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Family law experts
What is a separation agreement?
A separation agreement is a document prepared when parties want to stop living together as a couple, setting out the terms of any settlement or agreement for finances, property and children. An agreement can include details on how bills and commitments like a mortgage or rent will be paid after the relationship has broken down.
A separation agreement can be used for married and unmarried couples. Unmarried couples may also find this agreement particularly useful as they are not protected by the law in the same way as married couples.
For married couples, a separation agreement can formally set out how finances and assets can be divided or split and who is responsible for what financial commitments, until it is decided whether to proceed with a divorce or dissolution.
How binding are separation agreements?
Separation agreements are not legally binding as although they can be a formal legal document, they are not technically legally binding in their own right. An agreement is not a court order and a court is not usually involved in creating them. It is, a contract between two people and therefore could still be challenged within court like any other contract. This is why it is important to ensure they are correctly drafted.
For married couples, a separation agreement can often be made into a financial consent order within any future divorce proceedings, by having your solicitor properly draft it and then applying to the court – so making it legally binding. An agreement can also help speed up the divorce process, if arrangements have already been agreed in advance.
Separation agreements are advantageous to both parties as they may be able to stop one of the parties from later changing their minds about an agreement that has been reached. A separation agreement therefore can help safeguard your position as, if one of you later refuses to keep to the terms of the agreement, you can ask a court to enforce the terms.