Published on December 15, 2022

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.

Photo by Christian Erfurt on Unsplash

Children

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.

Living Arrangements

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.

Managing Money

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?

Are pensions involved? If you are married or in a civil partnership an ex-partner could be entitled to a share of the other person’s pension(s).

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;
  • Employers;
  • Bank or Building Society, credit card or loan companies;
  • HMRC;
  • DVLA;
  • Insurance policies;
  • Council Tax;
  • Telephone / broadband providers;
  • Utility

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).

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The Early Days Of Separation

Humans are designed to cope with many onslaughts, but change continues to prove extremely challenging. How you manage the early days of separation or divorce has the potential to set the tone for the rest of the process.

When couples separate, they are often thrown into a period of uncertainty. Identities are changing from couple to single, from mum and dad together as a family unit to mum with children and dad with children. Depending on the circumstances and who decides to leave the family home, there are many questions that arise during the early days of separation. “Will we have to sell our home?” “I haven’t worked since we had children – how will we manage financially?” “What will our friends and family think?” “How much will divorce cost?”
“Will I cope on my own?” There seems to be so much to sort out both practically and emotionally and it comes at a time when at least one of you will be ‘all over the place’ emotionally due to the loss you are experiencing. This can make decision-making seem impossible. Who wants to agree the practicalities of legal issues and more importantly organise the children when they are devastated, angry and confused by loss? It can turn otherwise rational, clear-thinking mums and dads into what appears to be belligerent, stubborn, unreasonable people.

Take Your Time!

In those early days of separation or divorce, take your time if you can. Seek support from friends, family and professionals. Try not to make any big decisions too quickly.
Bear in mind that communication problems with your ex and all the pressures on family life you are now experiencing, like for many separating couples, will get better with time. It’s important to recognise that you and your ex will more than likely be in very different emotional places at the moment; different stress levels and anxieties will be making communication difficult. Taking the time to sometimes do nothing, to not react, give things a day or two, can prove very useful techniques.
What you have to remember is that if you have children, your ex is always going to be part of your life. That can be hard to take on board when you are feeling hurt and angry. If you can find a way to communicate with each other that focuses on the children, you will all benefit in the years to come.

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