You may decide that your marriage has broken down irretrievably and you will take the step to issue proceedings for divorce or dissolution but not immediately. It may be the case that before divorce proceedings are issued you are able to reach an agreement with your husband/wife/civil partner on how your property is to be divided or on the arrangements for the children.
It is possible for you to enter into a voluntary agreement and this is often referred to as a Separation Agreement. Once the divorce or dissolution proceedings begin, the terms of the Separation Agreement can be used to form the basis of a Court Order.
A Separation Agreement is not binding in the same way that a Court Order is because, as with Pre and Post Nuptial Agreements, the court has an unfettered discretion to look behind the terms of such an agreement to ensure fairness. However, provided the agreement is drafted carefully, the parties have undergone a process of full and frank financial disclosure and have received independent advice, the court will take into account the terms of the agreement reached and an Order can be drawn up in those terms. A Court Order will then be legally binding and enforceable.