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:
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 even Dowry 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.
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.
A formal Separation Agreement is a legal deed which constitutes a marriage settlement and which both parties sign.
Duncan Lewis divorce 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, property 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.
Duncan Lewis divorce solicitors offer an initial client meeting with a fixed fee for divorce cases involving formal separation agreements.
Once the details of the case have been assessed, it is usually possible to offer a further fixed fee scale, which clients will be advised of in advance.
Duncan Lewis advises clients considering divorce which involves a preliminary formal Separation Agreement to get in touch as soon as possible for an assessment of their case – pre-planning can help make the stress of divorce much easier to cope with once there is a legal representative in place and fully appraised of the case for when you decide to instigate divorce proceedings.
For expert legal advice on Formal Separation Agreements and related family matters, call Duncan Lewis Divorce Solicitors in confidence on 020 7923 4020.