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Getting a Legal Separation Agreement

A legal separation agreement is beneficial for married couples who are thinking about splitting up, but who are not ready to proceed with divorce.

Similarly to divorce, a legal separation allows you to live separately from your partner. In addition, you will still need to consider negotiating your finances, property and child arrangements. However, unlike divorce, a legal separation means you will not have legally dissolved your marriage. You also do not need to prove your marriage has irretrievably broken down, but can apply on similar grounds for divorce, including desertion and adultery.

Married woman and man considering legal separation agreement or divorce

Why Choose a Legal Separation Agreement?

Married couples or those in a civil partnership may prefer a legal separation agreement for several reasons, such as:

  • You have been married for less than one year
  • Your religion is against divorce
  • You are looking for a less formal approach to divorce
  • You are not ready to start divorce proceedings and need time to consider your options

Couples seeking a separation agreement have no obligation to inform any legal bodies that they are no longer living together. However, it is always recommended to seek advice from a solicitor for a separation agreement. This is because of the issues you need to discuss relating to your home, finances and children.

What Do Separation Agreements Involve?

There are a number of matters to take into account with a separation agreement, including:

  • Agreeing to child arrangements, for example where your child will live, as well as child maintenance payments due to you or your ex-partner
  • Consideration of your child’s other necessities, such as who will pay school fees
  • Determining the division of property, investments and savings
  • Deciding on where you and your ex-partner are going to live, including who will live in the former family home
  • Taking into account who will be responsible for bills and debt payments, and if you will be able to afford these after separating
  • Discussing transfers of shareholdings in family businesses

Both parties must also fully disclose all their financial information, including any debt and any savings. If your ex-partner is dishonest about their finances, the agreement is less likely to be legally binding.

Without the assistance of a family law solicitor, it can be difficult for couples to come to a fair agreement during a separation, especially when children and finances are involved.

Is a Separation Agreement Binding?

Usually, the Court is currently not involved in creating a separation agreement. However, you are entering a contract which has the potential to be legally binding. If you later decide to proceed with divorce, a separation agreement may put you at an advantage in Court. Furthermore, if both parties have been frank regarding finances, and your separation agreement has been properly drawn up by a solicitor, these factors may also have more influence in Court.

A solicitor can create the agreement for you and form a recognised contract that is reasonable and fair. It is worth remembering that any changes to your separation agreement must be agreed to by your ex-partner.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Separation Agreement

Advantages

  • It can be as formal or as informal as you prefer, with the latter relieving the pressure of separation for some couples
  • You can include what you want in the agreement and decide on terms both parties approve of, including the date your relationship ended
  • It offers transparency regarding both you and your ex-partner’s financial situations
  • You no longer have to live with your ex-partner, therefore they cannot accuse you of desertion
  • It can be upheld in Court, providing the separation agreement is reasonable, financially factual and drawn up by a solicitor

Disadvantages

  • The Court is less likely to uphold the agreement if both parties did not seek legal advice or disclose their full financial information
  • Additionally, if there have been major changes to you or your ex-partner’s circumstances, the Court may not support the agreement, as the original terms are now no longer reasonable
  • A separation agreement can only be amended if both parties accept the changes

How to Get a Legal Separation Agreement?

A legal separation agreement initially costs £365. You will also need to pay for a certified copy of your marriage certificate, if you do not have one.

Once you and your ex-partner have committed to getting a legal separation agreement, seek advice from a family law solicitor. This is especially important if your financial, property or child arrangements are complicated and cannot be easily decided on.

If both parties agree to the terms of the separation agreement, your solicitor can draw up the contract for you. You may need to revisit the agreement with your solicitor several times before both parties settle.

When the terms are agreed to and the document is properly drafted, you and your ex-partner will sign the separation agreement. If you do decide to divorce at a later date, a legal separation agreement can be very valuable in Court, on the condition you have met the relevant requirements when drawing up the agreement.

For more information on legal separation agreements, contact Major Family Law solicitors and receive our professional advice, expert guidance and an initial consultation, free of charge.