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Is there automatic divorce after separation in the UK?

By , on Friday June 21, 2024 at 2:15 pm

Many couples question whether it is worth making a divorce application if a marriage will automatically dissolve after a certain period of separation.

On the surface, an automatic divorce would seem like a simple solution. However, there is no such thing as an automatic divorce in the UK, which means that being separated from your partner while still married has no effect on whether a divorce can go ahead.

Our specialist divorce solicitors understand that no two divorces are the same, with every couple having a unique set of circumstances. If you are separated but not divorced, we can explain the options available to you and what the process of divorce involves so you can make an informed decision about how to move forward.

How long do you have to be separated before divorce is automatic in the UK?

In short, no period of separation will result in an automatic divorce. No matter how long you are ‘separated’ from your spouse, divorce will never be automatically granted.

Regardless of your situation, you will always need to make a formal divorce application. This process usually takes a minimum of seven months to complete, though it can take longer if you have complex arrangements involving your finances or children.

Is there automatic divorce after seven years in the UK?

There is no automatic divorce after a long separation in the UK. You can be separated for seven, ten or twenty-five years and the situation will remain the same. Divorce is only possible if you make a formal application either individually or jointly with your former partner.

How long after separation can you divorce?

You do not need to be separated from your spouse to be able to apply for a divorce. You will be able to get a divorce in England and Wales if:

  • You have been married for at least one year
  • Your marriage is legally recognised in the UK
  • Your marriage has irretrievably broken down

Some of the confusion surrounding separation and divorce may stem from former divorce laws that were updated in April 2022 through the introduction of no fault divorce.

Previously, couples who wished to divorce would have to demonstrate that the marriage had irretrievably broken down using one of five reasons.

These five reasons were:

  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Adultery
  • Two year’s separation with the consent of both parties
  • Five year’s separation without consent
  • Desertion

Does separation have an impact on divorce settlements?

Being separated while still married can cause complications when it comes to reaching a financial settlement during a divorce.

A financial settlement will consider every asset that a couple owns at the time of a divorce, not at the time of a previous separation. This means that any assets acquired during separation and before divorce is initiated will form part of a final settlement. This could affect what is considered to be ‘fair’ if you need to engage in negotiations or apply to the courts for a Financial Order.

Our solicitors can help

If you are considering divorce and need further advice on your position and what the process will entail, our expert family law solicitors will be able to lend their support and provide you with all the information you need.

In situations where you and your partner agree to separate, but are not ready to immediately divorce, we can also advise you on whether preparing a separation agreement would be in your best interests.

At Woolley & Co Solicitors, our expert divorce lawyers can offer specialist legal advice to guide you through a divorce or to make a separation agreement. We will be able to clearly explain what actions need to be taken and the arrangements that would be best suited to you and your family.

To take advantage of your free 30-minute consultation with an expert local family law solicitor, call 0800 321 3832 or complete our quick online form.

Richard England
Divorce and Family Solicitor Sutton Coldfield

Blog Author - Richard England

Richard EnglandRichard England

Richard is a divorce and family solicitor with Woolley & Co based in Sutton Coldfield near Birmingham.


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