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.