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Any separation from a partner or spouse is a difficult time for everyone, regardless of the circumstances. Even amicable separations can be challenging as you adjust to living in different houses and, going forward, no longer being a couple. There are so many things to think about. What about money? Where are you going to live? What are the care arrangements for the kids? In this article, we delve into what a Minute of Agreement is and why it is important.

One thing that you should do is get independent legal advice as soon as possible, even before you separate if you can, to find out all the information and then make an informed decision about how you want to move forward. This is not about solicitors telling you what to do; it is about listening, supporting, and providing you with all the relevant information so you can make a choice about how you want to proceed, empowering you to make decisions that fit with your life.

Quite often, we find that when clients initially come to see us and get legal advice, they are emotionally overwhelmed and not in the right mental space to proceed. They need time to process a separation and to consider what to do, as there is simply too much going on. What they do gain from speaking to us is information about all the options open to them and the formulation of a plan to assist them in moving forward.

Additionally, we are exceptionally lucky here at Scullion LAW to have built up a network of trusted professionals ranging from mental health counsellors to divorce coaches who are available to provide real practical support to our clients at this time or indeed at any time to allow them to consider and prioritise matters.

Every case is unique, and that is why our service is bespoke. We work closely with our clients and take everyone as they are. Care is one of our core values. We are there throughout to guide and support clients before, during and after separation.

At Scullion LAW, we have the skills, knowledge, and experience to handle everything with the utmost dignity, professionalism, and care. We know how overwhelming the whole thing can be initially and we will go at your pace, communicating clearly to give you trust and confidence in our service. Our aim is to get you the best possible outcome and to give you peace of mind.

Once clients are ready to proceed, we deal with matters practically. If possible, it is always preferable to agree matters. In Scotland, couples who are separating are encouraged to negotiate and reach agreement on important matters without the need for the court to be involved. Ideally, that is the best solution in terms of keeping control, speed, legal costs, and client satisfaction.

Ways in which agreement can be achieved

  • Direct discussions with the ex-partner or spouse;
  • Alternatively, there can be negotiation or agreement through solicitors instructed by both parties. This can be by direct correspondence through solicitors or, if your solicitor is a collaboratively trained solicitor, through meetings with them and the other party;
  • Another option is that you both attend mediation to allow you the space to resolve any and all matters. That can be either through a CALM mediator, who is a family law solicitor who has been accredited by the Law Society as a mediator, or through family mediation.

What option you choose depends upon your needs and circumstances and will be explored to ascertain the best fit for you. The aim, however, is always the same: to reach agreement.

What is a Minute of Agreement?

It is a document setting out various matters and what you and your ex-partner or spouse have agreed on. Essentially, it is a contract.

A party must have capacity and be of requisite legal age to enter into a Minute of Agreement.  In Scotland, couples who are separating are encouraged to negotiate and reach an agreement on important matters without the need for the involvement of the court. It has important legal consequences so we would always advise you to seek legal advice.

It can cover one item or many, including but not restricted to the following:

  • the transfer or sale of a property;
  • care arrangements for children;
  • maintenance monies for a spouse and /or children;
  • payment of school fees and extra-curricular activities;
  • contents of a property, other assets and liabilities, savings and pensions.  

But it can cover anything that you need. That is the benefit of a Minute of Agreement as it is specifically tailored to you and your ex-partner’s or spouse’s needs and is a unique solution.

When is best to enter into a Minute of Agreement?

Well, really at any time during or after a relationship has ended.  In our experience, the vast majority of Minutes of Agreement are prepared once a relationship has ended.

It is not uncommon, however, for a party who wishes to preserve money or property given as a gift or inheritance or a party who has contributed a significant sum of money to the purchase of a property and intends to cohabit there with a partner to enter into a Minute of Agreement to regulate, protect, and provide clarity as to what is to happen should the relationship end.  Prepared at the outset or during a relationship, this is essentially an exercise in risk management.  It is a sensible option for those who are bringing substantial wealth or assets to a relationship. 

What a Minute of Agreement provides is certainty, which is always important for both parties. Once registered, it creates a binding legal document, which can be enforced if necessary through the courts.

For those who are married, having a Minute of Agreement usually ensures that there is then a smooth path to a divorce without the need for the expense and uncertainty of a court action. It keeps things simple.

We can prepare an Interim Minute of Agreement which commonly is for the sale of a property, or a full and final Minute of Agreement detailing everything, or both.

If you are separated, then you will need a Minute of Agreement signed so you can sell any property upon which the other party has a claim.

Usually one solicitor is instructed to prepare the Minute of Agreement and it is either sent to the other party or their solicitor to confirm if they are happy with the contents or if they suggest any revisals. It is important to note that the other party does not require to obtain legal advice before signing. That is purely a matter for them to consider. Once the parties agree on the terms of the Minute of Agreement, it needs to be signed by both. It does need to be the original document that is signed by both parties so as solicitors we need to consider practical arrangements for signing.

There is no need for this to be a complex or, indeed, acrimonious process. We at Scullion LAW firmly believe in resolving issues, not creating them, and provide clear, practical advice to clients. Separation from a partner or spouse is hard enough as it is.

Our Head of Department and Director, Judith Higson, and Senior Associate Director, Nicola Buchanan, are both Accredited Family Law Specialists, Accredited Mediators and Collaboratively Trained Solicitors. We have a wealth of experience spanning several decades to meet all of your family law needs and are ably assisted by our Solicitor, Laura Cousins, and Accredited Paralegal, Liz Semple. Contact us here: Enquiry Form.

The content of this article is for information only and is not intended to be construed as legal advice and should not be treated as a substitute for specific advice. Scullion LAW accepts no responsibility for the content of any third-party website to which this article refers.

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