Personal Law
August 12, 2022

Mistakes to avoid when negotiating a separation agreement

If you’re considering getting divorced or dissolving your civil partnership in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, or have separated from your partner and haven’t yet decided whether to go ahead with a divorce or dissolution (or cannot do so for various reasons), you may want to consider getting a separation agreement drawn up.

Following a separation there are certain practicalities that you will need to work out together, including:

● Where each partner will live, including who stays in the family home

● Who pays the mortgage/rent and household bills

● Whether both parties can afford to pay their bills if they live separately

● Arrangements for any children they have together

● How any money and assets will be divided, including what happens to any debts

A separation agreement is a document that sets out the terms of your separation, addressing matters such as those listed above and perhaps many others. However, negotiating a separation agreement can be challenging, particularly at a highly emotional time for you and your family. In this article, we take a look at 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 on. In this situation, having a solicitor to fight for your best interests can be useful. A solicitor will listen to you and what you want from the agreement and negotiate the terms on your behalf. The solicitor would then ensure that the terms of agreement and all of the necessary legal formalities had been incorporated correctly in a separation agreement, in order to give it the very best chance of being upheld by a court if and when necessary.

Failing to consider the longer-term implications

While a separation agreement itself is not legally binding to the same degree and in the same way as is a court order, when you enter divorce proceedings, the court will take into account your previous agreement and arrangements. As a result, it is important that you do not consider the terms of the agreement only as an interim arrangement but also the consequences for you and your family in the long term.

Make the agreement ‘formal’

While it may be simple to come to an informal agreement, if you want to protect your arrangement, you should take steps to ensure that it is formalised and recognised as such by a judge, if you go on to divorce. A judge will often recognise and take into account a separation agreement when the agreement is fair, both parties fully understood what they were agreeing to, and the document has been drafted by a solicitor. There are other formalities that are required to have been in place too, including disclosure of the parties’ finances, in order to maximise the chances of the agreement being recognised and upheld either in full or at least in part. Generally, it would be preferable that you and your partner’s financial circumstances are the same as when you entered into the agreement.

Making financial commitments before the agreement is settled

Separation involves a lot of change. 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 clear. Your partner may have verbally committed to a financial or other type of arrangement, but this could be very different to what is set out in a formal document.

Need to talk to us?

Our friendly family team are here to explain and guide you through legal matters relating to children, divorce and separation. Please get in touch on 01892 526344 or email For further information on all our family law services, please click here.

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We offer an initial one hour fixed fee appointment with one of our friendly family solicitors for £100 + VAT. This gives you the opportunity to talk your matter through with a solicitor, get their advice and then consider your options before deciding how to progress your legal matter. Please get in touch if you feel this type of appointment would be beneficial.

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.

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