Local members of the family justice body Resolution have welcomed new research which shows most people back a change in the law to give cohabiting people more rights. Currently, cohabiting couples have few or no rights in the event of a relationship breakdown meaning that unlike married couples there is no mechanism for splitting assets.
If you do not wish to divorce, you may consider legal separation. There are two types of separation – Judicial Separation which involves the courts, and a Separation Agreement.
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Judicial Separation is an alternative to divorce and is mainly used where a divorce may not be appropriate due to religious reasons, or financial reasons relating to settlements or trusts for example.
Judicial separation means that you are legally separated, and (save for pension sharing) enables financial orders to be applied for. Once a court order is in place neither party can depart from the agreement. A clean break is only available on divorce, as are Pension Sharing Orders.
If you and your partner can agree about financial matters and the children, we can draw up a Separation Agreement for you. If necessary we can negotiate the terms of the agreement and matters relating to children and financial matters. You will not need to go to court.
The advantage of a separation agreement is that it can be entered into quickly compared to agreements entered into during a divorce. It is a flexible agreement and covers issues that the court does not have the power to order such as payment of outstanding hire-purchase debts, payment of repairs on the home etc.
The disadvantage of a Separation Agreement is that either party can apply at a later date for further provisions from the court. It is therefore not necessarily a final solution which is why it is mostly used as an interim measure for couples who no longer wish to live together, but have for some reason not yet issued divorce proceedings.
To give a Separation Agreement the best chance to be upheld by a court, the couple must both provide full financial disclosure to each other and must both have independent legal advice.
Separation Agreements can also be made between separating cohabitants who wish to enter into an agreement setting out what is to happen to their joint assets now that they are no longer living together. Such an agreement can be used to detail what is to happen to the former family home i.e. is it to be sold or transferred to either cohabitant, as well as any other financial arrangements or child care issues that need clarifying between them following their separation.