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Separation Agreements - what are they?

View profile for Sally Clark
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In the UK, the amount of married couples separating is on the rise year after year. I often get asked if it is possible to resolve financial matters before deciding to formally end a marriage and start divorce proceedings. The answer is yes, a separation agreement can be drawn up to outline agreements made between you and your spouse in relation to finances and it can also include arrangements for children

What can a Separation Agreement cover?

A Separation Agreement is flexible and is bespoke to each couple. It can therefore include any agreement made between you in relation to any financial matter or children matter. For example:

•    Who pays the mortgage or rent and if both of you are contributing, how much the contributions are
•    Who is paying what household bills
•    Who is going to live in the family home and any arrangements to sell either in the present or future
•    How assets are to be divided 
•    Arrangements for any joint debts, loans etc
•    Decisions made in relation to cars or furniture or any other household items
•    Recording how much child or spousal maintenance one of you is paying the other 
•    Recording arrangements for the children - where they are to live, what time they are to spend with the other parent and arrangements for the school holidays and special occasions

Is a Separation Agreement binding?

There is not a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to this question. A Separation Agreement is not a final order in relation to a couple’s financial settlement. If however, both parties have provided full and honest disclosure on their finances, both parties have taken legal advice on the agreement and it does not unduly prejudice one party, then the Separation Agreement will carry a heavy weight in Court. 

They are not currently binding in the Courts of England and Wales; however they do provide evidence of a couple’s intentions and they can therefore provide some protection until a couple decides to commence Divorce Proceedings and formalise financial arrangements.

What happens if you come to Divorce at a later date in the future?

If you come to the decision that you wish to divorce at a later date, you can use the Separation Agreement to draft what is called a Consent Order. The Consent Order is then submitted to the Court during the Divorce Proceedings to be reviewed by a Judge. A Judge, if satisfied will then seal the Order, meaning it is a binding order on both you and your spouse. 

If you would like to know more about Separation Agreements please contact one of our family law experts.