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Deciding whether to end a marriage or civil partnership

This advice applies to Scotland

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, cars and credit cards
  • 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 - where to get advice.

Your options 

You and/or your partner could decide to:

  • try to repair the relationship
  • separate informally, without going to court 
  • separate by drawing up a separation agreement 
  • get a divorce to legally end your marriage 
  • 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, one of you was under 16.

Sources of support and advice

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

It's important to get legal advice about your options and how your financial situation will be affected. They can help you reach agreements out of court if that's what you prefer. You should look for lawyers who specialise in family law - you can search for solicitors on the Law Society of Scotland website

Make sure you are aware of the costs and what to expect of using a solicitor before you contact one. 

Mediation and counselling

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

Relationships Scotland 

Relationships Scotland provides relationships counselling and family mediation services across Scotland. Relationships Scotland provides a free service called Parenting Apart, which allows parents to participate in sessions about the impact of separation on children. 

Relationships Scotland
18 York Place
Edinburgh
EH1 3EP

InfoLine: 0345 119 2020 (Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 4.30pm)
Fax: 0345 119 6089
Email: enquiries@relationships-scotland.org.uk
Website: www.relationships-scotland.org.uk

The Spark

The Spark provides relationship counselling services face to face, by telephone or online. 

The Spark
General enquiries: 0808 802 0050
Relationship Helpline: 0808 802 2088 (Mon, Wed and Thurs 11am-2pm).
Appointments: 0808 802 0050
Email: Contact form available on the website
Website: www.thespark.org.uk

Benefits and debt

Citizens Advice Bureau

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

Housing

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

Shelter Scotland or Citizens Advice Bureau

There is advice about deciding what to do about the family 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. 

Children

Make a parenting plan

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

Relationships Scotland 

Relationships Scotland provides a free service called Parenting Apart, which allows parents to participate in sessions about the impact of separation on children. 

Relationships Scotland
18 York Place
Edinburgh
EH1 3EP

InfoLine: 0345 119 2020 (Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 4.30pm)
Fax: 0345 119 6089
Email: enquiries@relationships-scotland.org.uk
Website: www.relationships-scotland.org.uk

When you've decided what to do

If you decide to:

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

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