Even if you or your spouse decide that your marriage has broken down, this does not necessarily mean that either of you wish to start divorce proceedings immediately. If that is the case, there are other ways of formalising your separation without dissolving your marriage.
The most common option is to enter into a Separation Agreement setting out the agreed terms of the financial and children matters arising from your separation. Obviously this is only an option if all arrangements are agreed.
Alternatively, either spouse may issue a petition for Judicial Separation. The legal procedure for a Judicial Separation is very similar to that of a divorce, save for the fact that you do not need to be married for one year before filing a petition for Judicial Separation and you will remain legally married at the end of the process. However, Judicial Separation proceedings are very rare and generally only used when both parties are strongly opposed to a divorce for religious or other reasons. Whilst the court can make some financial orders upon pronouncement of the decree of judicial separation, the full array of financial orders is not available which means that it is not possible to achieve a full financial clean break.
Whether you decide to enter into a Separation Agreement or obtain a Judicial Separation, you will remain legally married. This means your spouse’s entitlement with regards to pension benefits, death in service benefits, policies, wills and estates will remain intact, unless specifically changed. For this reason we strongly recommend that you make a Will or revise any existing Will in light of your separation.