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When is a couple legally separated?

Whilst there are numerous reasons why a couple can be denied a divorce, they are nearly always identified following the process having commenced. There are few circumstances under which the courts in England and Wales will refuse to consider a divorce application altogether.

The courts will, for example, refuse to consider an application if they do not have jurisdiction, if the Divorce Petition contains an obvious error such as incorrectly requesting that the courts grant a dissolution rather than a divorce, or if the couple in question have not separated.

The final example is problematic as, sadly, there is little to no literature available that lets people know the circumstances under which a couple are considered to be living apart. It may be obvious that two people are no longer a couple when they no longer share a home, of course, but this doesn’t mean that it’s the only circumstance under which a couple are legally separated.

Why a couple can share a property but still be separated

Property is becoming more and more expensive and, as a result, purchasing a new home – even finding one to rent – can be extremely difficult with just one salary. More and more separated couples find themselves having to remain and co-exist within the matrimonial home. It would, we’re sure you’ll agree, be tremendously unfair to prevent people who find themselves in such a situation from filing for a divorce. Fortunately, the law recognises this.

How you can divorce whilst living in the same house

If a married couple have found themselves needing to share a home following them having separated, this will not prevent them from getting the divorce process underway provided they are living separate lives. In order to identify which of the five reasons for divorce they can utilise, they’ll also need to determine when they began living separately.

That said, couples can argue and not communicate for days or even weeks. Would they, legally speaking, be seen as living separate lives? What about two people who’ve spent a large amount of time apart because one person regularly stayed out all night? Fortunately, the circumstances under which a couple are deemed to be living separate lives whilst living in the same property are straightforward.

Firstly, the couple cannot share a bedroom at any time. They must sleep in separate rooms before they can state that they are living separate lives. Beyond this, a multitude of examples can be used such as eating separately, avoiding each other, splitting household bills equally, doing your own household tasks such as cooking and cleaning – the potential reasons that could be provided are endless. The couple, as stated previously, however, cannot share a bedroom.

How to identity when you began living separate lives

Working out the exact date on which various arrangements began may seem like it’ll be tricky, but it isn’t provided the parties are still on speaking terms. Not because recalling a precise date is easy, but because the parties will only need to agree an approximate one. Provided both parties can agree this date, the courts will deem it to be both true and accurate.

You should not knowingly misinform the courts, of course, as doing so may result in a criminal charge. That said, it’s ok to provide an approximate date provided it’s reasonably close to the actual date on which you both did begin living separate lives. If you know such arrangements commenced in June 2013, for example, then it’s perfectly acceptable to state that you began living separate lives on the 1st June 2013.

Will this affect the divorce process?

No, there’ll be no additional forms to complete and the standard divorce process will need to be followed. You will need to state how you and your spouse have lived separate lives whilst sharing a property during the second stage of your divorce, but this information will be included in the same forms that would be used at this stage anyway.


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