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Are there alternatives to divorce?

Divorce is the main way to legally recognise that a marriage has come to an end. It allows the court to separate a couple’s finances and once granted, the parties are legally separate and able to re-marry again in the future.

Annulments are sometimes an option. Whereas divorce ends a marriage, annulments declare the marriage was not valid in the first place. The grounds for seeking an annulment are very fact specific (such as a lack of consent to marriage) but if it is granted, the parties are separated and it is as if they were never married. The court can however make financial awards similar to those in divorce proceedings after an annulment.

Sometimes couples may not wish to divorce but want legal recognition that they have separated. In such circumstances, they may consider a Judicial Separation. This grants the court powers to make some financial orders similar to those it can make on a divorce (such as spousal maintenance) but not all orders (such as pension sharing). With a Judicial Separation, the parties remain married so they cannot remarry and either party may seek a divorce at a later date.

A final option is to separate but not obtain a divorce. The court will not make any awards so the parties remain married but the parties can enter into a separation agreement regulating their finances. However, if either party seeks a divorce in the future, the court is not bound by the separation agreement and may decide to regulate the couple’s finances in a different way than was previously agreed.