Deciding whether to end a marriage or civil partnership

This advice applies to Scotland. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Wales

What to consider

There are financial and personal issues you should think through carefully before you make a decision about whether you want to end a marriage or civil partnership and which option you choose. 

Think and make plans about issues like:

  • your personal safety and well being 

  • whether you want the option of getting back together later

  • where you'll live - who has the right to stay in a house you rent or own?

  • how you'll support yourself financially as a single person

  • any shared debts you have, like mortgages or cars

  • how splitting up will affect your benefits

  • who will look after any children and how contact will be arranged

  • financial support (maintenance) you will have to pay for children

  • financial support you may have to pay your partner until you're divorced or the partnership is dissolved

  • any ongoing communication you might need to have with your partner

  • how you'll pay for a divorce or the option you choose

  • how splitting up would affect your immigration status. 

You should get help from specialist organisations that can help you talk through some of these issues. You might be able to agree things without going to court, or before you go to court, which might be cheaper and less stressful. 

If you feel unsafe or think you are in an abusive relationship, you should get specialist support about domestic abuse

If you're not a British Citizen

If you're not a British Citizen and your marriage ends, this could affect your right to stay in the UK.

You should get advice from an experienced immigration adviser. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau should be able to help.

Your options 

You could decide to:

  • try to repair the relationship

  • separate informally, without going to court 

  • separate by drawing up a separation agreement 

  • get a divorce or dissolve your civil partnership.

Some people may also be able to get a decree of nullity or annulment if the marriage wasn't legal under Scottish law. For example, if one of you was under 16.

It's important to get legal advice about your options and how your financial situation will be affected.

You should look for a solicitor who does family law. 

Using a solicitor can be expensive. If you're on a low income, look for a solicitor who does legal aid work. 

A solicitor can help you reach agreements out of court if that's what you want. Some are also trained in family mediation. 

You can search for solicitors on the Law Society of Scotland website

Other sources of support and advice

This isn't a full list of support. There might be local organisations and support groups available to you. 


Counselling provides a space to talk about the issues in your relationship. You can see a counsellor together or separately.  

You might have to pay for counselling, depending on the provider. Let them know if you are on a low income. 

You can find trained counsellors through The Spark or Relationships Scotland.

Family mediation

Family mediation helps you and your partner sort out disagreements when your relationship breaks down.

A trained mediator will listen to both sides and help you agree what is best for you and your children. You both have to be willing to go voluntarily. 

You might have to pay for mediation, depending on the provider.

If you can't afford it, you might be able to get legal aid to help with some of the costs. You should look for a mediator who does legal aid work.

You can find a trained family mediator through Relationships Scotland. Find a solicitor who does mediation through CALM Scotland

Benefits and debt

Your local Citizens Advice Bureau will be able to tell you how your benefits would be affected if you split up from your partner. 


Get advice before you move out, even if your name isn't on the tenancy agreement or mortgage. 

There is advice about your rights to stay in your home on the Shelter Scotland website

Your local Citizens Advice Bureau will also be able to advise you about how your housing rights could be affected. 


Make a parenting plan

The Scottish Government has a guide to making a Parenting Plan to help you agree arrangements for children. 

Parenting Apart

Relationships Scotland provides a free service called Parenting Apart. These are sessions about the impact of separation on children. 

Relationships Scotland

18 York Place



InfoLine: 0345 119 2020 (Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 4pm)

Fax: 0345 119 6089



Next steps

You can find out more about: 

If you think you need an annulment because the marriage isn't legal, you'll need to use a solicitor