Separated or separating? Worried about your financial future?
Whether you have been separated for some time or you are thinking about a separation, you will need to reach a financial settlement with your former partner. That can be achieved as part of divorce proceedings or civil partnership dissolution. If you don’t want to get divorced, a separation agreement may be the best solution for you to achieve a financial settlement and be able to move on with your life. Our expert financial settlement solicitors, led by partners Robin Charrot and Louise Halford, have the legal expertise to support and help you.
On your side
You are not on your own with Evolve Family Law at your side negotiating your financial settlement for you. If you don’t want a divorce, the family lawyers can put the terms of your financial settlement into a separation agreement to protect your best interests. If you decide to get divorced later on, the separation agreement can be converted into a binding Financial Court Order. As North West specialist family law solicitors, Evolve are experts in family law. We use our expertise and experience to support you in achieving the best financial settlement for your circumstances.
Listening to you
You may have already reached a financial settlement with your partner, either by speaking direct or through family mediation. Our expert family law solicitors can work with you to convert that agreement into a formal separation agreement so both you and your former partner have the legal protection you need.
Why choose the family law solicitors at Evolve Family Law?
Louise Halford and Robin Charrot founded Evolve Family Law. They are family law solicitors dedicated to helping a couple reach amicable financial and parenting solutions wherever possible. They are firm believers in the advantages of your reaching an agreement provided that you’re making informed choices that have been reality tested and will meet both your short-term goals and long-term needs.
Louise, Robin and the team of Evolve family law solicitors will take the time to listen to you, respect your decisions and put your negotiated financial settlement into a separation agreement to protect your interests.
Separation Agreements – Your Questions Answered
Do I need a separation agreement?
If a couple is splitting up amicably and selling their family home and dividing their property by agreement, they often don’t see the need to record their financial settlement in a document. Sometimes that’s because couples don’t think they will ever fall out over money or because they’re concerned about the costs of getting family law solicitors to draw up a separation agreement.
The answer to whether you need a separation agreement depends on whether you are planning to get divorced. If you are going to divorce you can ask the Court to make an agreed Financial Court Order. A Financial Court Order can only be made as part of divorce proceedings so if you aren’t planning to get divorced you need a separation agreement.
What is the point of separation agreements?
Separation agreements are designed to record the financial agreement reached over what should happen to the family home and the division of assets, such as the family business or pensions or investments.
Normally a separation agreement will say that in any future divorce proceedings neither husband nor wife will bring any additional financial claims other than what was agreed and recorded in the separation agreement. Most people don’t realise that after marriage a spouse can make claims over the family home, savings, the family business, pensions and other assets as well as claim spousal maintenance. Separation agreements set out how assets will be divided and what, if any, future financial claims can be made.
If direct discussions with a husband or wife resolve whether the family home will be sold or not and how other assets will be split, but the agreement isn’t recorded, then both husband and wife are vulnerable to financial claims being made against them in the future. Separation agreements are intended to give you both peace of mind so that you both know where you stand financially and legally.
What happens if I don’t sign a separation agreement?
If you don’t sign a separation agreement then if one of you starts divorce proceedings at a later date either one of you could ask for a financial settlement and bring financial claims. The financial claims could be over assets owned by one of you prior to the marriage or inherited money or gifts or wealth built up after your separation from your spouse.
Without a separation agreement in place your husband or wife could argue that you did not reach a full financial agreement at the time of your split, leaving it open for him or her to bring financial claims over your pension or business or other assets or for spousal maintenance. The uncertainty and worry about future financial claims and Court proceedings can be reduced by signing up to a separation agreement.
Who should sign separation agreements?
Anyone who is splitting up from a husband or wife and does not want, for whatever reason, to get divorced straight away should sign a separation agreement. Even if you don’t own anything at the time of your separation you should still sign a separation agreement. That’s because a spouse can make financial claims against property owned in your sole name and assets and property acquired after the separation.
The best option is to get expert legal advice on whether a separation agreement is likely to be of benefit to you. As specialist separation agreement and divorce solicitors, Evolve can tell you whether a separation agreement would be a good idea and advise you on your options.
What is important for a separation agreement?
With a separation agreement there are three key aspects:
- Financial disclosure
- Independent legal advice
- The separation agreement should be fair to both of you and meets your needs.
My spouse doesn’t know how wealthy I am. Do they need to know if we sign a separation agreement?
Financial disclosure is often a quandary for spouses who have kept their finances separate during the marriage so their partner doesn’t know about the existence of family wealth or trusts.
For separation agreements to carry weight in any future divorce and financial Court proceedings a husband and wife need to know what the other has or may get in the future, for example, as a result of a trust distribution. This is because in order to come to an informed financial settlement and take legal advice you both need to know about the other’s circumstances. Most people recognise the need to give information about finances in the separation agreement as that way it will carry weight and give peace of mind.
Do we need legal advice for a separation agreement?
Yes, you do. If a husband and wife don’t get their own separate legal advice on the separation agreement then it will carry less weight. The agreement is an important legal document, and just in the same way that you need a will solicitor to make your will, you both need a separation agreement and divorce solicitors to advise you on the terms and wording of the separation agreement.
Many separating couples are fearful about asking a family law solicitor to get involved with preparing a separation agreement as they don’t want any disagreements after they have reached their financial settlement. That is totally understandable. The job of specialist separation agreement solicitors is to make you aware of what can go in your agreement, ensure all future financial claims are looked at and the best options for you to sensitively finalise a separation agreement that works for you.
The family home is owned by me. Why do I need a separation agreement if it is my property?
When a couple gets married, a spouse automatically is entitled to make financial claims on separation, including claims over the family home, other property, shares, investments, cash, pensions and businesses owned by one spouse. The husband or wife can also ask for spousal maintenance. Sole ownership of a property or assets doesn’t protect the asset from claims on divorce. Separation agreements can stop or limit those claims.
Do I need a separation agreement if I am a beneficiary of a trust? Does the trust protect the family money?
A trust is a useful means of protecting family wealth but it is only one protective measure. Most trustees recommend that a beneficiary of a discretionary trust fund should also have a financial Court Order or a separation agreement if they separate. The separation agreement can record that any trust money is ring-fenced and protected from any financial claims on divorce.
Do I need a separation agreement if I am a shareholder in a family business and my spouse has transferred their shares in the business to me as part of our financial settlement?
Yes, you do. Whether your spouse is or isn’t a shareholder in the family business this won’t prevent them from being able to bring financial claims against your shareholding in divorce proceedings. Their financial claim could cripple the company. An expertly prepared separation agreement can record the agreement reached to minimise the risks of additional financial claims.
We own a property abroad. Do we need a separation agreement in the UK as well as overseas?
Possibly. A lot will depend on where the property is owned and by whom. Robin Charrot is a Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, the world’s leading organization of expert international family lawyers. Where there is potentially a need for more than one separation agreement, Robin works with specialist separation agreement solicitors overseas to make sure that you are protected.
We signed a separation agreement and we are now getting divorced. Do we need to do anything?
Yes, the separation agreement may need to be carefully reviewed if you are not happy with the agreement to see if any financial claims can be brought. Alternatively, the agreement may need to be reconsidered if, for example, one of you is receiving spousal maintenance or child support. If you are content with the separation agreement then it should be converted into a binding financial Court Order to give you additional financial security and peace of mind.
The expert family law solicitors at Evolve can help advise you on what should go into separation agreements or review your existing separation agreement for you and convert it onto a financial Court Order.