If you are married and your relationship is irreparable, you may choose to divorce. If you are in a civil partnership this is called dissolution.
You are classed as separated as soon as you stop living with your partner. This is particularly important regarding tax and benefits. You are required to inform HMRC even if your separation is temporary.
If you are applying for a divorce, you must be able to prove that one of the following has occurred:
- Desertion (not applicable in Scotland)
- Unreasonable Behaviour
- 2 year separation (1 year in Scotland), with partner's agreement
- 5 year separation (2 years in Scotland), not requiring partner's agreement
With the exception of adultery, all of these apply to a civil partnership if you want to dissolve it.
If you have children, you may also have to prepare a "statement of arrangements for children" with your divorce petition. This would include details of childcare, contact and financial arrangements.
If you are not married or in a civil partnership, you don't need to take any formal action if you decide to separate.
In England and Wales, unmarried people do not have any legal rights or responsibilities towards each other (although they do have legal responsibilities to any children that they have together).
In Scotland, the law does make some allowances for those who have been living together and who will be financially worse off at the end of the relationship.