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Family Law

Separation Agreements

If you are married or unmarried and are separating from your partner, a separation agreement helps you organise your finances and responsibilities. Our experienced solicitors will work with you to draw up a separation agreement that fits your personal circumstances and protects your interests.

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Who is a separation agreement for?

Separation agreements can be used by separating couples who are married or in a civil partnership and unmarried couples.

For those who are married or in a civil partnership, a separation agreement is a way to manage day-to-day finances and other arrangements until they decide to get divorced, dissolve their civil partnership, or until they decide to rebuild their relationship. Sometimes couples draw up separation agreements because they are not ready to take the final step to end their relationship. Other times, they have not been married long enough to start divorce proceedings but wish to record their agreement.

Unmarried couples who share finances, property and other responsibilities such as children may draw up a separation agreement to formally set out how they will organise these aspects of their lives.

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A separation agreement might set out:

  • Child maintenance payments. Although these are normally enforced through the Child Maintenance Service, sometimes payments are covered in a separation agreement, particularly if the person paying maintenance will contribute more than the Child Maintenance Service calculation. A clause can be included to allow for increases in the cost of living.
  • Who the children will live with and how contact with the children will be managed. This ensures that both parents maintain a good relationship with their children. A parenting plan that sets out day-to-day practicalities could be included in the agreement.
  • Arrangements for family pets, including who will look after them and pay vet bills and other expenses.
  • What will happen to the family home, and who will live in it. For example, there might be an agreement not to sell the home until the children complete secondary education or other triggering events when the family home might be sold and the proceeds split.
  • Whether there will be a lump sum payment from one party to the other, the separation agreement might set out the amount and the date by which the lump sum will be paid.
  • Who will manage which debts. With joint debts, both parties are equally liable, so it is sensible to decide how this will be managed, especially if one party is more able to pay off their share.
  • How financial assets such as savings will be divided. It is important to seek legal advice about pensions as this can be complex.
  • How valuable items such as cars and furniture will be shared.
  • Who will pay the mortgage, rent and other bills.

For married couples, a separation agreement can include a provision for divorce. This will state that the separation agreement will be the basis for the divorce settlement.

At Davisons, our solicitors can help you to agree on the terms of a separation agreement with your ex-partner. We can negotiate with their solicitor on your behalf. Alternatively, we can support you to work with your ex-partner to reach an agreement yourselves through family mediation.

Once you are happy with the terms, we can draft a separation agreement for you and your ex-partner to sign and have witnessed.

Is a separation agreement a legal document?

A separation agreement is not legally binding because it is not a court order. However, for married couples, a lawyer can turn a separation agreement into a Financial Consent Order and/or a Child Arrangement Order, both of which are legally binding. Since arrangements for finances and children will have been agreed in advance through the separation agreement, this will speed up the legal process of divorce.

Unmarried couples do not have the same legal rights as married couples, so a separation agreement offers them a degree of legal protection. Although a separation agreement is not technically legally binding, if it has been correctly drafted, it is more likely that a judge will uphold it in court if one party refuses to keep to the terms agreed.

To increase the chance of a separation agreement being upheld by a judge, both parties must have:

  • Sought independent legal advice before entering into the agreement.
  • Entered into the agreement voluntarily without undue pressure from anybody else.
  • Disclosed their finances honestly.

For a separation agreement to become legally binding, both parties must still have similar circumstances to when the agreement was signed. Although clauses can be included to cover various changes in circumstances, such as if either party moves in with somebody else, remarries or their income changes.

Do you need a lawyer to draft your separation agreement?

You can draft a separation agreement yourself, but it is a good idea to seek expert legal advice before signing. A solicitor will advise you about whether the agreement fully protects your interests and what you should consider including.

It is vital to talk to a separation agreement solicitor if there are potential difficulties with your break-up. For example, if one of you earns significantly more than the other or your ex-partner pressures you to sign the separation agreement.

Making the decision to separate is rarely easy, and a solicitor can help to ensure the separation process is handled fairly. You will likely have lots of questions and concerns, and you may want to know what will happen to your finances, home, and possessions. If you have children, you will want to ensure their well-being is a priority.

Why choose Davisons separation agreement solicitors?

Our friendly and knowledgeable solicitors will get to know you and your circumstances so that we can provide the best possible advice tailored to your unique situation. We can help you to put a separation agreement in place to organise your finances and responsibilities. We will explain your options to you and ensure you are treated fairly during and after the separation.

Have any questions or need any help?

Our team of specialist lawyers are experts in their field. Be confident in their advice and decisions to help get the right outcome for you. Contact us today to see how we can help

Separation Agreements FAQs

No, but a separation agreement can be a legal document; a contract.

There are certain conditions which would need to be met in order for the Court to consider enforcing your separation agreement as part of the divorce proceedings. The conditions are as follows:

• Both parties need to have given full financial disclosure.
• Both parties should have received independent legal advice before drawing up the agreement.
• The agreement must be freely entered into by both parties.
• The circumstances of the parties should not be too different from when the agreement was drawn.

If these conditions are met and the agreement is fair for both parties, it is likely for the Judge to enforce the same.

A separation agreement can last for as long as the parties are separated. When parties wish to divorce, the separation agreement is usually placed into a financial consent order. Some parties decide that they do not want a divorce and simply wish to separate but do wish to have their financial matters recorded in an agreement. They would opt for a separation agreement. Whilst they are still married, they are separated and therefore the separation agreement would remain in place.

You and your ex-partner may wish to instruct Solicitors to assist in reaching an agreement in the final few issues that remain outstanding for the separation agreement. There is also the option of mediation where you and your ex-partner can attend to obtain assistance with this.

Unmarried couples can also enter into a separation agreement to record an agreement reached on the various aspects of their separation. As an unmarried couple, they would not be protected under the Family law. Should the parties wish to make their agreement enforceable, they would need to go through the Civil Courts which would allow for their agreement to be enforceable through contract.

Yes. The child arrangements can be included in a separation agreement which would comprise where the children shall live and with whom they shall have contact and when. It is also possible to include a clause in relation to child maintenance especially if the child maintenance payments are more than what child maintenance would calculate to be paid. Some people also wish to attach a parenting plan to their separation agreement in order to avoid any misunderstandings in the future.

You can draft your separation agreement yourself however the best option would be to instruct a Solicitor to do so. A Solicitor would be able to advise you whether your interests are fully protected and whether any further clauses should be included within the agreement to protect your interests in future. The separation agreement needs to be drafted in a particular way in order to hold some weight in court. There are many aspects which would need to be considered when drafting a separation agreement and therefore having an experienced Solicitor to deal with this for you would be in your best interests.