If you are unmarried, or in a marriage or civil partnership, but not ready to divorce/dissolve your civil partnership, you may wish to enter into a Separation Agreement. A Separation Agreement will set out the terms of your settlement and can cover issues of property, money and maintenance.
Both of you will need to be legally advised separately. You will also have to disclose fully all your financial affairs to each other. Details of the assets will usually be scheduled as part of the agreement.
Separation Agreements freely entered into with advice and full disclosure are not binding, but can be very difficult to move away from. Even though the Court retains an overriding jurisdiction, it will be very reluctant to interfere with such an agreement even if one of you later changes their mind.
If you are divorcing/dissolving a civil partnership, then the terms of your financial settlement should be incorporated into a Minute of Agreement and Consent Order. This document will be drawn up by your solicitor and will incorporate all the terms of your settlement.
Once this has the Court’s approval, it is completely binding unless there is something fundamentally wrong with it (such as one of you hid the existence of a valuable asset). It may subsequently be varied with regard to levels of maintenance when circumstances change in the future, but the provisions with regard to property and lump sums and pension shares may not be revisited.
A clean break in such an order is final and irrevocable. (A clean break is the point at which the parties become financially independent. Please see our ‘maintenance and periodical payments’ fact sheet for information about clean breaks).
A summary of outcome from mediation
Mediation is where a couple negotiates their own private arrangements with the assistance of a family mediator. A summary of outcome from mediation is not the same as a Separation Agreement or Consent Order.
A summary of outcome is not legally binding. You are supposed to take legal advice and have it converted into a Separation Agreement or Consent Order (see above).
Usually, if all issues have been addressed at mediation, then it should be relatively easy to have your proposals converted into a binding legal document. That is one of the main advantages of mediation