To help guide you through this difficult time I have compiled a top 10 list of things to consider when separating from a partner.
1. Get Some Counselling, Marriage or Otherwise
Counselling is a good starting point to establish if you are really sure that you want to separate. There are times when couples are unhappy together but don’t really want to take that final step and separate. You need to be sure that the relationship has suffered an irretrievable breakdown before you can begin to consider the financial changes, the change in living arrangements and what happens to any children under 18 years old.
Once the separation process begins it can be very hard to go back to a happy relationship. Counselling can be helpful even if attended on your own to help you deal with the separation.
2. Where are the Kids Going to Live?
English law (legal system in England & Wales) says that when parents separate the children’s best interests are paramount. It needs to be decided who the children are to live with upon separation as well as ensure that they maintain a relationship with both parents.
3. Decide about Your Living Arrangements
When deciding who stays in the home and who goes, it is important to think about your long term goals. If you want to continue living in the home so that there is less disruption for the children, but are concerned that you cannot pay the overheads on your own, then you may be able to require your partner to contribute to the costs. If you decide to leave the home then this is fine too as the law will recognise your legal entitlements.
4. Furniture and Personal Effects
If you decide to leave the family home, it is advisable to take everything you need by way of furniture, appliances, clothes, jewellery etc. Generally the Courts will consider all belongings to be jointly owned and therefore moveable by either person. If you don’t take items with you that you really want then you risk your partner taking them or refusing that you have them. Equally, if you’re the person who’s staying you are able to change the locks to prevent the departing partner from gaining re-entry – even if the house is in joint names.
5. Get All Legal and Financial Documents Sorted
It is very important that you know where you stand in terms of the financial assets and liabilities of your relationship. You need to know what your partner’s financial position is as well as yours so that you can make informed decisions moving forward. Important legal and financial documents include your passport, driving license, insurance documents, birth / marriage certificate, tax returns, bank statements etc.
6. Open Your Own Bank Account
Where there are joint bank accounts both you and your partner have the ability to remove all the funds or a portion of the funds from the account. If you have decided to leave the home then you will need the money to assist you with moving. Equally if you are going to remain in the home then you will need the money to help with costs of running the home.
7. Check Your Life Insurance and Death Benefits
If you have nominated your partner as a beneficiary of any of these, you will need to change this immediately. Where possible we suggest that you take all necessary steps to ensure any such benefits pass to your estate or your children in the event of your death.
8. Update/Make a Will and Lasting Power of Attorney
It is important to understand that separation does not change gifts in a Will. So if your Will says “I appoint my partner as my executor and give all my estate to my partner” and you die, then your partner (or ex-partner) will have the ability to make decisions about your estate and receive everything.
If you haven't made a Will yet you can make an initial legally valid Will now, then update the Will with any new details within 12 months at no extra cost. See Family Break Up Wills.
9. Notify DWP and Child Support Agency
If you are receiving any state benefit payments you need to notify Department for Work and Pensions of your change in relationship status as you will obviously be dealt with differently as a single person. The same applies with the Child Support Agency, if you have children, as the Agency’s role is to collect payments from the non-residential partner to pay the residential partner on a means and needs basis.
10. Get Legal Advice
Not getting expert legal advice early and throughout the whole separation process could cost you thousands of pounds. Navigating your way through a separation is stressful and at times complicated. The Co-op Family Law team offer a friendly no nonsense service with no hidden costs. Our team of specialist Family Law, Children Law and Divorce Solicitors are more than happy to help guide you through this difficult time.
For initial legal advice call our Family Law & Divorce Solicitors on 03306069626 or contact us online and we will help you.