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Formal Separation

Duncan Lewis Divorce Solicitors - Formal Separation


Couples deciding to Divorce often prefer to agree to a formal separation before Divorce proceedings start especially where there are children involved.


A Separation Agreement is a legal procedure which signals that a couple has decided to live apart.


While separation can be traumatic for both parties as well as any children involved and extended family. Once a legal agreement is signed, all parties can move on with their lives and come to terms with what has happened before initiating Divorce proceedings.


Even in difficult relationships, the finality of Divorce can be a shock and important decisions are usually being made when both parties are under emotional duress at the change in their family life.


A formal Separation Agreement can cover as many aspects of your family life as needed to place the new situation on a legal footing.


Some of the clauses which a formal Separation Agreement might contain include:

  • Child contact and residence


    Formal separation agreements will usually include an agreement about which parent the children will live with and how often the non-resident parent will see them and where. This can be especially important if one party is going to live or work overseas or is not a British national.


  • Financial and business assets


    Most couples deciding to formally separate are anxious about joint financial and business assets, such as pensions, life assurance, savings and investments and joint business interests. Finances are frequently the basis for costly Divorce cases and using a formal separation agreement before divorcing to work through the issue of joint finances can prevent court action once Divorce proceedings are initiated.


  • Living arrangements


    Couple who agree to live apart should decide on whether one party will continue living at the marital home this is usual if children are involved. If no children are involved a couple might formally agree that the home will be sold and the proceeds divided.


  • Maintenance agreements


    Maintenance agreements are often an essential component of formal separation agreements when children are involved or one party is unable to work, perhaps as result of ill-health or disability. A formal Separation Agreement could stipulate when maintenance has to be paid, as well as how much maintenance is fair to provide for children or a spouse unable to work. There may also be agreement as to how long maintenance might continue. For example, once the children have completed full-time education or when an unemployed spouse is able to work again. Maintenance is one area of a formal Separation Agreement which potentially could be enforced in a court of law under Section 34 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, so it is important to obtain expert legal advice on maintenance issues.


  • Non-molestation


    In cases where a relationship has been strained or domestic violence has occurred, a formal Separation Agreement might include an agreement that the parties will respect each other’s privacy and not harass or interfere with each other’s lives unreasonably after separation.


  • Property division


    Deciding on who will keep the home or if it will be sold and the proceeds split is just one aspect of property division in a formal Separation Agreement. The agreement can also cover the sharing of joint possessions, such as cars, household item and items such as jewellery. If a second or third home is involved or a yacht or aircraft expert legal advice may be needed to establish agreement over division of matrimonial assets under Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.


  • Pets


    The family pet(s) can lead to serious disagreements between separating couples and in the case of a pet both parties wish to keep, a formal Separation Agreement can include agreement about who keeps the family pet, or shared ownership and contact arrangements.


Pros and Cons of Formal Separation Agreements


A formal Separation Agreement is a legal deed which constitutes a marriage settlement and which both parties sign.

  • Formal separation agreements can be kept flexible but not all the issues agreed on may be enforceable via a court if one party breaches the agreement, so couples may need to consider how well formal separation serves their needs or whether Divorce would be a better option.
  • The benefits of formal separation agreements include being able to vary the agreement if circumstances change, for example.
  • The deed of formal separation may also stipulate a time period before which the couple will Divorce. This may be desirable if children are completing their education, for example.
  • Couples who decide not to Divorce can simply end the agreement. For example if they decide to give their marriage another chance.
  • If one party contests the formal Separation Agreement once Divorce proceedings have commenced, it is possible the court would take it into account or overrule it, depending on the circumstances of the case.


Duncan Lewis Solicitors offer expert and detailed legal advice to couples wishing to formally separate before divorcing. Duncan Lewis also has successful departments specialising in family and children law and litigation.


In cases involving a contested Divorce or where one party disputes a formal separation agreement, Duncan Lewis can arrange alternatives to litigation, including dispute resolution and lawyers supported family mediation services.


Fixed Fee Formal Separation


Duncan Lewis Solicitors offer an initial fixed fee for cases involving formal separation agreements. All further work would be dealt with by way of competitive hourly rates.


For expert legal advice on Formal Separation Agreements and related family matters, call Duncan Lewis Divorce Solicitors in confidence on
033 3772 0409.

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