For many people it can feel overwhelming when a relationship comes to an end. This checklist is not legal advice but a list of practical steps designed to try and make things a little easier and help you during this difficult time.
End Of The Relationship
Firstly, make a note of the date that you decided the relationship was over, even if you are still living in the same property. This date will be needed by different agencies and by your lawyers.
How are you going to tell your children about your separation? Discuss this with your partner and reach an agreement on what the children should be told and how. Remember that it is a difficult time for your children as well as for you and your partner; it is important that they are not put in a position where they are aware of parental conflict or feel they have to choose between their parents. This can have a lasting impact on children’s emotional welfare and development. Try to put the children’s needs first.
On a practical basis think about:
- Who the children will live with;
- How the children will share their time between the parents;
- Whether it is possible for the children to stay in the family home so they have stability;
- Whether the arrangements for the children are practical
- Getting the children to school, employment or other commitments.
If it is not possible to reach agreement, then consider getting legal advice or trying mediation.
This can be a really difficult, emotional decision. Ask yourself:
- What will happen to the family home?
- Are you married or cohabiting? The legal position is different, so you might need to think about taking legal advice.
- Can you afford to stay in the house? Think about the rent or mortgage as well as the running costs.
Dividing Your Belongings
Sometimes this can be straight forward if it is clear you own an item, but if you have purchased things together think about making a list and try and reach a compromise. Think about what the children will need.
This needs to be carefully approached and as always you need to think about your children’s needs first. For most separating couples the priority is trying to maintain the family home for the children. This may involve the person leaving contributing to mortgage or rent payments. Separating finances can be complicated and you may need to take legal advice.
Think about your banking arrangements. Do you have sole or joint accounts? Do you need to set up a separate account? Think about which account the bills and rent / mortgage are paid from and be careful you don’t cause any problems with missed payments or any overdrafts.
It may be worth speaking to your mortgage provider to see if they can offer any help whilst you sort out the details e.g. moving to an interest only mortgage or taking a payment break.
If you have joint debts such as credit cards or loans think about how you will meet these obligations between you.
Do you need to consider maintenance?
Has your benefit position changed? Do you need to speak to the DWP or HMRC? You could be entitled to further benefits.
Updating Your Personal Information
Think about the practicalities involved and update your information now that you are no longer a couple:
- Update your emergency contacts
- Decide on your next of kin for medical
- Review passwords and PIN numbers for banking purposes, email accounts, social media, online accounts or
- Organise mail redirection for the person who leaves the shared home.
Informing People That You’ve Separated
Think about who needs to know you have separated or moved address:
- Children’s School;
- GP / Health Professionals;
- Bank or Building Society, credit card or loan companies;
- Insurance policies;
- Council Tax;
- Telephone / broadband providers;
Getting Legal Advice
Solicitors can help during this difficult time. It is important to know your legal rights at the start to ensure that you achieve the best outcome for yourself and your children.
We understand that our clients worry about legal costs spiralling. You can keep legal costs down by agreeing matters through negotiation and attending mediation rather than going to court. Solicitors can then formalise the final agreement by creating a legal document so you are protected.
A lot of our clients prefer to get some initial advice prior to entering into discussions and many solicitors (as I do) offer competitive fixed fee services to help keep your costs down.
Emma Cordock is a contributor to ‘Separating With Children 101’ (Bath Publishing 2023).