Here at Higgins Miller we specialise in family law, which means that we’re used to dealing with people as they cope with some of the most traumatic and stressful events that life could throw at them. Our areas of expertise include handling wills and probate, divorces, children disputes and helping couples to draw up a separation agreement. In all cases we blend in-depth expertise of the law and the technical aspects of the situation with an empathetic approach to our clients. We provide emotional as well as legal support, and always talk in the kind of language we know people can easily understand. When couples come to us seeking advice on a separation agreement, we understand that the end of a relationship often brings a degree of bitterness and anger with it, and we work to remove the emotion of the situation and deal with things in a calm and rational manner.
Why you might need a separation agreement
If you’ve been living with another person for even a relatively short length of time there’s a very good chance that your financial affairs have become completely intertwined. This could include larger and important aspects of your life such as having a joint mortgage or sharing the ownership of a car, as well as both using a joint bank account or paying into savings, all the way down to taking joint responsibility for paying household bills. The point of a separation agreement is to set out a formal arrangement in terms of how assets will be divided and whether steps such as selling a property to divide the revenue generated need to be taken. It will also deal with arrangements for any children involved.
By sitting down to draw up a separation agreement of this kind, both partners will be able to mutually agree on what is fair and have it set down in writing in order to avoid confusion and dispute at a later date.
An agreement for a married couple
Some married couples create a separation agreement because they wish to end the relationship without opting for a divorce. It could be that they have not been married long enough to be eligible for a divorce (in England and Wales this time limit is twelve months), or that they don’t yet satisfy any of the legal grounds for divorce. Alternatively, they may be planning on divorcing in the fullness of time, but wish to settle the financial issues as soon as possible in order to minimise conflict. The separation agreement could be used at a later date by a court seeking to establish the formal date of separation, and while it’s possible that a court could overturn a separation agreement, in practice it is likely that as long as the agreement is seen as being fair to both parties and any children involved it will be adopted by the court as the basis for separation.
An agreement for an unmarried couple
In some ways the issue of separation for an unmarried couple is slightly more complex, in that there was never a formal date or process via which there assets became joined. The sharing of financial responsibilities is likely to have evolved over the time the couple has been together, and sitting down to draw up a separation agreement will offer the chance to work back through this process and decide the fairest means of dividing assets and responsibilities. At Higgins Miller we always work to remove the conflict from a situation and reach a calm and mutual conclusion, avoiding recourse to the courts wherever possible. This makes us an excellent choice for anyone seeking to draw up a fair and detailed separation agreement which will work for both parties and will be legally and technically correct in terms of the detail.
Couples who are parting in a fairly amicable manner may feel that they don’t need to draw up a separation agreement, and can simply rely upon their own informal arrangements. This would be a mistake, however, since changing circumstances in the future – such as either or both of the partners meeting someone else and/or having children – may put a strain on these informal arrangements. Having a formal document put together by the experts at Higgins Miller will help to prevent serious conflict arising.
In order to be effective a separation agreement has to be entered into voluntarily by both parties, both of whom will have made a full disclosure of their financial situation and taken legal advice. If an agreement of this kind is presented to a court then, providing the circumstances of neither partner have changed dramatically in the period since the agreement was drawn up, it’s likely the court will uphold it.
If you’d like to find out more about creating a separation agreement, please call us on 0161 429 7251 or email us at [email protected]. We’ve recently passed our Cyber Essential accreditation, something which demonstrates our forward thinking attitude and determination to remain ahead of the competition. Our first 20 minute appraisal is provided free of charge, and we’ll give you a fixed fee first appointment, so you don’t have to worry about how much our advice is going to cost. If you want to explore our wider charging system then please take a look here.