Separation agreement

Separation. Agreement. Two words that don’t belong next to each other. Two bifurcating lines that somehow fuse together further down the path. Really, there is something fundamentally oxymoronic about the phrase.

To be honest, I’m stuck on the agreement part.

When I look back on how we got to this bit – the bit of paper that I’ve left on the shelf for at least a month now – I can’t recall how or when the separation was agreed.

Ours was more of a misunderstanding. When Ben was about to come out of rehab almost three years ago, I panicked. I didn’t want him coming back home. I couldn’t face another relapse. I told him I needed to be sure – really sure – that he had stopped drinking. I suggested a temporary separation.

He said he wasn’t sure it would be good for his recovery to be back home with Rosie and me. I took this as an agreement to live apart for a while.

As the months went by, this agreement to live apart grew more and more solid. Ben still came round and spent a few nights at the flat (on the old futon that had been his sickbed for so long). Soon a few nights became one night.

Last summer we sold the flat. Ben, very kindly, let me use the profit from the flat to buy the house that Rosie and I now live in. This, despite the fact that Ben is effectively homeless. At the time, he said it was the only thing he could offer for Rosie’s future. I said I would pay him back one day.

Understandably, he took legal advice. And that advice led to the dusty piece of paper downstairs. The piece of paper that gives Ben a percentage interest in my house – the guarantee that I’ll pay him back when I sell this house one day.

This is his right. I understand that. It’s not the money that irks me. It’s the meandering way we got to this point. The gradual calcification that we gave in to in the absence of solid agreement.

Perhaps that piece of paper is just a formality. But for whatever reason, I can’t bring myself to read it. As soon as I try, I’m overwhelmed by inertia.

And I turn away.

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4 thoughts on “Separation agreement

  1. A beautiful piece of writing: thank you for sharing. I’m fairly sure that there’s an action I “should” take right now but each time I circle towards it I end up physically sick. My sponsor assures me that if I keep praying and working on myself the answer will pop out one day and it won’t cause my body to violently rebel. All that is to say that maybe today is not the day for you to sign. I wish you luck and serenity. xx

  2. I would strongly suggest you get a lawyer. I know they cost money, but in this case they may end up saving you money.

    First of all, Ben has let you use his share of the proceeds to buy your current house and you say you’ll pay him back someday. I would ask a lawyer about the legalities of this and get a payment plan agreed to and nailed down in black and white. Twenty years down the line, when he has another family he may turn around and ask for his money back, for example saying “I need it because my other daughter’s going to university”. You protest, he says that Rosie’s fine as she’s got her own place now and you get a lawyer only to find you have to sell the place you love.

    Or, as my soon-to-be-ex-brother-in-law has found out, he used some money given to him by his mother to buy the marital home among his own money. Unfortunately, he cannot prove he used his mother’s money for this, so the price of the flat will be divided in half instead of the money that his mother gave him taken out first. My sister would happily give the money back, but the law won’t allow it.

    This may be hard, but as women we need to know how we stand. My hubby owns our house – I haven’t paid a penny, so if we broke up I would not be in position of having to prove I paid X (which unfortunately a lot of women are and can’t prove it, which a lawyer will be able to advise you on) but I pay what I would pay in rent into a savings account, so I’d be able to afford to buy if we split up.

    Lastly, a lawyer can read your separation agreement for you and tell you the ins-and-outs of it without you having to read the paper yourself and you’d possibly understand it better after it.

    I wish you good luck with this.

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