Do I have to divorce if my marriage has broken down?

No. You have other options if you are unsure whether you want to end your marriage. 

What are my other options?

Your options are as follows:
1    An informal separation
This is where you and your spouse agree to separate and agree what financial arrangements will be put in place during your separation.

2    Separation documented in a separation agreement

This is an agreement drawn up by solicitors and sets out agreed financial arrangements for the separation period. 

The agreement would usually set out how you would like your finances to be divided should you subsequently decide to divorce. If you do decide to divorce, the court is not obliged to follow the terms of the agreement, but the court would take into consideration.

3    Judicial separation

This is a formal separation and is recognised by the court. A petition for judicial separation is submitted to the court based on one of the same five facts as divorce. It is different to divorce however as you do not have to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. 

A decree of judicial separation does not end the marriage. The court cannot make orders in relation to pension sharing but it can make most other financial orders that are made on divorce. A decree of judicial separation removes the obligation on both you and your spouse to remain living together.

Applications for judicial separation may arise where there are strong cultural or religious reasons for not wishing to divorce. Otherwise they are very rare.

Alex Davies is the head of family law at Cripps of Kent and London. You can view his profile at http://www.cripps.co.uk/profile/alex-davies/ or contact him on +44 (0)1892 506326. Emma Clements is a trainee solicitor in the family team at Cripps. You can view her profile at http://www.cripps.co.uk/profile/emma-clements/