Devon separation agreement solicitors, Slee Blackwell, look at what is involved when couples wish to formally separate
A separation agreement is available to both married and unmarried couples following the breakdown of a relationship. The purpose of separation agreements is to set out the arrangements the parties wish to make going forward. Separation agreements make provisions for things like childcare, maintenance, how bills should be paid, how assets and property should be separated and how the proceeds of sale should be distributed following the sale of assets or property.
When entering into a separation agreement both parties should do so at their own free will, meaning that a party cannot be forced to enter into an agreement and full financial disclosure should be provided.
When should I consider getting a separation agreement?
Separation agreements are common for couples who have been living together for a considerable amount of time and consequently their finances have become joint. Many couples have joint bank accounts and share their financial responsibilities.
As unmarried couples do not have the same rights following separation, many choose to have a separation agreement drafted by a solicitor to ease their worries moving forward.
By having a separation agreement, couples are ensuring that they have formally addressed what must be done in relation to their shared assets and responsibilities as well as setting out what steps they need to take to move forward. For example, placing a jointly owned property on the market. By having a separation agreement, the risk future misunderstandings or conflict is significantly reduced.
Separation agreements are not limited to unmarried couples. Many married couples who do not feel ready to engage in the formal divorce process will often choose to enter into a separation agreement. This enables couples to clearly set out how they intend to split their finances and responsibilities without having to apply for a divorce. Couples can then wait until they feel ready to divorce and even allows couples the opportunity to reconcile without any agreement being legalised through the courts.
Are separation Agreements Binding?
Separation agreements are not legally binding and merely show the parties intentions. Separation agreements cannot be relied upon in court as they can be challenged. However, they can be useful if the parties later enter into court proceedings if the agreement has been correctly drafted. A correctly drafted agreement will set out everything that would be contained in a court order making financial remedy proceedings very straightforward provided that neither party wishes to challenge the contents of the agreement.
If a party does decide to challenge the contents of a separation agreement in court proceedings, the agreement can be used as persuasive evidence and in many cases are viewed as significant by the Court.
If both parties agree to the contents of the agreement being put into a legally binding consent order the court will often approve the order if it is considered fair to everyone (including any children) and if there have been no substantial changes since the agreement was entered into.
What are the benefits of a separation agreement?
Despite not being legally binding there are many benefits that come with entering into a separation agreement, for instance:
- Separation agreements make the separation process far less stressful by setting out the obligations of each party. This provides clarity, which in turn reduces hostility;
- Separation agreements allow parties who are unable to divorce to reach a clear agreement;
- Separation agreements allow parties to make arrangements for their children without having to apply for a court order;
- Separation agreements can make it far easier for a financial order to be made by the court when the parties are ready to enter in to divorce and financial remedy proceedings;
- Separation agreements allow parties to separate on a trial basis before deciding to have the agreement incorporated into a court order or reconciling; and
- Separation agreements provide couples with the financial stability and time to reflect on whether they wish to formalise the separation by way of divorce proceedings.
Devon separation agreement solicitors are here to help
In summary, despite not being legally binding, having a separation agreement prepared by a solicitor can be extremely advantageous for many couples as they allow clear agreements to be reached without having to engage in court proceedings. Should you want any advice on separation agreements then the Slee Blackwell family team are here to assist you. We will assess your situation and offer guidance on whether a separation agreement will be in your best interests. If it is then we will provide you with an estimate of our fees for preparing one.
You can contact our Devon separation agreement solicitors by phone or email. Call 0333 888 0404 or send an email to us at [email protected]