Going through a relationship breakdown can be stressful, and emotionally fraught for the whole family. From sorting out the practical arrangements, to working out where you will both live and how you will manage the arrangements for the children, it can be difficult to know where to start. We have provided some practical steps that you can take to make the process a little bit easier.
Assess your financial outgoings
When you first separate from your partner you will need to look at how you are going to meet any ongoing financial obligations, such as mortgage repayments and household bills. In many cases, where you are living separately, there may even be two sets of household expenditure to now consider.
Where possible trying to agree practical arrangements for paying outgoings can help. Maintaining open lines of communication with your ex-partner, where it is safe and appropriate to do so, can be crucial in reaching the best possible solution. In this way, at least in the short-term, you can hope to continue to meet all necessary outgoings from your combined income. Needless to say, this is preferable to incurring debts that neither of you may be able to discharge in the long-term. Mediation can be a great option to help separating couples look at the interim practical arrangements and come up with a plan of action.
You may also want to check if either of you are entitled to any state benefits, including a reduction in council tax as part of the single person’s allowance.
Consider the arrangements for the care of the children
As with your joint finances, an interim arrangement will need to be put in place about the care of any children. You will need to look at where the child(ren) will live, as well as when and how often they will spend time with each parent. It is important to remember that the children need to have a relationship with both parents, provided it is safe an appropriate for that to happen.
It is not uncommon for separating parents to sometimes struggle to reach an agreement as to the care of children, especially if the separation has been acrimonious. Sometimes mediation can again be a great option to enable parents to come together in a safe and supported environment to talk about how to co-parent their children after separation.
In circumstances where an agreement cannot be reached, one or both parents may apply to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order. A Child Arrangements Order is a Court Order which sets out where the children will live, how frequently and for how long they spend time with each parent, and any other issues such as what school they go to and other issues about the child’s care and upbringing.
It is often useful to get legal advice before considering making an application to Court to understand the options and the pros and cons of each.
Make or update your will
If you do not currently have a will you should consider creating one, not least because if you die intestate (without a valid will in place) before your divorce is finalised, your spouse will stand to inherit. If you already have a will you should consider updating it. For the majority of couples, their spouse is the main beneficiary under their will, and after splitting up you may not wish for this to happen.
It is also worth considering how you own any joint property. Often married couples own the matrimonial home as joints tenants rather than as tenants in common. As joint tenants, under the rules of survivorship, when one spouse dies, even if they are separated or going through divorce, the property will automatically pass to the surviving spouse. It is important to get independent legal advice about the options to sever the joint tenancy, as well as preparing an up to date will.
Seek specialist legal advice
It is always sensible to get independent legal advice as early as possible following a relationship separation. At Rowlinsons Solicitors, we have a team of family law specialists, who are on hand to advise you every step of the way. We can talk through the interim arrangements, and consider things such as maintenance, payment of bills and mortgage payments, as well as arrangements for the children. We can discuss your options such as mediation, collaborative law, and even court proceedings, and talk to you about the pros and cons of each. We can help you with any legal paperwork, including updating wills, considering notices of severance, and preparing divorce proceedings. We can also advise you about any financial settlement proposals, and consider with you whether what you are talking about is fair and reasonable. If you are able to reach an agreement, we can draft the Court Order necessary to finalise everything. Please note, in the absence of a financial order from the Court, whether by consent or otherwise, it remains open to either party to bring a financial claim against their ex-spouse at any point in the future.
In many cases, by simply seeking the advice of an experienced solicitor you can feel reassured that you are taking positive steps towards achieving the best possible outcome for you and your family.
For more information, or to speak to our expert family lawyers, please telephone Rowlinsons Solicitors and ask to speak to the Family Department.