Q. If a husband and wife are separated for 6 months, will that result in a divorce? Can she marry someone else at that time? And if they decide to come back together, do they need to remarry?
A.The mere separation between the husband and wife does not bring about a divorce, even if it is 6 months or more. It is however, a grave sin on their part to be separated in this manner without being divorced. This conduct is totally impermissible.
The separation of the husband which brings about a divorce occurs when the husband vows or promises that he would not have sexual relations with his wife, or he will not maintain a marital relation with her. If he attaches a time duration of four months or more to this vow/promise, then upon the termination of four months, one irrevocable divorce will occur. In this case, the wife will be required to start her iddah (waiting period of 3 menses- that is, three months), then she will be allowed to marry someone else if she wishes. If they wish to come back together, then they need to remarry.
If it is the wife who separated from the husband or vows/promises not to have a marital relation with the husband, then no divorce will occur in this case whether it is four months or more.
In a case where both parties have been separated on account of problems in the marriage, then they need to attend to this, in order to decide what they wish to do. They can consult our Marriage/Divorce Committee at the Darul Uloom.
It must be noted that in a case of mere separation for six months (as you have mentioned) where no divorce has been given by the husband, or he did not vow/promise to refrain from his wife, then no divorce will take place. The marriage between them will still be valid, and there will be no need to remarry in this case.
And Allah knows best.
Mufti Waseem Khan