When it comes to separation, couples can save themselves time and money arguing their case in court by reaching compromises about the terms of their separation, including their responsibilities to children. Using a mediation service, even partners whose relationship has really broken down have hope of reaching agreements on the important issues.
If the discussions go well then a voluntary agreement can be drawn up, which can then be made into a Deed of Separation or Separation Agreement, allowing the couple to part company and live independent lives, even if they have no wish to divorce immediately. Such agreement will usually make allowances for a spouse to file for divorce two years later, without having to proceed with the divorce on a fault-based basis.
Provided that both parties have been open and honest about their assets and liabilities before signing, then this document can be referred to in case disputes arrive in court. The court still has the right to overturn any agreement, but provided that no new information has come to light and neither party's situation had changed significantly, the agreement will still be referred to and usually endorsed by the court.
The Separation Agreement states the names and addresses of the adults, as well as names and dates of birth of any children. The document must acknowledge that the marriage or relationship has broken down beyond repair, while avoiding attaching blame to either party. It's important that the Separation Agreement contains confirmation that they have received independent legal advice in drawing up the agreement.
A residence plan details the residential agreements made between both parties; who will live at which address, and for what period of time. It is not unusual for a non-relocation clause to be included, to ensure that both parents stay relatively close to the child unless it is approved by the other party.
The contact plan defines how parents will have contact with children, and how living arrangements will affect each person's ability to spend time with the child. It could also contain contingencies in case a parent becomes ill or their circumstances change significantly. It can also include an education plan, which describes how each parent will take responsibility for the child's educational development. It will also include covenants in which the parties agree how they plan to support and maintain children living with them.
Separation Agreements are a useful way of agreeing the terms of a separation if, for whatever reason, divorce is not the right option.