Family law

What is a separation agreement?

A separation agreement sets out your financial arrangements when you separate, enabling you both to live separate lives while you consider where your marriage or civil partnership goes from here.

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What is a separation agreement?

Separation agreements are most commonly used by married couples or civil partners who are considering divorce or dissolution but don't want to rush into making such an irrevocable decision.

They are also used by people who don't wish to divorce for religious reasons, or who can't yet divorce or have their civil partnership dissolved because they haven't reached the 12-month mark. Separation agreements set out your financial arrangements while you are living apart, and generally cover areas such as:

  • Houses and property: Which of you will live in the family home and whether or not it should be sold
  • Childcare arrangements: Where your children will live and what parental access and financial arrangements will be made
  • Mortgage and bill payments: What proportion of these will you both pay
  • Debts: Who will be responsible for clearing them
  • Savings and investments: How these will be managed and divided if necessary
  • Possessions: What will happen to joint possessions ranging from cars and artwork to furnishings and items of sentimental value
  • Pets: With whom the pets will live with and what access the non-resident party will have

Is a separation agreement legally binding?

Separation agreements aren't legally binding in their own right. However, it is still a formal contract and in the event of a dispute it will carry a certain amount of weight in a court of law.

That's why we recommend that you use expert lawyers to draw up any separation agreement. Our family lawyers have the experience to understand the protections you need, and to draft the agreement as clearly as possible. This is important, not least because in the event that you do find yourself seeking a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership, your separation agreement should be suitable for submission to the court where it can be made the subject of a legally binding consent order.

I want a divorce, why get a separation agreement?

There are two compelling reasons why a separation agreement can be a good idea, besides the fact that you can't seek a divorce or dissolution within the first 12 months of a marriage or civil partnership. For example:

• It gives you time for consideration: Many divorced couples subsequently remarry, having found that they were hasty in seeking the finality of divorce proceedings. Separating under the terms of a properly drafted Separation Agreement can give you both the time and financial stability to think before taking such an important decision

• It could enable a more amicable divorce: While the notion of a 'no fault' divorce is being discussed by the Government – this has yet to pass into law.

If you want an immediate divorce, you may find yourself having to cite unreasonable behaviour or adultery as the reason for the breakdown of the marriage or civil partnership, which can be quite damaging, especially if you have children together.

However, the courts also accept two years of separation as a reason for a divorce or dissolution to be granted, and so a separation agreement can lay the groundwork for an amicable split in which neither party has to be blamed by the other to the detriment of family life in the future

Case studies

Pensions on divorce

A husband contacted our team to help resolve the financial aspect of his divorce.

Schooling disagreements

A mother contacted our team to help arrange which school her daughter was to attend after the father unreasonably challenged her position.

Taking children out of the country without consent

A father contacted our team after his daughter was taken to Egypt without his consent.

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