What to avoid during separation negotiations
Taking steps to separate from a partner is one of the most difficult decisions a person can make.
There has been a staggering threefold increase in the number of separation applications following COVID-19 lockdowns and statistically, the winter months are always the main period for firms like ours to be contacted for support.
As hard as it may be to think of the details at moments like this, there are certain practicalities that need to be taken into consideration. Even if you and your partner are still undecided about moving forward with divorce proceedings or dissolving a civil partnership, in the interim you will need certainty about matters such as where each partner will live, child arrangements and how your money and assets will be divided.
To manage these sensitive matters, a separation agreement can be created to set out the terms of your separation. Unsurprisingly, negotiating the details of this document at a highly emotional time can come with challenges. To help you navigate the process of negotiating a separation agreement, we have compiled a practical list of things to avoid.
- Make sure the agreement you make is formal
It is crucial to avoid the false security of an informal agreement. While it may be simple and comforting to choose this option, if you want to protect your arrangement you should take steps to ensure that it is formalised and recognised by a judge if you go on to divorce.
If the document is fair, drafted by a solicitor, and with both parties understanding what they are agreeing to, a judge will usually recognise a separation agreement. Generally, you and your partner’s financial circumstances must be the same as when you entered into the agreement.
- Try not to feel pressured into an agreement
It is not uncommon to find people feel pressured into agreeing to terms they are unsure of just for the sake of ‘getting it done’. Understandably, in family relationships, people can often put their emotions before their practical and financial needs, which can cause problems later down the line. When emotions are running high, having a solicitor who will listen to what you want from the agreement and negotiate the terms on your behalf is the most sensible option.
- Don’t make financial commitments before the agreement is settled
Separation proceedings entail a lot of change for everyone involved and one of the most common changes can be to your or your partner’s financial situation. Nevertheless, we would recommend holding off committing to a new rental agreement, mortgage, car finance or any other substantial financial commitment until the terms of the separation are clear. Your partner may have verbally committed to a financial arrangement, but this could be very different to what is set out in a formal document.
- Always consider the long-term implications of your separation agreement
It is important to keep in mind that while a separation agreement itself is not a legally binding document, when you enter divorce proceedings the court will consider your previous agreement and arrangements. As a result, it is important that you do not view the terms of the agreement only as an interim arrangement; take into consideration the long-term consequences for you and your family.