In England and Wales, when a marriage hits a rough patch, couples often face a difficult decision: separation or divorce?

What is the difference between Separation and Divorce?

While divorce is a clear legal process, separation without finalising the dissolution of marriage can lead to a complex and potentially uncertain situation. This blog will delve into what can happen if you choose to separate but not get divorced in England and Wales.

Choosing to separate whilst remaining married can have financial implications. Upon separation, couples in England and Wales are still financially connected. This means that if one spouse accumulates debt, both parties may still be held responsible. Alternatively now that you’ve decided to go your separate ways you may want your own home. Even if you are living separately, property acquired during the marriage may still be considered shared, regardless of who paid for it. Questions as to title may complicate a divorce later on. It’s important to establish clear financial boundaries and potentially consider a legal separation agreement. Such an agreement can later be relied on to decide the terms of the financial order upon divorce.

Another important distinction between separation and divorce is inheritance rights. If one spouse passes away without a Will, the surviving spouse may still have a claim on the deceased’s estate, potentially affecting the inheritance rights of other family members. In contrast if you are divorced, any provisions in a Will that benefit the ex-spouse are typically automatically revoked. This means that if you were named as a beneficiary in your ex-spouse’s will, those provisions will no longer apply after the divorce. After a divorce, it’s crucial to revisit your own estate planning documents, such as your Will, to ensure they align with your current wishes. You may want to update beneficiaries, appoint new executors, or make other adjustments based on your changed circumstances.

What about pensions?

Pensions are considered a matrimonial asset. Without a divorce, you may still be entitled to a share of your partner’s pension or retirement funds. This could have significant implications for both parties in the long run. In the event of divorce, any rights to a portion of your ex-spouse’s pension or retirement funds will typically be determined as part of the financial settlement.

While separation without divorce can be a viable option for some couples, understanding the potential ramifications and complexities involved is vital. Seeking legal advice and obtaining a formal separation agreement can help provide clarity and protect the rights and interests of both parties. Ultimately, the decision to separate or divorce should be based on careful consideration. You should think about your individual circumstances and the needs of everyone involved.

Get in touch

At Hubbard Pegman & Whitney LLP our experienced family lawyers can help you understand your options and what route is the most appropriate for you. Get in touch with a member of our family law team today and take advantage of our current free initial telephone consultation. We will evaluate your situation and let you know how we can get started. Call us now for a friendly chat on 020 8735 9770. Or email our family law department at

To help get a bigger picture how to navigate a divorce, have a read of the posts below:

Divorce – There Can Be A High Price For Failing To Negotiate Responsibly

Does Divorce Have To Be Expensive?


    Get in touch

    Discuss your situation with an experienced Solicitor by filling out the form below or by ringing us on 0208 735 9770.

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.