Legal Separation in Scotland

There can be many different reasons for separation in marriage in any country. In some cases, the decision to separate will be mutual, and in others, there may be disagreements or even an inability to discuss the matter. If legal separation is required in Scotland, the courts do not have to recognise it unless there is a dispute over the actual date of the separation.


While marriage and separation have existed almost as long as human history itself, cultures and tradition view the events in many different ways. Scotland is a part of the United Kingdom, but the Scotland Act 1998 gave the nation its own government. This Scottish Executive received powers for devolved issues such as health, education and family matters. Scotland updated laws regarding divorces and separation in 2006, which replaced the Family Law (Scotland) Act 1985.

The Law

The Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 contains details regarding couples who live together and are married. It sets out the right to seek financial support if a partner dies or if there is a crisis in the relationship. The law states that any type of separation or divorce must be because of an irretrievable breakdown of marriage. Separation in Scotland comes in two forms: a one-year separation with consent of the spouse or two years without consent.


Legal advice services in Scotland can help couples draw up an agreement that lists the issues in the relationship that need to be resolved. It will be less likely for the couple to have to pay costs of going to the courts if they can arrange an agreement via a solicitor. Separation agreements tend to involve such matters as debt payments, sale of properties and division of finances.

Living Together

At the time of the introduction of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006, it was more common for couples to live together as spouses or civil partners without going through with an official marriage. This is called cohabitation. In these cases, the law is less clear when it comes to separation and agreements can differ depending on precise circumstances. Factors that could affect separation after cohabiting can include length of time living together, joint financial arrangements and children living in the home.


There are several organisations in Scotland that can provide information and help couples through difficult times. Separating should be a last resort and in most cases it can be possible to salvage the relationship. Since the introduction of the 2006 law in Scotland the most popular organisations for couples include Family Mediation Scotland, Couple Counselling Scotland and Citizens Advice Scotland.

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About the Author

Raymond McRobbie has written since 2009, specializing in law and travel on eHow. He also serves as senior writer for McRobbie has NCTJ credits in news writing, United Kingdom and European government and media law. He also has a Higher National Diploma in media studies from Aberdeen College.