Understanding separation law

Under current UK law you can live with someone in a number of legally recognised ways that include: 

  • Civil Marriage
  • Civil partnership
  • Co-habitation

In each of these types of relationship you must be fully aware of the law if you want to separate from your partner. Separation law is slightly different depending on the type of relationship you have. For instance, civil marriages are legally binding. Separation law states that your marriage is dissolved if you separate from your partner for more than five years. If you want to legally separate earlier, you must follow divorce proceedings.

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 is now law. It allows same-sex couples to get legal recognition of their relationship. If you are in this type of relationship, you are called a ‘civil partner’, and this is recognised under UK law. Separation law with civil partnerships is similar to civil marriage. You should consult a family law solicitor if you want to separate from your civil partner, as you have to consider a number of factors including tax, pensions and child support.

You can also live with your partner as if you were married without actually performing the marriage ceremony. If you are co-habiting you have a number of rights, but not as many as civil marriages or partnerships have.

Often misunderstood is that when you have been living with another person for a length of time, they become your common law partner. This is incorrect, as there is no legal status of common law marriage. More information is available from the Advicenow and One Plus One websites.

When you are living together but not within a civil marriage or partnership licence you can separate at anytime. There is no legal process you have to move through. The Law Commission is currently looking at the whole subject of co-habitation and how more legal rights can be given to couples who choose to live like this. If you are in this situation a family law solicitor can be very helpful if you suddenly find you have to pay a mortgage or rent after your partner has separated from you.

Call us for free on 0800 533 5787 or use the web-form to the right to speak to an advisor who can put you in touch with the right solicitor for your needs.

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