Mistakes to avoid when negotiating a separation agreement

Aishat Balogun

Article written by Aishat Balogun, Solicitor, Family department

There are certain practicalities you will need to work out if you have decided to separate from your partner. Even if you are unsure about whether you will divorce or dissolve your civil partnership, you will need certainty about matters such as:

  • Where each partner will live
  • Arrangements for any children you have together
  • How your money and assets will be divided
  • Whether both parties can afford to pay their bills if they live separately

A separation agreement is a document that sets out the terms of your separation, addressing matters such as those listed above. Negotiating a separation agreement can be challenging, particularly at a highly emotional time for you and your family. In this article, we review some of the most common mistakes to avoid when going through the process of negotiating a separation agreement.

Feeling pressured into an agreement

In many cases, parties can feel pressured into agreeing to terms they are unsure of, for the sake of ‘getting it done’. In family relationships, people can often put their emotions before their practical and financial needs, which can cause problems later. In this situation, it can be useful to have  a lawyer to advise you properly regarding the issues to enable you to take steps which are in your  best interests. A solicitor will listen to you, understand what you hope to achieve from the agreement, advise you and negotiate the appropriate terms on your behalf.

Failing to consider the longer-term implications

While a separation agreement itself is not strictly binding, the terms of the agreement may be decisive in the event of a divorce unless the agreement is unfair. As a result, it is important that the consequences of the agreement  are understood before signing the agreement.

Make the agreement ‘formal’

It may be simple to come to an informal agreement but if you want to protect your arrangement, you should take steps to ensure it is formalised and more likely to be recognised by a Judge in the event of a divorce. A Judge is likely to recognise a separation agreement when the agreement is fair, both parties fully understood what they were agreeing to, there was full financial disclosure, and the document had been drafted in the proper format by a solicitor.

Making financial commitments before the agreement is settled

We understand that separation involves a lot of changes, however, we would recommend holding off committing to a new rental agreement, mortgage, car finance or any other substantial financial commitment until the terms of the separation are finalised by way of a separation agreement. Even if your partner may have verbally committed to a financial arrangement, it could be very different to what is set out in a formal document so we would suggest you are  mindful of this.

To discuss separation agreements or for advice on a Family law matter, feel free to email me or contact the team on 020 8858 6971.