If spouses and civil partners decide not to divorce or issue dissolution proceedings immediately, they can, as an alternative, enter into a Separation Agreement.
A Separation Agreement usually deals with matters such as payment of maintenance and matters concerning the home and other property.
The advantages of having a Separation Agreement is that it can be entered into fairly quickly compared to agreements entered into during divorce and dissolution. It is therefore more cost effective too. It is also a flexible agreement, as it can cover issues which 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 disadvantages of having a Separation Agreement is that either party to the Separation Agreement can always apply, at a later date (for example on divorce or dissolution) for further provision from the court. The Separation Agreement is therefore not necessarily a final solution which is why it is mostly used as an interim measure for couples who no longer live together, but who, for some reason, have not yet issued divorce or dissolution proceedings. They will wish to have an agreement in place regulating their finances during the interim period, which may or may not need amending on divorce or dissolution.
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.