Legal implications of separation when married or civil partnered.

10th March 2015 by

When two people decide to get married, or civil partnered, they are not only joining themselves together in the eyes of their religion, and their family and friends, but also in the eyes of the law.

Marriage and civil partnerships are legally binding undertakings which have serious implications for a couple and, should the relationship break down, there are legal responsibilities which must be considered.

Even if you and your spouse do not feel ready to divorce or end the civil-partnership, certain issues, such as finances and child contact, should be addressed as soon as possible. To find out more about formal arrangements and how Healys’ separation lawyers in London and Brighton could help, please click here.

Legal significance of a marriage or civil partnership in England and Wales

Below is a list of some of the legal consequences which occur on marriage or civil partnership which may be relevant if the parties decide to separate:

  • Married/civil partners will be held jointly responsible for debts incurred on bank accounts or other liabilities in their joint names, regardless of which partner incurred the debt or which partner put money into the account to help clear a debt.
  • Debts incurred prior to a marriage/civil partnership remain the sole responsibility of the individual spouse who incurred them.
  • When a child is born to a married couple, the husband is presumed to be the father unless proof to the contrary can be supplied. The husband has automatic rights to enter his name on the birth certificate and both married parents have parental rights for the child – parental rights remain even if the couple separates or divorces.
  • When a married couple separates but are unable to agree informal arrangements for child contact or residency, they can apply to the court for an order, even if they are not divorced.
  • Both parents must financially support their children and a parent who separates from their spouse must continue to contribute – the CSA may become involved if parents cannot agree the financial arrangements for care of children whose parents have separated.
  • Under Home Rights, both married/civil partners have the right to live in a matrimonial home regardless of who pays the mortgage or owns the property. Only a court can order that one spouse must leave a home.
  • The married/civil partner is automatically the next of kin.
  • A married or civil partnered couple which separates, but does not divorce, can apply to the family courts for financial relief and the court has wide powers to divide their property.
  • A married/civil partner will automatically inherit their spouse’s estate upon death, even if the couple has separated, unless a Will has been drafted to reflect specific wishes to the contrary.
  • A surviving spouse will inherit all or part of the deceased spouse’s estate if they die intestate.

Are you thinking of separating from your spouse?

If you have separated from your spouse, or are contemplating a split, the separation lawyers at Healys can help.

Our many years of experience enable us to give you effective, straightforward advice to help protect your best interests. And when the time comes, our divorce solicitors will be on hand to represent you through any further proceedings.

If you have a query, email us at and we can contact you to discuss your circumstances.