Separation agreements

It can be an incredibly upsetting experience for a couple when their marriage starts to break down and cracks are revealed. Questions around commitment can be hard to address, and understandably this can cause a whole lot of stress and anxiety.

That being said, in the face of tough times, divorce is not always the answer. Instead, many couples choose to opt for separation. Although the separation process is a lot easier than launching into a divorce, it can still be confusing.

Read on to get the lowdown on separations in the UK, and you’ll soon know where you stand, and whether it’s the right option for you and your partner.

This article will explain the following:

  • What a legal separation is
  • What a separation agreement is
  • Whether or not a separation agreement is legally enforceable
  • Why separation may be chosen over divorce
  • The pros and cons of separation

What is a separation?

In the UK, a legal separation is the formal process which declares a married couple or those in a civil partnership are living apart. This occurs without the marriage being dissolved through divorce.

While a spouse can apply for a separation for the same reasons that a spouse might apply for a divorce, they do not have to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. Additionally, unlike with divorce, where a couple must wait for at least a year to apply, with separation there is no time limit placed on how long both parties must wait.

In order to file for a legal separation, one party must fill in Form D8, which is a judicial separation petition. When this petition is sent off, the party filing must also attach a certified copy of their marriage or civil partnership certificate. A total of three copies of the petition must be sent off to a local divorce centre. All this will cost £365.

What is a separation agreement?

If a couple decides that they no longer want to live together, but haven’t decided on whether they want to divorce, both parties can formulate a separation agreement.

A separation agreement is comparable to a divorce settlement and can be pretty extensive. Ultimately it sets out and clarifies the details around a number of different areas. This includes:

  • How property will be divided
  • Who will continue to live on in the family home
  • Who will be responsible for rent, bills or mortgage payments
  • Who will be responsible for debts
  • How the the debts will be divided
  • What child arrangements will be made
  • Which parent will the child/children live with primarily
  • Where the child or children will live
  • How often the child or children will spend time with the other parent
  • How much child maintenance will be paid and by whom
  • How possessions and assets will be divided

Are separation agreements legally enforceable?

A separation agreement is not a court order, and therefore it is not technically legally enforceable. That being said, it’s integral that a solicitor presides over it’s creation.

Ultimately, if there is full and honest disclosure when the agreement is formulated, and neither party is forced into signing it, the agreement is likely to be upheld in court.

Reasons to choose a legal separation

Going through the process of a divorce can be a pretty devastating experience, both emotionally and financially and it’s not always the best option for a couple that want to part ways. As a result separation may be chosen as an alternative option.

A couple may opt for a separation over divorce if they are not convinced that they are ready to officially end the marriage and want to take some time to reflect on their relationship and the direction it is taking.

Contrastingly, if a couple are deeply unhappy with their marriage, and no longer want to be together, but their religious beliefs do not permit divorce, a legal separation can be the only viable option.

From a more pragmatic standpoint, there are also financial benefits associated with opting for a separation over a divorce. Unlike with divorce, separation allows a couple to maintain marriage-related benefits, as well as file joint taxes.

The pros and cons of choosing separation

When it comes to making big, life-changing decisions, it’s wise to rigorously weigh up the pros and cons, because what works for one couple, won’t necessarily work for another couple.

One positive aspect of choosing separation is that, ironically, it can potentially save a marriage. Time and space away from each other can help a couple see their marriage from a new perspective and give them a chance to miss each other. After all, they do say absence makes the heart grow fonder. On top of that, separation provides more flexibility than divorce, meaning that nothing is written in permanent marker.

Equally, separation can mean that discussions and decisions around finances, property and childcare can be made with a lot less shouting, and much more clarity. Calmly assessing the situation and working out what is best for the couple and potentially any children involved, is a good way to resolve issues. Separation is also often a lot easier for children to deal with.

Contrastingly, if a couple chooses legal separation over divorce, this means that neither party will be able to remarry. This could potentially hold back those involved from moving on and taking that next step with a new partner.

Additionally, while separation may bring with it financial benefits, there can financial consequences, too. For example, if one party has incurred debt, the other party within the marriage will also be liable.

Final thoughts

Unhappiness in a relationship can be a really tough issue to approach, but now you have the know-how to make the right decision for you and your spouse.

So, whether you and your spouse are at the end of your tether but want to minimise stress for the kids or your religion prohibits divorce from your spouse, separation might be your ticket to freedom.

Article Created By Madaline Dunn

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