What is a Separation Agreement?

Posted on: 6 mins read
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Lorraine Harvey

Partner, Family Law

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A Separation Agreement is an official arrangement between a couple who have decided to separate. Many couples in England and Wales choose to create a Separation Agreement if they want to stop living together and put arrangements in place for things like finances, children and property.

It can be used by both married and unmarried couples, but is most commonly used by those in marriages or civil partnerships who are looking to separate but haven’t yet finalised a divorce or dissolution.

A Separation Agreement sets out exactly what each party’s intentions are and gives separated couples time to consider their decision to split up. It can also lead to a more amicable divorce or separation later down the line.

For married couples, separation agreements are useful if you’re not thinking of getting a divorce immediately. But be advised, the Court will always look at your finances at the time of the divorce itself, not when you signed the agreement.

If your financial circumstances have stayed broadly similar to what they were when you signed the agreement, the Court will leave it undisturbed. But if they’ve changed significantly, for example, a large inheritance or lottery win, the Court may choose to look at it again.

Whatever your situation, we understand that a separation can be an emotional and difficult time. For free initial legal advice, get in touch with one of our Divorce Solicitors.

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To learn more about how our expert family law solicitors can help you, get in touch today on 0808 239 3465 or

What is Included in a Separation Agreement?

A Separation Agreement can cover a range of issues that need sorting out when you separate, such as:

  • Who pays the mortgage or rent, or household bills
  • Who stays living in the family home
  • What happens to the property if it’s sold
  • Childcare arrangements
  • Spousal maintenance
  • Who will take care of any pets
  • Who is responsible for clearing any debts

A Separation Agreement can be beneficial if you’ve decided to separate but haven’t yet decided to divorce or end your civil partnership.

This might be because of the costs associated with divorcing, or it could be for another reason entirely. Whatever this reason is, you still need to split and protect the assets and finances you share with your soon to be ex-spouse.

In a divorce case, Financial Orders help you properly split out your assets and finances, whereas in separation cases, Separation Agreements have a similar function.

For unmarried couples, it can be a useful way of splitting jointly-held assets, such as the property you own together. Also, if you’re tenants in a property, then you can use a Separation Agreement to agree on how you’ll split any remaining rent you owe.

Does a Separation Agreement Protect My Future Assets?

If you’re in the process of getting separated from your soon to be ex-spouse, you might be wondering how a Separation Agreement protects your future assets. This is an important thing to consider – with Financial Orders, you can protect financial assets in the future, meaning that if you win the lottery or come into wealth from inheritance, your ex-spouse won’t be able to stake a claim to your finances.

But, is this the case with a Separation Agreement?

Not necessarily, as a Separation Agreement only sets out your living and financial arrangements if you’ve separated but not yet gone through the divorce or civil partnership dissolution.

An important thing to note is that the agreement won’t protect you from a financial claim made against you in the time between separation and divorce, as technically, the agreement isn’t recognised as a legally binding document by the Family Courts in England and Wales.

It’s better to think of the agreement as more of a contract between you and your ex-partner, which can be disputed until the Court approves the Consent Order during divorce proceedings, and formally ends your marriage or civil partnership.

To protect yourself from future financial claims made by your ex, you need a Consent Order. A Family and Divorce Solicitor can draft this for you and submit it to the Court for approval as part of the divorce itself. The Consent Order reflects the terms set out in a Separation Agreement, but unlike the Separation Agreement, it’s legally binding in England and Wales.

Once a Consent Order is approved by the Court, it becomes much harder for your ex to make any financial claims against you in the future. So if you go on to gain wealth for example, your ex will have a difficult time getting their hands on any of it.

This way, you’ll be able to get on with living your life once the separation process is over, and you won’t have to worry about your ex-spouse looking for some money that they think they’re owed. With a consent order in place, you’ll be able to protect your future assets even after separation.

Deed of Separation

Every divorce and separation will have different circumstances. Some people separate but don’t get divorced until the children have left home, which might be quite a few years later. This can be either for the sake of the children, or it can be for legal or custody-based reasons.

In addition, sometimes, people choose to go down the cheaper route of separating before divorcing, especially if money is tight.

If a Deed of Separation is created, it helps support the evidential value of your agreement as it has been witnessed and signed in the presence of a Solicitor. It creates a sort of ‘action plan’ for when the time comes to get divorced and the Court can seal the agreement if a Consent Order is applied for. The Court will also look to see if both of you had legal advice and were honest with each other about your assets at the time.

If you’d like to know more about this, get in touch with one of our Divorce Solicitors.

Pension Sharing Order

If you have a Pension Sharing Order with your ex-partner, this can make things a little more complicated.

A Pension Sharing Order is a legal document that sets out how your shared pension is going to be divided once you divorce or separate. But one issue with this is that it can’t be included in a Separation Agreement.

A Divorce Solicitor can advise you on your best course of action if you have a Pension Sharing Order.

Of course, a Pension Sharing Order is an important financial asset, which should be split fairly. Pension Sharing Orders make sure that you get what is owed to you in terms of your pension, which is essential to your future.

Without a Pension Sharing Order, you could be left without an adequate pension which reflects the work you’ve done throughout your life. This means that the amount of money you’ve put away per month towards your pension will now go to your ex-spouse – and of course you don’t want that. This is why a Pension Sharing Order is so important to put in place when you’re separating.

How Simpson Millar Can Help You

If you’re going through a separation, then you should get legal advice from one of our Divorce Solicitors early on, as it’s the best way to know where you stand, and what might happen once divorce proceedings get underway.

Separation Agreements are a good way of setting out your intentions early on. They also give you clarity and certainty about your finances and living arrangements, as well as avoiding unnecessary Court hearings.

We can guide you through the process of getting a Separation Agreement, letting you know what’s going on with your case at all times. We can also explain to you what a Separation Agreement is in more depth, as well as what rights it gives you and what it can do in terms of splitting and covering your finances and assets between yourself and your soon to be ex-spouse.

So, if you’re getting separated from your spouse, get in touch with our friendly and approachable team of Divorce Solicitors today.


UK Government. (n.d.). Legal separation. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/legal-separation

Money Helper. (n.d.). Separation agreements instead of divorce or dissolution. Retrieved from https://www.moneyhelper.org.uk/en/family-and-care/divorce-and-separation/separation-agreements-instead-of-divorce-or-dissolution

UK Government. (n.d.). Apply for a consent order. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/money-property-when-relationship-ends/apply-for-consent-order

Lorraine Harvey

Partner, Family Law

Areas of Expertise:
Family Law

Lorraine is a Partner at Simpson Millar, specialising in Family Law for over 20 years.

She handles middle to high net value cases, including pension claims and complex trust, and also advises on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements.

Lorraine has unrivalled knowledge of public sector pensions, in particular police pensions, having advised police officers on pension claims for two decades.

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