payments made from one spouse to the other after separation. The agreement will determine whether spousal support will be paid, and if so, the amount and duration of the payments.
  • Child custody and visitation: If the couple has children, the agreement will outline a parenting plan that includes child custody arrangements and visitation schedules.
  • Other considerations: The agreement may also address other issues, such as health insurance, life insurance, and the division of household items.

Is separation the right choice for me?

Whether you should choose a separation, divorce, or alternative resolution depends on your personal situation and relationship. Here are some questions to consider:

  • What are the main issues you're facing in your relationship? Are they deal breakers, or things you think could be worked on through therapy or counselling?
  • Have you communicated openly and honestly with your partner about your concerns? Have you tried couples therapy?
  • What are your hopes for the future? Do you see a future together, or do you feel like you've grown apart?
  • Are there religious or financial reasons why you might hesitate to get a divorce?
  • What logistics would you need to decide (e.g. living and financial arrangements)?
  • Do you have children? If so, how would a separation affect them?

How can Sousa Law help me through my separation?

The decision to separate is a difficult one, but you don't have to go through it alone. Our dedicated family lawyers have years of experience guiding individuals and couples through separation, and we’ll put our expertise to work in helping you achieve the best possible outcome.

Here's how Sousa Law can support you:

  • Whether you're certain about separation or exploring the possibility, we can help you explore your options, understand the potential consequences, and make an informed decision about the future of your relationship.
  • We know every situation is unique. Our solicitors will take the time to understand your circumstances and personalise our advice to best suit your needs.
  • We take a compassionate and practical approach when working with you. Our goal is to help you achieve a positive outcome with minimal distress, hassle, and unnecessary expense.
  • If you have children, we can offer guidance on child arrangements and help you create a plan that puts their wellbeing first.
  • We promote alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation, arbitration, Resolution Together, and collaborative practice to reach amicable solutions wherever possible.
  • No matter if your separation is non-legal or requires court involvement, we'll provide expert guidance throughout the process.

Ready to take the first step? Book an appointment online or call us on 02380 713060 for a confidential discussion today.

Make An Appointment

We will assist in many complicated and specialised areas of family law. Discuss your options and contact us on 02380 713060.

Make An Appointment

We will assist in many complicated and specialised areas of family law. Discuss your options and contact us on 02380 713060.
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