Separation when married

Separation when married

26th February 2021

If you are married and decide to separate, the practical arrangements that you need to do may feel overwhelming.  Let’s try to break it down a little. 

These answers relate to couples who are married. Different advice relates to couples who are unmarried which we'll cover in a blog coming soon.  


Can we separate informally?

Yes, if you can both agree on issues such as children, housing,money etc.


 Does an agreement need to be written?

 No, it can be verbal, but we would advise that a written one is better.


Do we need to pay  for a solicitor?

That depends on the complexity of issues. Help with the costs of drawing up an agreement may be possible-go to Scottish Legal Aid

Mediation can also be of help in forming a suitable agreement. Check out services from Relationship Scotland 0345 1192020 or go to    


Where will the children live?

It is best to come to an amicable agreement about this. Residency can be mainly with one parent, with visits to the other, or it can be shared.  If you are unable to agree, then a court will decide based on what it feels is in the best interests of any children.  Older children can decide for themselves.


What about money to support children?

Both parents are legally obliged to give children financial support. If agreement can’t be reached then the Child Maintenance Service can be asked to become involved and they can make an assessment and enforce payment.  You would need to contact Child Maintenance Options  0800 083 4375 first to get a reference number.


What about money for us?

Until divorced, both of you  are legally obliged to provide financial support to each other.  If you find you are in financial difficulty, then CAB can do a check to see if there might be entitlement to any benefits.


 Do we keep joint bank accounts?

You may wish to close any and open separate ones to avoid the risk of an overdraft being run up. If there is a worry that money may be withdrawn, the account can be frozen.


What do we do about debts?

Check to see if there are any for which you are jointly liable. If there are any unmanageable ones you can seek advice from the  CAB debt team.


What happens about the house?

Whether the property is owned or rented, each spouse has a right to stay  in it and this applies irrespective of whether it is a joint mortgage/tenancy or not.

Continuing to share the house but lead separate lives could be an option.  If owned, the house may need to be sold to finance two new homes or  there may be  the possibility of one spouse buying out the other.  A change in housing may mean a claim to some benefits, so again, contact CAB if  you need more help.


Who do we need to inform that we have separated?

There is quite a list including Mortgage provider/landlord, energy provider,bank/building societies, credit card companies,  loan providers, insurance and pension provider, Council Tax office, HMRC DWP and any children’s school.


When can we divorce?

This can be after  at least a year if you both agree and have been living apart or living separate lives. This shows that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. Also, adultery or unreasonable behaviour would also show this.

If one partner does not agree, then it would be two years.