If you’re currently thinking about getting divorced or dissolving your civil partnership in the UK but haven’t yet started the proceedings, it may be beneficial to create a separation agreement. A separation agreement can serve many benefits, such as speeding up the divorce process for married couples and organising the finances or child arrangements for couples cohabiting.
Below, we have explained everything you need to know about a separation agreement, the benefits of forming one, the terms that can be included in the agreement and how it can be made legally binding.
What is a separation agreement?
Put simply, a separation agreement is a document you create when you and your partner wish to dissolve your relationship. The agreement outlines the arrangements regarding finances, property and child arrangements.
Please note that you can create a separation agreement either when you’re married or cohabiting.
What are the main benefits of a separation agreement?
The main benefits of forming a separation agreement are:
- Marriage – If you’re married, you can use a separation agreement to speed up the legal divorce process if you have already decided on the arrangements before the divorce process begins.
- Cohabiting – Unfortunately, a cohabitation agreement does not include terms regarding aspects such as child support and arrangements. Therefore, you may find a separation agreement beneficial as these agreements include elements regarding child arrangements and support.
- It allows you to separate if you cannot divorce – There are several reasons why you may not be able to get a divorce. For example, some religious beliefs conflict with the concept of divorce. Therefore, a separation agreement allows you to continue, away from your partner, without compromising the marriage.
- It can give you time to think about divorce – Forming a separation agreement is a way of legally separating. A key benefit is that it can feel less permanent and severe than divorce and means you can live apart while still being married.
What do separation agreements cover?
There are three main elements that a separation agreement covers, such as:
The agreement can form arrangements for the future care of your children by including terms regarding:
- Who the children will live with / the dates of shared care
- How often they will spend time with the other parent
- Where the children will live
- The parent that will claim the child benefit and child tax credit
- The child maintenance cost
The agreement will outline decisions for payment, including:
- Mortgage and rent
- Property maintenance
- School and medical fees
- Utility bills such as council tax, gas, electricity
- Loans and credit cards
The separation agreement can include terms regarding:
- How you and your partner will split the assets and possessions, you jointly own.
- Information regarding which partner will have the exclusive right to live in the house until a future sale.
- Information about what should happen to your intended share of the property should you die before the sale.
Is a separation agreement legally binding?
A separation agreement can be a formal legal document if experienced legal professionals draft it. Although it’s not technically legally binding in its own right, the court will give weight to a separation agreement that a lawyer has regularly reviewed and if both parties have sought independent legal advice on the contract.
Please note that you should always seek a family law lawyer to create the agreement or update an existing one.
Are you looking for a lawyer to help with a separation agreement? If so, Just give us a quick call on 020 3795 9020.
What conditions need to be met for the courts to consider a separation agreement?
The court will be more likely to consider a separation agreement if the following has been met:
- Take legal advice from a family lawyer before forming the contract.
- Both provide full financial disclosure
- Voluntarily enter into the agreement
- Agree that the terms are fair and reasonable
- Agree to have the contract drafted by a lawyer
- Have the document regularly reviewed by a lawyer
- Both your circumstances are similar to when you created the agreement
If you need help with a separation agreement drafted contact us today on 020 3795 9020.
Can a separation agreement be formed into a legally binding document during a divorce?
In short, yes.
To make a separation agreement legally binding, you should follow the five steps below:
You should agree with your partner on the areas your agreement will cover and the terms included in the agreement. Please note, this is not always possible. Therefore, if there is some conflict involved or you require complex child arrangements, you should seek a lawyer to provide advice on how to resolve these issues.
Once you have both settled on the contract terms, your lawyer will draft the agreement on your behalf. It is vital within the drafting stage that you have both sought independent legal advice from separate lawyers on the implications of the terms. If you are unhappy, you should seek the help of your lawyer to help amend and re-negotiate the terms until you are both happy and consent.
After completing steps 1 and 2, you will need to have the separation agreement signed and witnessed by a lawyer.
Once you have started divorce proceedings, your lawyer can apply to the court to have a consent order mirror the financial terms of the separation agreement to make it legally binding. You and your partner will need to fill out a statement of information form when creating a consent order.
After completing the steps above, a judge will decide whether the consent order is fair and reasonable. If they agree, they will approve it, making it legally binding.
How can we help?
Whether you need a separation agreement formed on your behalf or require independent legal advice on an agreement you have had recently drafted separation, we can help.
Here at LGBT Lawyers, we can connect you to an experienced lawyer who specialises in family law. We have a range of legal partners who have lawyers who specialise in family law cases.
SPEAK TO OUR TEAM ON 020 3795 9020