What is a Separation Agreement?

A separation agreement (‘Deed of Separation’) is a type of legal contract that is made by a couple when they want to stop living together. It aims to set out the financial arrangements and responsibilities for both parties for things such as children, finances, bills, and property.

A legal agreement can be drawn up and entered into by both married and unmarried couples.

In this article, we’ll look at when to use one, who needs one, and how to get one without spending thousands.

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    The uncertainty that a relationship breakdown causes can be eased with the help of a separation agreement.

    The agreement can document:

    • Who will pay previously joint bills,
    • Who will look after any children,
    • How any money or assets will be divided.

    It’s inevitable that during your relationship a range of things that make up a ‘normal life’ were shared. A home, a car, a savings account etc. But also financial responsibilities, such as household bills, mortgage/rent, children.

    A separation agreement can address these issues and show the court what is to happen to any jointly-owned interests. This can include any steps that need to be taken in the future, for example, selling the home and splitting any equity.

    Scenarios when to use a separation agreement

    When you separate, it can be quicker and cheaper to sort out your financial arrangements yourselves. In most cases, if there is an agreement, you won’t need to go to court.

    Regardless of whether you are married or not married, dealing with jointly-held interests will be something you need to sort out.

    1) Married couples that are separating…

    Separation agreements can be used as a precursor to divorce or as an alternative if you aren’t ready to start proceedings or because you do not qualify to file yet.

    In England and Wales, you need to have been married for a period of 12 months before being able to submit a divorce application.

    If your separation leads to a divorce, the separation agreement can be used in two ways.

    1. It can be used as proof of your separation date should you need it to start divorce proceedings or to use any of the separation-based grounds for divorce.
    2. The agreement you’ve reached should form the basis of a financial consent order. The court has the discretion to overturn or vary the separation agreement as it is not strictly legally binding.

    The court is likely to adhere to the agreement if it is fair to both parties and it will not harm any children involved.

    2) Unmarried couples that are separating…

    If you live with your partner and you are separating, you likely have many joint interests that make up a normal life that need to be resolved or dealt with.

    This normal life may involve such things as a car, household bills, utilities, council tax, savings accounts, and property, etc.

    Unlike married couples, those that live together without getting wed have fewer rights and protections following a separation, which makes drawing up a separation agreement even more important.

    Setting out what is to happen with household bills, rent/mortgage, and other such payments before going your separate ways will ease stress and worry when separating.

    3 Things To Know About Separation Agreements

    1.Can I use a free template or draft my own agreement?

    Unless you have been legally trained it would be very hard for you to have the necessary knowledge and drafting skills to draft an agreement that would be accepted by a court in the event of a dispute.

    Therefore it is always advisable to have a solicitor or someone fully trained to draft your agreement to ensure it passes through court.

    Seeking legal advice before entering into a separation agreement is always advised to ensure you have a fair and legally robust agreement, but it’s not required by law.

    Don’t be put off drawing up a separation agreement because of the cost. Local solicitors will charge you £1000+VAT or more, however, our online service is more affordable for all.

    Our family law solicitor can draft your agreement and advise you on how to sign it for just £599.00 fixed fee.

    2.How a separation agreement is used if you get divorced

    Should you and your spouse subsequently divorce, provided your separation agreement is drawn up properly and is reasonable, then a court is unlikely to interfere with it and will usually seek to uphold the provisions contained in it.

    Also, the terms of your deed of separation can then be transferred, very quickly and easily into what is known as a financial consent order.

    Effectively, your separation agreement is appended to the order and endorsed by the court.

    3.How to make your agreement legally enforceable

    For a court to consider enforcing your separation agreement as part of divorce proceedings, it would need to meet the following conditions:

    • The agreement must be freely entered into by both parties.
    • Both parties should have received independent legal advice before drawing up the agreement.
    • Both parties need to give full financial disclosure.
    • The circumstances of both parties are not considerably different from when the agreement was reached.

    If you can satisfy a Judge that these conditions are met and the agreement is fair and reasonable, it is unlikely that a judge would interfere with your agreement.

    Obtain a Separation Agreement Without Spending Thousands

    There’s no need to spend thousands hiring a solicitor to draft your separation agreement, we can deal with everything for you for just £599 fixed fee. We’ll help save you over £750.

    What can and should be included within your agreement?

    A range of things can be dealt with as part of a separation agreement, such as (but not limited to);

    • How much each party is to pay in respect of the mortgage, rent or household bills.
    • How any debts such as loans and overdrafts will be split between you.
    • How the money from the sale of a home will be split after payment of fees.
    • How to separate joint bank accounts and savings.
    • Division of personal property such as cars, CD collections, and furniture.
    • The payment of any ongoing maintenance for a spouse or children.
    • Who the children will live with and when they will see the other spouse, e.g. parental access.

    Pros and cons of a separation agreement

    Pros:

    • It lets both parties know where they stand, which can take the heat away from the separation.
    • Both parties have certainty and clarity at a difficult time.
    • You can decide exactly what you’d like to include.
    • They are likely to be upheld by a court if they are drafted correctly.
    • It shows that both parties consider the relationship to be over and the date of separation.

    Cons:

    • It can be difficult to enforce as it’s strictly not legally binding.
    • Changes cannot be made unless both parties agree to them.
    • The court can disregard some parts or all of the agreement when it comes to a divorce.

    How to make a separation agreement without spending thousands…

    For any agreement to be upheld by a judge, it must be professionally drafted by a legal professional such as a family law solicitor.

    Most people will enquire with local solicitors and receive quotes of over £1200. There is an alternative option that is over 50% cheaper and more efficient.

    Our online separation agreement service costs just £599 fixed fee and involves our experienced solicitors drafting an agreement to your individual and exact needs.

    This is not a template that you can get on Google as they will not be looked upon with any great weight by a Judge should you need to enact the agreement.

    Here is how to get started with our service;

    1. View our online service to see what’s included and how it works
    2. Complete our simple and secure online checkout (or call us)
    3. Complete an online questionnaire with the arrangements you’ve agreed
    4. Our solicitors will draft the agreement for you
    5. Both parties agree to the agreement and sign it

    How do Separation Agreements work from a practical perspective?

    A separation agreement is a type of contract and, therefore, a legally binding document.

    If either of you then fails to respect the provisions of the agreement, the other party may take legal action for breach of contract if the terms of the agreement have not been carried out.

    However, if the deed is not prepared properly then it may not prove to be legally binding.

    It is, therefore, important that both of you receive separate and independent legal advice before signing the agreement, as this may be needed as evidence in any court proceedings to enforce the terms of the agreement.

    Like any contract, the only way to enforce it, is to take the matter to court.

    This does not mean that you will be required to attend a court hearing, the agreements simply needs to pass through court via a judge.

    Obtain a Separation Agreement Without Spending Thousands

    There’s no need to spend thousands hiring a solicitor to draft your separation agreement, we can deal with everything for you for just £599 fixed fee. We’ll help save you over £750.

    This post was written by Mark Keenan. Editor of Divorce-Online and Managing Director of Online Legal Services Ltd. Mark has been writing about divorce and related subjects for over 20+ years and is an expert in legal marketing.


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