In this extract from the second edition of Marilyn Stowe’s book Divorce and Splitting Up: Advice from a Top Divorce Lawyer, she discusses why she doesn’t believe separation actually works.
I do not like the concept of “separation”: when a couple agrees to live apart from one another for a temporary or extended period. I see it as a halfway house offering little if any consolation to either party, for the following reasons:
1. It is not necessary for divorce. The idea that you have to separate before you can get a divorce is a myth that is seemingly perpetuated by every pub lawyer in the land. It is true that two years of separation, providing both parties consent, can be one of the “facts” used to prove that “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage has taken place. It is also true that if there is no consent, then the couple must live apart for five years before one of them can seek a divorce against the other’s will. However, these are not the only “facts”.
2. In my opinion, it is impossible to recover from the effect of a broken relationship during a period of separation. Both parties are leading completely separate lives, meeting different people and perhaps becoming romantically involved with others. At the same time they are not truly free, whether they consented to the separation or not, because they are not yet divorced.
In surveys of situations that cause the most stress to people, divorce regularly comes second only to the death of a spouse. In a way, divorce can be compared with bereavement: the body has to be buried before one can even begin to think about getting over a death. Divorce is a way of breaking with the past.
3. Sometimes one partner has decided that the marriage or relationship has come to an end, but cannot bring themselves to tell their partner the awful truth. Instead, this person hides behind the charade of a separation.
“Let’s see how it works out for the next few months”, they say, giving false hopes and dreams to their partner. Months later, when these dreams are shattered, it is at a substantial emotional cost to the partner who worried, waited and hoped because they were not in a position to accept the blindingly obvious.
I believe that if a marriage is going to succeed it does so with both parties living together. If neither party can live with the other, or if one party feels that the marriage is over, then the kindest way out is to end that marriage as quickly as possible. Sometimes it is necessary to be cruel to be kind.
Download your copy of Divorce & Splitting Up: Advice from a Top Divorce Lawyer for just 99p here. All profits are donated to the Children’s Society.