Separation agreements instead of divorce or dissolution

Money Advice Service

If you are thinking about getting divorced or dissolving your civil partnership in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, but haven’t yet filed the papers, you can get a separation agreement drawn up. This sets out who will pay the rent or mortgage and bills, until you decide whether to proceed with your divorce or dissolution.

What is a separation agreement?

A separation agreement is useful if you haven’t yet decided whether to divorce or dissolve your civil partnership, or if you can’t yet do so. It’s a written agreement that – typically – sets out your financial arrangements while you are separated. It can cover a range of areas:

  • Who pays the mortgage or rent, and household bills
  • Who continues to live in the family home and/or what happens if it’s sold
  • What happens to any debts, such as loans or overdrafts
  • What happens to savings, investments and other financial assets
  • What happens to any items such as cars or furniture, especially bought jointly
  • Whether maintenance is paid to support one of you and/or any children
  • Childcare arrangements: who any children live with and parental access

If you are planning to make your separation permanent, the separation agreement should ideally set out the final financial agreement that will be presented to the court when the divorce or dissolution finally goes through.

Pros and cons of a separation agreement

Pros:

  • you agree that you don’t have to live together, so your ex-partner (husband, wife or civil partner) can’t allege you’ve deserted them and vice versa
  • it shows you both consider the relationship to have ended and the date it ended
  • it is flexible – you can decide what you’d like to include
  • if you stick to it, an agreement can take the heat out of the breakdown of the relationship and means you both know where you stand
  • it gives you both clarity and certainty
  • Although they aren’t technically legally binding, agreements that have been properly and fairly negotiated will be upheld by the court if challenged

Cons:

  • it’s not easy to enforce
  • it can only be changed if both of you agree to the changes
  • a court might disregard some or all of its contents if you go on to divorce or dissolve your civil partnership – it’s not the final word

Financial disclosure: being open about your money

To help ensure a separation agreement is not challenged, you and your ex-partner must be fully open about your finances. This is called ‘financial disclosure’.

That way each of you’ll know what the other person has in:

  • Debts
  • Savings
  • Property
  • Investments

And you can agree what you’re each responsible for paying.

If you’re not open and honest about your finances, it’s likely to mean you can’t rely on the agreement in the future.

You don’t need to take legal advice when you write a separation agreement, but it’s a really good idea to do so.

Why? There are several reasons:

  • Because you’re entering into a potentially legally-binding agreement
  • You can get advice about whether there are any reasons why you should not sign the separation agreement, before you go ahead
  • Your separation agreement is more likely to be legally binding if you and your ex-partner have provided full financial disclosure and you have both taken independent legal advice from a solicitor

It is especially important to take legal advice from a solicitor if your break-up is causing problems, for example, if one of you is much wealthier than the other or if your ex-partner is bullying or intimidating and puts you under pressure to sign an agreement.

If you and your ex-partner have already decided and agreed what you would like to include in your separation agreement, you should each ask your own solicitor to check it and draw it up as a legal document.

You can’t both use the same solicitor.

When can you use a separation agreement?

You can use a separation agreement if you and your ex-partner are considering getting divorced or dissolving your civil partnership, but haven’t definitely decided to split up.

You can also use a separation agreement if you’re not able to divorce or dissolve your civil partnership – perhaps because you have been together for less than one year in England or Wales or for less than two years in Northern Ireland – but want to agree who pays what.

Is a separation agreement legally enforceable?

Technically, separation agreements aren’t legally enforceable.

But if you have:

both been open and honest about your finances, have taken independent legal advice about the agreement and have taken various safeguards, it could be hard for you to argue in court that you should not have to stick to it.

However, a court wouldn’t allow – for example – one of you to be bound by a term in the separation agreement that said you could never go to court for maintenance or child support.

In rare cases, you might decide to go for a legal separation (also called a judicial separation).

The main reasons for this are:

  • Your religion forbids you getting divorced or dissolving your civil partnership
  • You want more time and space to work out whether to divorce or dissolve your civil partnership
  • You’ve been married or in a civil partnership for less than one year in England or Wales or for less than two years in Northern Ireland

It’s a much more formal process than drawing up a separation agreement. You have to ask for a legal separation by filling in a form and sending it to your local court.

A legal separation does not end a marriage or civil partnership – you are simply freed from the obligation of living together.

This means you are not free to remarry or enter into another civil partnership.

Your next step

This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.

Some important information about Rest Less Money

We want you to understand the positives, but also the limitations of using our site. We operate in a journalistic manner and therefore all information, guidance or suggestions provided are intended to be general in nature, and you should not rely on any of the information on the site in connection with the making of any financial decision.

When we set out to build Rest Less Money, we wanted to be a trusted place where you could find helpful information about financial matters affecting the over 50s. As a free to use resource, we try hard to provide the best information we can, but we cannot guarantee that we won’t occasionally make mistakes. So please note that you use the information on our site at your own risk, and we can’t accept liability if things go wrong.

Key things to remember when using Rest Less Money:

We do not offer financial advice – As a journalistic site, it’s important to know that we do not provide financial advice. You should always do your own research before choosing any financial product so that you can be certain it is right for you and your specific circumstances. If you are in any doubt, please seek professional financial advice from a regulated financial advisor.

No Liability – please note that you use the information on Rest Less Money at your own risk and we can’t accept liability for how you choose to use the information given on our site. We will often provide links to content or products and services available on other third-party websites. These are provided purely for your convenience and we cannot be held responsible for any content, or any of the products and services offered on any website that we link to.

 

Accuracy of Information – We try to make sure that all the information provided on Rest Less Money is correct at the time of publishing as we want it to be the most helpful resource possible. Sadly, we are not perfect however, and so we can make no guarantees as to the completeness, accuracy, adequacy or suitability of the information available on the site.
Whilst we work hard to try and provide accurate information, deals and prices can change, so whilst they may be correct at the time of writing, providers may subsequently decide to alter them later – so always double check first.

A final note on the Rest Less Community Forums – always remember that anyone can post their opinion on the Rest Less Community Forums, so it can be very different from our own opinion and may not be factual or well researched. Always be wary of any content posted on the forums and be sure to do your own research and due diligence on anything suggested. 

We hope you find Rest Less Money a useful resource and we would welcome your feedback at [email protected] on how to make it even better. For more information on any of the above you can read our full terms and conditions.

Some important information about Rest Less Money

We want you to understand the positives, but also the limitations of using our site. We operate in a journalistic manner and therefore all information, guidance or suggestions provided are intended to be general in nature, and you should not rely on any of the information on the site in connection with the making of any financial decision.

When we set out to build Rest Less Money, we wanted to be a trusted place where you could find helpful information about financial matters affecting the over 50s. As a free to use resource, we try hard to provide the best information we can, but we cannot guarantee that we won’t occasionally make mistakes. So please note that you use the information on our site at your own risk, and we can’t accept liability if things go wrong.

Key things to remember when using Rest Less Money:

We do not offer financial advice – As a journalistic site, it’s important to know that we do not provide financial advice. You should always do your own research before choosing any financial product so that you can be certain it is right for you and your specific circumstances. If you are in any doubt, please seek professional financial advice from a regulated financial advisor.

No Liability – please note that you use the information on Rest Less Money at your own risk and we can’t accept liability for how you choose to use the information given on our site. We will often provide links to content or products and services available on other third-party websites. These are provided purely for your convenience and we cannot be held responsible for any content, or any of the products and services offered on any website that we link to.

 

Accuracy of Information – We try to make sure that all the information provided on Rest Less Money is correct at the time of publishing as we want it to be the most helpful resource possible. Sadly, we are not perfect however, and so we can make no guarantees as to the completeness, accuracy, adequacy or suitability of the information available on the site.
Whilst we work hard to try and provide accurate information, deals and prices can change, so whilst they may be correct at the time of writing, providers may subsequently decide to alter them later – so always double check first.

A final note on the Rest Less Community Forums – always remember that anyone can post their opinion on the Rest Less Community Forums, so it can be very different from our own opinion and may not be factual or well researched. Always be wary of any content posted on the forums and be sure to do your own research and due diligence on anything suggested. 

We hope you find Rest Less Money a useful resource and we would welcome your feedback at [email protected] on how to make it even better. For more information on any of the above you can read our full terms and conditions.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

Join Rest Less Money Club

Helpful tips and guidance for making the most of your money – straight to your inbox

By providing us your email address you agree to receive emails and communications from us and acknowledge that your personal data will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions. You can unsubscribe at any time by following the link in our emails.

Join the Rest Less Money Club

Helpful tips and guidance for making the most of your money – straight to your inbox

Good luck with your application

Before you go, we’d love to stay in touch to find out how you get on. Sign up to Rest Less today to get free job alerts and inspiring content sent straight to your inbox.
By providing your email you agree to receive emails and communications from us and acknowledge that your personal data will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions. You can unsubscribe at any time through the link in our emails.