What is a separation agreement?
For a variety of reasons, you may not want to get divorced when you separate from your spouse. You may however want to formalise any agreements you reach in relation to the children, property and investments. If you can reach a voluntary agreement then this can be incorporated into a Deed of Separation, which is also called a Separation Agreement.
This kind of agreement can formalise decisions you make jointly in relation to:
- Houses and property - who will live in the family home, whether it will be sold and how other residential, commercial or investment property will be divided or managed.
- Childcare arrangements - who your children will live with and what parental access arrangements will be in place, as well as whether maintenance will be paid to support children and who will be responsible for these payments.
- Mortgage and bill payments - who will be responsible for paying mortgage and rent payments and other bills, and in what proportion.
- Debts - how debts will be managed and who will be responsible for clearing them.
- Savings and investments - how joint savings and other jointly managed investments will be divided or otherwise managed once you separate.
- Possessions - what will happen to large items of property, such as vehicles, valuable (or sentimentally valuable) furniture or artwork that you bought jointly or each have a claim to.
- Pets - who your pets will live with and access arrangements for the other partner.
Why choose a separation agreement over a divorce?
Unlike a divorce, a separation agreement is not legally binding in its own right. This is why some prefer the finality of a divorce and financial court order when it is possible. However, a separation agreement is still a formal contract, and when it is drawn up by highly trained legal professionals such as the team at Slater and Gordon, it can be used in court. Separation agreements are often made legally binding when used in divorce proceedings, when an experienced solicitor drafts the document, applies to the court and has it turned into a consent order.
Many people find that separation agreements are very useful when preparing for divorce, as they offer the following benefits:
- Speed up the divorce process. With a written contract of your joint decisions in relation to what happens to finances, assets, children and other important matters already in place, the divorce process can be much quicker. Provided you both still agree to the terms of the agreement and nothing significant has changed since it was made, an agreement can save you both on legal costs for the divorce and financial settlement.
- A solution for those who have been married for less than 12 months. The law in the UK states that unless a couple have been married or in a civil partnership for at least one year, they cannot start divorce proceedings. For these couples, a separation agreement would be ideal for formally deciding on the terms of the separation until this time has passed.
- A solution for couples who do not want to base a divorce petition on adultery, or unreasonable behaviour. UK law requires the petitioner to show that the marriage has irretrievably broken down on the basis of one of five facts, which includes adultery and unreasonable behaviour. The other -three are if a couple have lived apart for two years (and both agree to the divorce), desertion (if your ex has ‘deserted’ you for two years or more in the last 2.5 years) or five years separation (only one party needs to agree). A separation agreement is a good option for those who do not want to assign blame to their partner or cite any of the other facts for divorce. It offers an effective way to formalise the division of assets and other matters such as childcare while the couple waits for two years to pass so that they can legally divorce.
- Time to make important decisions. Not all people know for sure whether they want to make such an important decision as to legally divorce. A separation agreement can offer time and space to work out the best course of action, while ensuring that proper arrangements for children and finances are made.
Seek legal advice from the experts
Separation agreements can sometimes be complicated to finalise, and occasionally difficult to enforce. Dividing jointly owned assets and making important decisions on sensitive issues such as children and family when emotions are already running high can be stressful for all parties. This is why it is crucial to have a specialist in separation agreements on your side, to give you sound legal advice you can trust and to work in your best interests.
There are also certain conditions that must be met in order for a separation agreement to stand up in court. This is another reason why it is essential to seek the services of an experienced solicitor. They will help you to make your agreement watertight.
Our family law solicitors here at Slater and Gordon can help you with all aspects of a separation agreement, and explain the advantages and disadvantages involved. We understand that this is an emotional time for everyone involved, and we always try to make the process of separation as stress-free as possible.
Why choose us?
As well as being one of the UK’s largest and best-known law firms, Slater and Gordon has offices across the country. You’ll find our specialist legal teams in Manchester, Liverpool, London, Watford, Sheffield, Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Preston, and Edinburgh. Wherever you live, we can help.