There are many challenges to overcome in the course of getting a divorce – reaching agreement on financial matters can be one of the most difficult to overcome. Having the support of a trusted and experienced divorce solicitor can be invaluable in negotiating how the finances of you and your ex-spouse will be shared to reach a fair, legally binding agreement that satisfies all parties.
With over 200 years of history as a practising law firm and many decades of experience amongst our current team of solicitors, you can be confident that you are receiving the very best advice throughout your dealings with us. We understand how stressful divorce proceedings are – our lawyers are approachable and friendly, offering a ‘can-do' attitude and a service that is exceptional value for money, offering fixed-fees wherever possible.
What is a separation agreement?
A separation agreement is a legal contract that sets out how financial matters will be settled when a couple separates. When people talk about ‘legal separation' they are usually referring to a separation agreement.
A separation agreement can be prepared by married couples, as well as civil partners and cohabiting couples. The agreement itself will state how assets and liabilities (i.e. debts) are to be divided and how joint bills will be paid. It is essential that separation agreements be appropriately drafted and signed to ensure that they will be legally binding and to prevent them from being challenged by one of the parties in the future.
Arrangements for the care of children will also be covered by a separation agreement. This can include financial arrangements, such as child maintenance payments and details about who will be responsible for paying for certain things such as school fees.
Do I need a separation agreement to get a divorce?
Before the Court grants a divorce, it must be satisfied that the couple has reached an agreement on certain matters. This includes financial arrangements and plans for the care of any children to the marriage. A separation agreement is used to satisfy these requirements.
A properly prepared and registered separation agreement has the same legal effect as an order made by the Court. It acts as a cheaper, more straightforward means of deciding how important issues are to be dealt with, rather than going to court to ask the Sheriff to decide on these matters.
However, a separation agreement does not grant a couple a divorce. Once an agreement has been reached, one of the parties will have to initiate divorce proceedings using either the Simplified Divorce Procedure or the Ordinary Cause Divorce Procedure. This is also the case for civil partners, although the term ‘dissolution' is used rather than ‘divorce'.
In the majority of cases, we will try to guide you towards a negotiated outcome in the form of a Separation Agreement. This will usually cover all relevant issues, including childcare arrangements, the marital home, finance, pensions and other property.
Generally, it is always much better when you have children to secure an agreement on such issues as where the children are going to live, how much contact each parent will have with the children, and how much money should be paid as support.
But if your spouse or partner refuses to co-operate or compromise, then we have extensive knowledge of the procedures and consequences of raising and defending court proceedings as required. We have considerable experience of representing clients in court, and we know what is required in order to achieve the best outcome for you.
It is not only Separation Agreements on which we can give detailed advice. In Scotland, contracts in advance of a marriage taking place (now commonly referred to as a “pre-nup”) have been available for many years. If they are prepared carefully and reasonably, and as long as both sides have had the opportunity to obtain their own independent legal advice, these important contracts should help to avoid much of the uncertainty that tends to follow a marital or partnership breakdown.
You can also enter into such a contract after a marriage has taken place, if there are any particular assets that you wish to try to protect, and if circumstances require it. Frequently, for example, we prepare agreements for clients who wish to protect their own money, when they pay the deposit for a house which is going to be purchased in joint names.
Contact our Separation Agreement Solicitors in Edinburgh, Bonnyrigg and Penicuik
The highly skilled divorce lawyers at Stuart & Stuart are on hand to offer clear, straightforward advice delivered in plain English to help you make the right decision for your circumstances. We take pride in helping our clients achieve positive results that allow them to protect their position both now and in the future.