We’re separating but not divorcing yet. How can we stay protected?

There are occasions when couples separate but don’t wish to or can’t instigate divorce proceedings.

They may want to delay the legal process, have hopes of a reconciliation, the marriage may have lasted less than a year or it may not be possible to prove any one of the five reasons necessary in providing grounds for divorce.

In such circumstances there are still family issues to be resolved and in order to protect yourself after separation and in the future relationship with your ex-partner, a Separation Agreement may be the ideal solution.

A Separation Agreement focuses on the assets and liabilities of your life together and how those assets are divided and responsibilities shared out. The agreement applies to married couples or those living together. The final document must be agreed by both parties and is often used instead of lengthy and costly legal proceedings.

How could a Separation Agreement help you?

There are many assets: Property, car, personal belongings, household items and financial arrangements such as pensions, insurances and probably joint bank or building society accounts that you and your partner will have entered into during your time together.

There will also be shared responsibilities in the form of debts: Mortgage, rent, loan arrangements and day-to-day household bills. Then there is the welfare and not inconsiderable cost in bringing up any children your union may have produced.

All these things need to be addressed for life to continue in as orderly fashion as possible following the decision to separate. If the relationship is still an amicable one then it is often possible for both parties to get together and agree on how assets are to be split and responsibilities shared.

The important thing to remember here, however, is circumstances change. One party or both will enter into another relationship or financial and other personal circumstances will alter – any of which could cause that once amicable relationship to turn sour and the spirit of co-operation to disappear.

In taking out a Separation Agreement both parties will know exactly what they are entitled to and who is responsible for what. Both partners would sign the document so would obviously consider it a fair agreement and it would lessen the likelihood of any future confusion or misunderstanding arising.

When would a Separation Agreement be useful?

Couples can separate without the desire to divorce. They must be married for a year anyway before they can instigate divorce proceedings and then one of five grounds must be proved before divorce is granted: Adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, or one of two living apart requirements.

A Separation Agreement would protect the partners while in this state of limbo and would also apply to those unmarried couples who have split but seek the security of a mutually acceptable agreement. A Separation Agreement has the benefit of not having to go to court to put in place and also allows for a possible reconciliation.

If the relationship does finally end up in divorce proceedings, a Separation Agreement is useful for the court when coming to decisions about how responsibilities and assets should be shared. The agreement also provides proof of the date of separation.

If you are separating and unsure about what to do next, our team of friendly solicitors can advise and support you in coming to the right decision for your circumstances. We have a wealth of experience in drawing up documents such as a Separation Agreement in a clear, concise, way which is easy for all parties to understand.