Practical tips and legal issues to consider when separating from your spouse or partner

26 July 2019

When a relationship breaks down resulting in a decision to separate, this is likely to create a challenging period for you and your family where you are faced with change and uncertainty about your future.
 

Understandably, separation from a partner or spouse and thinking about how you will move forward and make decisions independently can be overwhelming.

There are steps that you can take independently (some small and others requiring more commitment) in the short term to protect your emotional wellbeing and financial position. We set out some examples below:

Practical steps to take when separating

  1. Discuss with your partner or spouse how you will tell your children, family and friends about your separation, and try to agree when this will be done, what will be said and who will be told. This may help to keep things amicable and avoids putting those around you in difficult positions.
  2. Ensure that you have some emotional support and someone that you can talk to, whether that is with a friend, family member or a counsellor/therapist. This is crucial to help you deal with the emotional impact of your separation.
  3. Consider how your financial obligations, such as your mortgage, bills and other household expenditure, will be met. This may involve a conversation with your partner or spouse to ensure that there are arrangements in place and to gain an understanding of what they are.
  4. Check whether you are entitled to any benefits and/or a reduction in council tax. We suggest using one of the benefit calculators on the gov.uk website to find out if you are eligible to claim any benefits. Additionally, if you are now living on your own, you should notify your local council to benefit from a reduction in your council tax of 25%.
  5. Change your passwords. This is necessary to ensure that your spouse or partner cannot access your personal accounts including your emails, internet banking, social media and other websites.
  6. Create a new personal email address. This allows you to have a new start in relation to any confirmations, information or advice that you may receive in a secure way.
  7. Open a bank account in your sole name (unless you have one already). This means that you can manage your own finances, budget and obligation and consider placing a limit on the overdraft of joint bank accounts, if applicable.
  8. If you have moved out of your family home, you should arrange for your post to be redirected to your new address.
  9. If you are married and live in a property owned solely by your spouse, you should register your home rights to prevent your spouse from selling your home or increasing the mortgage on the property without your prior consent. You will find an explanation of this process on the gov.uk website.
  10. Consider the whereabouts of important documentation which may be required at a later date, such as your marriage certificate, bank statements, any valuations for property or businesses, payslips or tax returns, pension information and any trust documents or loan agreements. This all helps to understand your financial position.

Legal advice

Obtaining legal advice is a way of ensuring that you are fully informed about your position (both in the short term and long term) and your options. This does not necessarily mean that you have to instigate court proceedings but securing early legal advice can provide direction and a clear understanding of the issues. There are occasions when urgent legal action is required in order to protect your financial position. These may include when your safety and that of your children is at risk; if you or your spouse/partner plan to relocate overseas with children; and/or if there is a possibility that one of you could issue proceedings in another country.  

Key considerations:

Family law issues

When you feel ready to fully understand your position in relation to the division of your marital capital and income and the arrangements for your children, it is important to seek advice from a family lawyer.

Initially, some interim arrangements need to be in place as to where you both live, how you both manage financially and how the care of any children is to be divided. If you cannot agree these with your spouse, then a family lawyer will be able to assist you.

There are many options available to help you come to an agreement in the long term which a family lawyer can explain. This includes alternatives to issuing court proceedings such as mediation and collaborative law among other options. Even if you have agreed all of the separation arrangements with your partner or spouse, it is important that you seek advice to ensure that what you have agreed is fair and to secure a legally binding agreement to protect yourself in the future.

Wills and estate planning

You should consider creating a will or amending it if you already have one. For the majority of couples, their partner or spouse is the main beneficiary under their will. Additionally, if you own your home with your partner or spouse as ‘joint tenants’, then your share of the property will automatically pass to your partner or spouse in the event of your death, unless the joint tenancy is severed.

If either you or your spouse is a settlor or beneficiary of any trust assets, you may also want to consider seeking advice in relation to the position.

See also our previous blogs for further information:

Immigration law considerations

If you are not a British citizen and your status in the UK is dependent on your partner or spouse, you should obtain immigration advice on the consequences following separation. It may be that you have a retained right of residence in the UK for a reason other than your relationship, but it is important that you fully understand your position.

See also our previous blogs for further information:

Further information

It is important that you obtain the support, guidance and information you require to protect your own interests and to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your family. Taking positive steps, however small, are all a move in the right direction.

If you would like to understand your position and what the options may be, please contact a member of our family and divorce team. We also work closely with colleagues in our private client, immigration and real estate teams, who can advise on issues relating to wills and estate planning, immigration law and property related issues.

Choose a specialist area:

Family and Divorce

Recognised nationally and internationally as one of the best family law teams for our expertise in both finance and cases relating to children.

Considering Divorce or Separation

Considering divorce or separation is stressful and affects people in different ways. Our experienced family lawyers will listen and discuss the options with you.

Financial Arrangements

The majority of divorces and separations involve consideration of the family's financial arrangements. Our lawyers are highly regarded for their ability to give practical and clear advice on the financial implications of relationship breakdown.

Thinking about the Children

We have considerable expertise in guiding our clients through the legal issues affecting their children and placing them at the centre of all decisions made following separation to minimise any potential distress for them.

Alternatives to Litigation

Going through litigation and the court system is not always the best route for everyone faced with divorce or separation. We can guide you through alternatives to going through court such as mediation, collaborative law and arbitration.

Immigration

Our specialist team has been advising businesses and individuals on all aspects of UK immigration and nationality law for over 20 years.

Wills, Succession Planning and Trusts

Many of our clients have complex business structures, high value real estate or other assets which necessitates careful planning.

Working with You and Other Professionals

We will work with you in ways that best suit your needs. That may involve us guiding and advising you in the background or representing you and fighting your corner in the courts. If required, we will call on additional support from other trusted professionals

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