Divorce & Separation

The breakdown of a relationship is often one of the most significant and emotional events in a person’s life. Our Family Team are on hand to guide you through the process.


When a couple decide to separate, it takes effect from the moment you physically separate, even though you may still be living under the same roof. You may decide that you wish to proceed with a divorce or dissolution in order to formally end your legal relationship. We can help you navigate your way painlessly through this process and explain in more detail the different options available to you.


To grant a divorce or dissolution of civil partnership, the court must be satisfied that your relationship has broken down irretrievably. This is the only ground of divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership in Scotland although it can be established in a number of ways:-

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • 1 Years Separation (with the consent of your spouse or civil partner)
  • 2 Years Separation
  • Issue of an interim gender recognition certificate

Simplified Divorce

If there are no financial issues to be resolved and you have no children under the age of 16, then provided that you have been separated for a period of at least 1 year, the simplified divorce procedure may be an option for you.

If there are financial issues still to be resolved or you have children under the age of 16 then the ordinary procedure must be used. This procedure is more complex but our leading Family Law experts are on hand to guide you through the process.

Expat Divorce

In some circumstances you can divorce in Scotland even if you or both you and your spouse reside abroad. We can discuss the jurisdictional requirements with you to help you understand your options and make an informed decision.

Our family lawyers are here to support and guide you through difficult times.

Family Law 
Frequently Asked Questions

What is family law?

Family Law is the umbrella term for legal matters relating to the family. It includes separation, divorce, child-related issues (including adoption), maintenance, division of assets and protective orders in cases of domestic violence. It also covers asset protection aspects such as Pre-Nuptial, Post-Nuptial and Cohabitation (or “Living Together”) Agreements.

Can you act for me if I’m outside Scotland?

We have clients from all parts of the UK, and across the world. The team has three dual qualified lawyers, who can advise on the law of England and Wales as well as the law of Scotland. We also have significant international experience. Our Head of Department, Philippa Cunniff, is one of only a handful of lawyers in Scotland who is a Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers.

Do I need to have a ‘legal separation’?

Whether are not you are separated is a matter of fact – if you are no longer cohabiting as spouses/partners, you are separated. There is a legal process known as judicial separation, that is very rarely used. Most people talk about being ‘legally separated’ when they have a formal Separation Agreement regulating the issues arising out of their relationship breakdown.

Do I have any rights if I’m not married?

Since 2006, it has been possible for former cohabitants to make financial claims in the event of the relationship ending. Such claims are limited in scope and are subject to very strict time limits (at the time of writing, claims must be made within a year of the cohabitation ending). It is essential to seek expert advice at the earliest possible opportunity.

  • Anonymous

“I am tremendously grateful to you for all that you have done to get me to this point – both over the long period during which the Agreement was negotiated and at various difficult moments since then.  It is a huge relief to finally have this resolved, and your perspective and expertise have been absolutely indispensable.”

  • Pauline

“I wanted to thank you for encouraging a tasteful and diplomatic separation. It’s made a huge difference to an already difficult time.”

  • Lynn

“I just wanted to thank you for all that you have done to support Andrew and ourselves. Finally, we have the right outcome and the boys will have a more secure long term future.”

  • Anonymous

“I have always found Denise Laverty to be an exceptional lawyer… on the basis of her professional legal excellence.”

  • Family Law Testimonial

Firstly I want to say a heartfelt thank you for your support over the last few weeks. I’m aware that your first duty is to the court, but I could not have done what I needed to do recently without your calm and authoritative counsel. You gave me the freedom to make my own decisions. I’m also aware that you and your team worked extremely hard to prepare me for court at very short notice.

Family Law Team

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Philippa Cunniff

Partner, Head of Family Law

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Denise Laverty


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Sally Nash