When a relationship comes to an end, it is not always the case that the couple wishes to immediately file for a divorce or civil partnership dissolution, whether it be for legal reasons, religious beliefs, or just due to the way they feel emotionally.
If you have found yourself in this situation, it is very important you take legal advice from a specialist family law solicitor, as you will continue to have ongoing rights and obligations as a married couple even if you are living apart.
At Pickering & Butters, we usually advise anyone in this position to consider a separation deed (or separation agreement), an official document that sets out the agreement you and your former partner have reached in respect of living apart. It will cover things like financial matters, issues involving children, future divorce proceedings, taxation and indemnities from each other.
A separation agreement also known as a Post Nuptial Agreement will usually form the basis of a Consent Order in future divorce proceedings and will help to make the process as amicable as possible once it gets underway. At present, separation deeds and separation agreements are not strictly legally binding but they are likely to be upheld if drafted procedurally correct and fairly.
If you’re not quite ready for divorce, a chat with the specialist family lawyers at Pickering & Butters will help you understand why a separation agreement could be a suitable choice. We provide expert advice tailored to the precise circumstances of your situation to ensure the resulting legal document accurately reflects your needs.
For bespoke legal advice, please get in touch with our Staffordshire solicitors in Stafford by calling 01785 603060 or Rugeley by calling 01889 803080. Alternatively, please email email@example.com or fill in our enquiry form at the right of the page.
What is a separation agreement UK?
A separation agreement, or Post Nuptial Agreement, is a document which outlines the terms of you and your spouse or civil partner’s separation in the event you do not want to start divorce or dissolution proceedings.
Commonly, the document will set out how the household matters, finances and your property and assets will be arranged, including:
- Who will continue living in the family house or whether it is to be sold.
- How the mortgage or rent and the household bills will be paid.
- How debt liability should be arranged, such as overdrafts or loans.
- Who will retain possession of assets and personal belongings such as cars and furniture.
- How savings, investments, and other financial assets will be arranged and divided.
- Where any children will live and how childcare arrangements will be made.
- How important decisions about any children’s upbringing will be made.
- Whether there should be any arrangement for spousal maintenance or child maintenance (and in what amounts).
Are Separation agreements legally binding?
Technically, separation deeds and agreements are not legally binding. However, if you and your former partner were open about your finances when the agreement was made and the arrangements are sensible and reasonable, it is likely a court will uphold your separation agreement.
You can also make your separation agreement legally binding in the event that you eventually divorce or dissolve your civil partnership by getting the document formalised as a Consent Order as part of the proceedings.
How do you legally separate in the UK?
A legal separation, or judicial separation, is the process of ending a couple’s marital obligations towards each other without formally dissolving the marriage or civil partnership.
You and your partner may want a legal separation if:
- You have been married less than a year (and cannot yet get a divorce)
- You don’t want to get divorced for religious or cultural reasons
- You have not yet decided whether to divorce but want space in the meantime
The process of obtaining a legal separation is similar to obtaining a divorce or dissolution, you need to prove one of the following reasons:
- Behaviour which makes it unreasonable for you to be expected to live with your partner
- Desertion – your partner has continuously deserted you for at least two years
- You and your partner have lived apart for at least two years and both of you agree to the separation
- You and your partner have lived apart for at least five years (but both parties need not agree to the separation)
Unlike divorce or dissolution, you do not need to prove the marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down.
What happens when you file for separation?
Filing for separation is more formal than entering into a separation deed or separation agreement and involves completing an official court form and submitting it to court. It is essential you obtain legal advice from an experienced family law solicitor prior to filing for separation to ensure no errors are made during the application process.
In most situations, it will not be necessary to go to court to obtain a legal separation. However, if your partner objects to the separation, there may be a court hearing. We can provide you with advice and representation throughout the court process, including preparing and robustly presenting evidence in your favour so you have the best possible chance of your application being approved.
If your legal separation application is successful, you will receive a Decree of Judicial Separation, the effects of which are:
- The court can make orders in relation to the arrangement distribution of matrimonial finances and assets (other than pension sharing orders)
- Neither spouse has an automatic interest in the other’s property unless a Will is made specifying an interest
- The couple does not have to live together (although it’s possible for couples to live apart without obtaining a legal separation)
How do I get a separation agreement?
A skilled family law lawyer is vital to ensure your separation agreement is sound and covers all aspects of your marital obligations and finances. If you and your partner have already come to an agreement, we can provide advice in relation to your agreed terms and draft a watertight agreement document on your behalf. If the document is not properly drafted and specific advice surrounding the likelihood of enforceability is not obtained there can be real problems. We always advise speaking with one of our experienced family lawyers first.
If you and your partner have not yet come to an agreement, or you are struggling to agree, our experienced family law solicitors specialise in methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution, including family mediation and collaborative law, to help families come to amicable agreements.
We can advise you on the suitability of mediation for your personal situation, arrange your mediation sessions, and guide your through the entire process so you can achieve a settlement agreement which works for you.
Collaborative law is a method of using specially trained lawyers to help you negotiate an agreement with your partner over a series of informal meetings.
Our team includes three collaborative lawyers, Amy Bedford and Gill Patterson, who can accompany you to collaborative law meetings and guide and advise you throughout the process.
Why instruct Pickering & Butters’ family solicitors?
At Pickering & Butters, we understand that making the decision to divorce or dissolve your civil partnership is not an easy one and shouldn’t be taken lightly. That’s why we will dedicate ourselves to exploring your available options, including entering into a separation deed or applying for a legal separation.
All of our team are members of Resolution, a community of legal professionals with expertise in Alternative Dispute Resolution.
We are devoted to providing the highest quality of advice and experience to our clients, and we are accredited by the Law Society in Lexcel for our client care and practice management skills.
Our family team offer free 30-minute initial consultations to all new clients. To book your appointment, contact your local branch at Stafford on 01785 603060 or Rugelely on 01889 803080.
We also offer free family law advice walk in clinics every:
- Wednesday from 9am-5pm at our Stafford office
- Thursday from 10am-3pm at our Rugelely office
Pickering & Butters is independently regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
Get in touch with our family law solicitors today
For bespoke legal advice on separation deeds, please get in touch with our Staffordshire solicitors in Stafford by calling 01785 603060 or Rugeley by calling 01889 803080. Alternatively, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in our enquiry form at the right of the page.