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Bringing your marriage or civil partnership to an end

by TFS Admin 25th May 2021

A marriage or civil partnership may come to an end for a whole host of reasons. One party may have had time to think about bringing the relationship to an end whilst for the other it may come as a complete shock. Parties may need time to consider when or even if the legal ties should be undone and if so, how.

Speaking to a solicitor about your options will help give you clarity on how you should proceed. The below is a general guide which may assist you.

Divorce and Dissolution

These court proceedings bring finality to the marriage or civil partnership. The legal ties of marriage are brought to an end. After the pronouncement of the final decree by the court, you are no longer each other’s next of kin. You may go on to re-marry.


  1. If the marriage has come to an end then the divorce/dissolution will formally bring your legal ties to each other to an end
  2. You are free to re-marry
  3. Final financial orders can be made in respect of all finances, held jointly or solely including pensions
  4. Any financial order should prevent financial claims against each other in the future (though there are exceptions)
  5. There is no legal change in your relationship with any child of the family


  1. If you are unsure whether the marriage has come to an end, then this is not the route to take. Once the final order has been made you no longer have any legal ties.
  2. The only route is through the court
  3. The petitioner must evidence that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and this may necessitate placing fault on the other party. Though there will be a change to this in the Autumn on 2021
  4. The ceremony must have been over a year ago

Judicial Separation/Separation Order

These are court proceedings but DO NOT bring finality to the marriage or the civil partnership. You will remain married, but the legal obligation to live together is removed. You will remain each other’s next of kin. You may not re-marry.


  1. For cultural, religious or moral reasons you not want to be divorced. Judicial Separation or a separation order will allow you to “get on” with your own life
  2. Financial orders can still be made EXCEPT for Pension Sharing orders
  3. You do not need to have been married for a year
  4. There is no legal change in your relationship with any children of the marriage


  1. You will go through almost the same process of a divorce or a dissolution, but will remain married
  2. You cannot get a pension sharing order in any financial proceedings
  3. You may still have to go through the whole divorce process in years to come
  4. You may have to place fault on the other party

Separation agreement

A separation agreement does not bring any finality to the marriage or your legal ties. It is a document which can include all the agreements which you have reached in respect of the marriage, the children and the finances.

You will remain married.


  1. There are no court proceedings at all
  2. It can include all the agreements which you have reached together in one document
  3. It can be quicker and cheaper than divorce or judicial separation proceedings
  4. It can be used as a “stop gap” if for any reason you cannot formally bring the marriage to an end just yet.
  5. It sets out a clear intention for both of you to work from.


  1. It is not a binding document and there are still certain criteria which have to be met. A judge in any future divorce or dissolution proceedings may be persuaded by it – though certain criteria have to be met when drafting the document.
  2. It does not bring finality to the marriage. You are still married and each other’s next of kin
  3. It is in no way enforceable and the courts will have no power to intervene

Do nothing

Doing nothing always has to be an option. Maybe you want to wait and see how the breakdown of the marriage develops and decide at a later date what steps to take. On some rare occasions doing nothing can have its tactical advantages. You will remain married, you will remain each other’s next of kin. You may not take financial proceedings to court. You can still take matters relating to the children to court.

Make a will

If the marriage has come to an end, in whatever circumstances and whatever you chose to do to recognise the breakdown, whether on a formal or informal basis the unequivocal advice is to make a will and consider various steps that you may need to take in respect of any owned property.

Fiona Wilson is a solicitor with some 26 years’ experience as a family specialist dealing with all aspects of family breakdown. Fiona is at our Hinckley office and can be contacted on 01455 610747.