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Divorce after 20 Years of Separation in the UK

 August 2023

Have you separated from your husband or wife but not got divorced? It is surprisingly common for separation to drift into years but what happens if you want to get divorced after 20 years of separation in England and Wales?

In this article, our family law solicitors explore the legal aspects and practical considerations for divorce after 20 years of separation.

Initial Discussion

This summary provides general information and does not constitute legal advice on any individual circumstances.  
For an initial discussion and a no-obligation quote, get in touch with us today by simply calling us on 01234 343134 or email us at and a member of our team will get back to you.

No-Fault Divorce Proceedings

Divorce is a legal process that formally ends a marriage. Although separation is a common precursor to divorce, it does not automatically lead to divorce after a set period, such as 20 years. To obtain a divorce, you need to apply to the court even if you have been separated for 20 years.
The no-fault divorce process is the same whether you are divorcing because of your partner’s adultery, their unreasonable behaviour, or because you have been separated for 6 months or 20 years.

The No-Fault Divorce Court Process

You start divorce proceedings by filing either a sole or joint application for a divorce. You do not need to go into the reasons for your separation and you don’t need to prove that you have been separated for 20 years.
In divorce proceedings, you do not need your spouse’s agreement to divorce. You can normally obtain your final order of divorce without having to go to a court hearing.

Financial Settlements After 20 Years of Separation

After 20 years of separation, couples assume that their separated spouse has no financial claims against them. The law does not impose a time bar on financial claims. Therefore, an application for a financial order can be made if divorce proceedings are started after 2 or 20 years of separation.
If you have been separated for a long time it is best to speak to a family law solicitor before you start divorce proceedings. They will want to know if you negotiated a financial settlement at the time of your separation and if your agreement was recorded in a document called a separation agreement. If it was then the separation agreement should be converted into an agreed financial court order during the divorce proceedings.

Financial Settlements After a Long Separation   

You may not have signed a separation agreement at the time of your separation or you may have acquired substantial assets and be in a far stronger financial position than your estranged husband or wife. For example, you may now be the owner of a successful business, have accumulated a large pension or have inherited money.   

The length of your separation is one factor that will be taken into account when assessing financial claims. Another important factor includes the length of your marriage. The likely financial settlement will be different if you were together for 2 years rather than together for 20 years before you separated. That’s why it is crucial to understand potential financial settlement claims before you decide to initiate divorce proceedings.

Mediation After Separation

Family mediation to resolve how best to start divorce proceedings and any financial settlement can be a good option if you have been separated for a long time and you are both keen to finalise matters as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible.
Family mediation involves you both speaking to a specialist family mediator who will support you through the process of reaching an agreement over divorce proceedings and securing a clean break order in relation to financial matters.

Expert Family Law Legal Advice

When contemplating divorce after 20 years of separation, seeking legal advice from a family law solicitor is crucial. A specialist family lawyer can assess your situation, provide guidance on the divorce and financial settlement process, and ensure that your rights and interests are protected.

How Can Fullers Help?

We understand that finding a solicitor that you feel understands your own specific situation can be a daunting task. So, you can book a free call back with us here.

We have also created a series of fixed-price consultation meetings with a full ‘no questions asked’ money-back guarantee promise.

For an initial discussion and a no-obligation quote, get in touch with us today by simply calling us on 01234 343134, filling in the contact form below, or emailing us at and a member of our team will get back to you.

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