These agreements apply equally to unmarried cohabitants as well as spouses or civil partners.
In the case of spouses and civil partners there may be a good reason why divorce or dissolution proceedings are not immediately made on separation and therefore why agreements with regard to the financial assets of the parties are not finalised by way of Court order in those proceedings. Although agreeing to separate and to wait for 2 years from the date of separation before commencing proceedings for divorce or dissolution, the parties may still want to resolve earlier the financial aspect of the break up (ie. what maintenance provision is required by one from another and in what way the capital assets should be divided up). In such circumstances, the agreement (usually prepared with the benefit of legal advice) would confirm that two years from the date of separation one or other party would be able to apply to the Court for a divorce or dissolution and the other would give consent and they would invite the Court at the relevant time to make a final order dismissing all financial claims they have against the other in the terms of the agreement set out.
Such agreements will reflect the fact of the breakdown of the relationship between the parties and their desire to resolve matters formally by deed setting out clearly what provision if any one should make to the other for themselves or for any child or children of the family and how any properties and other capital assets should be divided.
Often the couple are able to negotiate directly with regard to the appropriate terms of settlement but it is still advisable to obtain advice from a Solicitor with regard to any such terms before entering into a separation agreement which is intended to be legally binding. For such agreements to have a greater chance of being upheld by the court (should either party subsequently apply to the court for order contrary to the agreed terms) both parties should have received or have had the opportunity to obtain separate and independent legal advice on the agreement before executing it.