Deciding that you no longer want to continue a relationship with a partner, spouse, or civil partner is one thing, but embarking on the divorce process is another altogether.
If you are married or in a civil partnership, there might be a number of reasons why you choose not to formally divorce/legally dissolve the relationship straight away. These could be legal, financial, religious or otherwise.
Separation agreements are increasingly being used by couples in these circumstances, or by unmarried couples. A separation agreement is a written contract made between a couple if their relationship breaks down.
Separation agreements typically detail how joint assets and responsibilities will be divided between them. The contents can be tailored to meet the circumstances and needs of the parties to cover various aspects, including:
- Contributions to rent/mortgage/household bills until the property is vacated/sold
- Whether a property will be sold and in what percentages the proceeds will be split
- How jointly purchased items will be divided
- How any mutual debts will be paid
- What will happen to any family pets
- How any pensions, joint bank accounts or credit cards will be treated going forward
If there are children from the relationship, a separation agreement may also include living arrangements and contact arrangements, along with any ongoing maintenance payments to be made.
Separation agreements can offer couples the certainty of knowing where they stand financially for the foreseeable future. This can provide stability at a difficult time, also removing some of the potential acrimony or arguments that can surface down the line if things are left undecided.
On the other hand, separation agreements are not technically legally binding as they do not need to be approved by the court. It is therefore possible for them to be challenged in court. However, where properly drawn up with independent legal advice on both sides, financial disclosure separation agreements do hold weight in the court arena. It’s important to have the separation agreement drafted by a legal expert so you get it right the first time in case it is later challenged by either party.
In the event that a married couple or civil partners decide to formally divorce/dissolve their relationship later down the line, having a separation agreement already in place can be used as the basis for a financial settlement. This can help to speed up the process and provide a smoother pathway to finalising the divorce and financial order.
Gianna Lisiecki-Cunane, a solicitor and director at O’Donnell Solicitors, can provide further information and advice on Separation Agreements, please call her on 01457761883 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.