My partner and I are separating. What do I need to think about?
Mark Chapman, Head of Family Law replies:
Relationship breakdown is an emotionally difficult time for the entire family. As well as having to manage changing family dynamics there are also many other steps that need to be considered.
Formalising the Separation
If you’re married you’ll want to look into the divorce process—do you want to start immediately or wait a separation period? Who’s going to pay the costs? Who will start the process?
Whether you are married or cohabiting one of your first worries will be “where are we going to live?”, “Who gets to stay in the family home?” and “Who does the property belong to?”
You’ll also need to consider bank accounts, savings, ISAs, life insurances, shares, etc. What happens to them? Who gets what?
Have you notified the utility providers of change of address? Or changed the utilities into your sole name?
The parent who does not reside with the children will be statutorily liable to provide child maintenance. This can be done by agreement or through the Child Maintenance Service.
In some cases one spouse may be required to provide spousal maintenance for a period of time. This will be to cover their needs. Although cohabiting couples are not required to provide their ex-partners with maintenance, there may be other forms of support available to them when children are involved.
You’ll need to consider not only who the children should live with but also how often/regularly they should have contact with their other parent. What about Skype or telephone contact? How will the holidays be shared? What about grandparents?
Does the school know to speak to both parents now, rather than just one? Are both parents getting regular information from the teachers? Has the GP’s surgery been notified of the separation and who has the main care for the children?
And what about Parental Responsibility?
Wills/ Powers of Attorney
If you’re cohabiting you’ll want to redo your Will immediately—setting out clearly who gets what—as well as amending any life insurance or death in service/pension benefits that went to your partner. For spouses, the situation is not that clear—yes you will have to do all of this, but for some couples it’s best to wait until after the divorce and finances have been sorted.
In either case, you’ll need to change your Powers of Attorney to make sure you have the right person in place to make those important decisions for you if needed.
For more information on divorce, separation and how we can help you resolve the many issues that arise in family matters, please contact us.
If you have a query or would like to book an appointment please get in touch with our First contact team on 01256 320555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.