What is a Separation Agreement?
Bill and Melinda Gates, who recently announced they were getting divorced after 27 years of marriage, had reportedly already signed a separation contract outlining how their estate would be split, agreeing on how to divide property and assets before the announcement was made.
The couple filed for divorce at a court in Seattle on Monday, according to documents obtained by a number of US media outlets and published by the TMZ website.
“This marriage is irretrievably broken,” the petition for divorce states. “We ask the court to dissolve our marriage.”
It says the couple’s property, business interests and assets should be divided “as set forth in our separation contract”. That contract, however, has not been made public. However, the couple did not sign a pre-nuptial agreement before their wedding in 1994.
Bill Gates, 65, is the fourth wealthiest person in the world, according to Forbes, and is worth $124bn (£89bn) and whilst this makes the couple’s divorce more unusual in regards to the size of their estate, and every family is different, the principles of trying to putting in place an amicable solution for divorcing couples are the same and common areas for concern will be:
- care of the children
- living arrangements
- finances generally
When going through a divorce or separation it is in the best interest of all involved to ensure an amicable decision is made on financial aspects of the divorce.
Financial Agreements in Divorce
A separation contract, similar to that used in the Bill and Milinda Gates divorce, is technically not legally enforceable under UK law. It is more common to put in place a financial settlement or consent order and in this article, we highlight frequently asked questions regarding divorce, financial settlements and how our team of family law specialists can help you.
What is a financial agreement?
To set out the financial commitments between you and your former partner, including matters such as child maintenance and how debts will be paid moving forwards, you will need to have in place a financial agreement that sets out these obligations on divorce. Once approved by the courts, this is a legally binding document – a consent order – that records with the court the agreement that has been reached between the separating couples in regard to the resolution of their matrimonial finances.
How are consent orders or financial agreements put in place?
Financial agreements can be reached via several methods, and your solicitor will offer advice on the most appropriate solution for you and your family. Typically the quickest route to achieving a settlement will be through mediation (where a neutral third party will offer suggestions for settlement). Alternatively, both parties can agree to fully disclose their financial circumstances so that each can receive specific legal advice before voluntary negotiations.
Do you have to go to court to reach a financial settlement?
You will need to record your financial agreement by way of a consent order in order for the settlement you have reached to be legally binding. Your solicitor will be able to assist you with any negotiations with the other party and draft a consent order for filing with the court. Before the consent order can take effect, the court order will need to be filed with the court and will be subject to a Judge’s approval.
If the Judge is not convinced that the agreement that you have reached is fair, he/she may ask you to revisit the terms of your agreement.
However, if parties are unable to reach an agreement either between them or with the assistance of solicitors, then the only other way that the finances can be dealt with would be for an application to court.
What is a Clean Break Financial Agreement?
A clean break financial agreement means that you and your partner are both in complete agreement regarding your financial commitments, have no spousal payments and you both wish to be financially separate after your separation. This is not suitable for every couple and you should be aware that once a clean break order has been finalised, neither party will be able to make any further financial claims against the other. It is always recommended that you discuss any matrimonial financial matters with your solicitor who will be able to provide you with advice and guidance on your legal rights and the options available to you.
Expert Financial Settlement Solicitors
If you are you are looking for a divorce lawyer near you to advise you on matrimonial finances, our specialist family law solicitors in Portsmouth and Waterlooville, have the knowledge and expertise to help you and your family regardless of the complexity of your situation. We will explain all the options available to you and ensure you are aware of the costs involved, guiding and supporting you through every step of the process.
Remember you can talk to us in complete confidence and gain reassurance from speaking to someone who understands your situation.
Get in Touch
To speak with one of our specialist family law team Please call on 023 9244 810 or make an online enquiry