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How long do you have to be separated before you can divorce?

Owing, perhaps, to the very different divorce procedures used in other nations, people that contact Quickie Divorce consistently assume that they and their spouse must have been living separately for a set period of time (six months or one year being the most common presumptions) before they can request a divorce. Legally, no such restrictions exist, and a divorce can be filed immediately after a couple begin living separate lives. Your personal wishes and circumstances, however, may well affect when you should file for a divorce.

Your grounds for divorce effect when you can file

If you intend to file for a divorce on any of the fault-based grounds (adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion), then you and your spouse do not need to have been living separately for any set period of time. Provided you are living separate lives, you can file for a divorce reliant on a fault-based ground at any time. If you’re unwilling or unable to rely on these grounds, however, then you and your spouse will have to have been living separately for more than two years before you can request that the courts grant you a divorce.

Why no-fault divorce can only be obtained after two years

The two non-fault-based grounds that can be cited when applying for a divorce are both time sensitive. The first, two-year-separation with consent, can only be used if you and your spouse have been living separately for more than two years and you both agree to the divorce. The second, five-year-separation, can only be used if you’ve been living separately for five years or more, though consent is not necessarily required.

Should you apply for a fault-based divorce?

In my experience, most people would prefer to avoid fault-based grounds for one of the following reasons:

  1. They do not believe their spouse will accept fault;
  2. They believe that the details of their divorce will be made public resulting in embarrassment; and
  3. They believe that the party that accepts blame will be disadvantaged when the couple divide their joint assets.

In the event that you do not believe that your spouse will accept they were at fault, it’s best to avoid filing on these grounds altogether. You can technically still obtain a divorce if they do not consent to the reasons you provide, but it’s certain to result in increased expense as you’ll need to employ a solicitor due to the fact that your divorce will now be contested. If, however, you’re concerned that the details of your divorce will be made public or that your grounds will affect any settlement you and your spouse have negotiated, don’t; these are both common, but ultimately inaccurate, assumptions.

Why you can be living separately whilst sharing a home

It’s widely assumed that people aren’t living separately until they’re in separate homes – but this is not actually the case. A couple can be living separate lives whilst still sharing a property provided they sleep in separate bedrooms, prepare their meals separately etc.

To find out more about when a married couple are actually living separate lives whilst sharing a property, click here.

Alternatively, if you have any further questions about divorce, you can contact Quickie Divorce’s enquiries team.


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