The breakdown of a relationship can often be an emotionally difficult and unsettling time for both partners. For a couple who have come to terms with the fact that their relationship has ended, figuring out the next step may be quite challenging. Understanding the difference between separation and divorce is essential when it comes to making the next decision. Particularly when there are children involved, both parties need to be aware of how both these options will impact their lives moving forward.

With emotions running high and dealing with the fallout of the breakdown of your relationship, having clarity and understanding will be crucial in helping you make your decision.

In this article, we explain the difference between separation and divorce, and the implications of both.


Understanding Separation


In a nutshell, separation is the process of living apart, while still being legally married. It is often the first step taken by couples who have decided to end their relationship but are not in a position to get divorced.

The first step for couples who wish to separate is to enter a separation agreement. At this stage, it’s an opportunity for both parties to work out the living and financial arrangements going forward, including who will live in the family home.

If there are children involved in the relationship, it’s essential to minimise the disruption and upset for them. Working out a plan for where dependent children will live and access arrangements should be a top priority. Both parties need to come to an agreement regarding maintenance payments and establish whether either person should pay the other.

The separation agreement may also cover what will happen to any property or business that they may own together.

It is certainly advisable for each party to have their solicitor negotiate on their behalf so that their best interests are looked after. If the majority of issues can be agreed upon at this stage, the easier it will be down the line when it comes to applying for a divorce.


Where does judicial separation fit in between separation and divorce?


At a time of tension, disruption and high emotions, it can be difficult for couples to remain amicable when trying to come to agree on terms for living separately.

In this instance, either party can apply for a decree of judicial separation and this process formalises the separation agreement. There are a variety of grounds for judicial separation and we covered these in a recent article which you can read in a previous article we published.


What Is The Difference Between Separation and Divorce? - Summit Law (2)


Understanding Divorce


To put it into simple terms, divorce is the legal termination of a marriage. It is a permanent solution to a broken relationship that cannot be mended. The main difference between being separated and divorced is that both parties can remarry once the divorce is finalised.

Another aspect to consider is that once a decree of divorce has been issued by the Court, it also terminates certain rights, such as succession rights.

To apply for a decree of divorce, the couple must have lived apart from one another for at least two out of the previous three years before entering an application. This timeframe was reduced as a result of the Marriage Referendum, and since then, Ireland has seen a steady increase in divorce applications.


One final difference between separation and divorce


While a separation agreement will not require you to appear in court, you will have to present yourself in court for a divorce hearing. This is why it’s so important to have an experienced family law solicitor on your side through this process.

Your solicitor can assist you in negotiating the majority of if not all, the terms of the divorce before you enter the courtroom. The less time spent in court, the less of a financial burden the process will be for you and your spouse. If you have issued divorce proceedings and your spouse decides to contest it, this will make the process longer, more complicated and more costly.


Summit Law – your provider of separation and divorce services


At Summit Law, we understand that separation and divorce can be a stressful and emotionally draining time, filled with worry for the future. Our experienced team of Family Law solicitors can help take some of that worry away by providing expert guidance and support throughout the legal process, whether it be a separation or divorce.

We offer a range of services to ensure that you receive the best legal advice and support for your individual needs so that you can move forward to the next chapter of your life.

Whatever stage you are at in the breakdown of your marriage, contact us today for a consultation. As an expert provider of family services in Ireland, we can provide some clarity, support and guidance in your hour of need.

You can also browse our blog and resources for more information on the wide range of legal services covered here at Summit Law.