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Post-Separation Survival Guide

Posted on 12th October, 2017

If you've decided to end your relationship, you may be feeling in a bit of a fog about what to do now. 

The end of a relationship can seem overwhelming and it's often difficult to work out where to start.

 

People often contact us saying that they've split from their husband or wife and want a formal separation. But, in reality, there is no necessity to do anything formal regarding ending the relationship until you are totally ready. You don't need a legal separation (there isn't really any such thing anyway, although you can get a separation agreement which we'll discuss below).

 

So, what do you need to do after you separate? Here are some of the things you should be thinking about - whether you were married or not.

 

Joint accounts

Firstly, it's important to know your financial position. If you have any joint bank accounts or credit cards, you should consider contacting the bank or account provider to ensure that your ex can't incur you in any debt without your knowledge. This can include running up an overdraft on a joint bank account or spending on a joint credit card. You'll be considered 'jointly and severally liable' for any such joint debts incurred, which means that you could end up paying back a debt that your ex has run up. To try to minimise the risk of that, you should contact the bank or account provider to discuss what steps you could take. 

 

Debts

If there is already a debt in joint names or in your sole name (even if it was incurred for family purposes or solely for the benefit of your ex), do your best to ensure it gets paid.

 

This can be difficult when you are in process of separating as there may be more costs involved, perhaps in one of you moving out. But failing to pay a debt has implications for your credit rating, as well as incurring further charges for non-payment and possible court proceedings. Work out what you need to pay and when, and if you think there's a risk that something won't get paid, contact the relevant company. Simply ignoring payments and debts always makes matters worse. Although it's tempting to try to put it out of your mind, if you contact them they'll usually be more willing to try to work out an arrangement with you - and they will usually understand if you explain that you are in the process of separating.

 

Children

You should consider who the children will live with, and how and when they will see the other parent and their family. You might not be able to stand the thought of seeing your ex and his or her parents, but it's important to remember that they are still your child's family and your child is still a part of them. It may be difficult to sort out arrangements but it's important to try to make sure things are handled as smoothly as possible for your child - remember that this will be a very difficult time for them too.

 

You also need to make sure that the children are financially supported. This means that the 'non-resident parent' should be making a financial contribution in the form of child maintenance. This can be dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service (formerly the CSA) if necessary, but it's always better to sort things out between you wherever possible - not least because the Child Maintenance Service will charge if they have to sort things out for you. There is an online calculator (available at https://www.cmoptions.org/en/calculator/index.asp ) that you can use to help you work out what payment should be made in your circumstances - and this is often helpful in avoiding arguments.

 

Benefits

If you're receiving any benefits, including tax credits and child benefit, remember to contact the relevant agencies to notify them that you are no longer living with your ex. This is important whether it was a joint claim or not. If you don't, you run the risk of not receiving enough, or even of having to pay money back in the future.

 

Properties

If you own a house jointly with your ex, it is likely that you held it as 'joint tenants' which means that you both own the whole thing together and can't, for example, leave your share to anyone else in your will. It is therefore worth considering whether you should sever the joint tenancy so that you both own shares which can be left as you choose (subject of course to any eventual financial settlement or court order).

 

Wills

If you've considered the section above about joint tenancies, you might have realised that this would not actually be very helpful if you've made a will leaving everything to your ex.

If you've made a will, it doesn't become invalid simply by you splitting up. You need to take steps to change it or to revoke it. And even if you don't have a will or you've revoked the one you had during the relationship, while you're still married, your ex will be your next of kin and would stand to inherit from your estate (subject to certain financial limits). This applies until the time your divorce is finalised, so it's important to give this some thought.

 

Formalising the separation

As above, there is no particular need to do anything formal regarding your relationship itself unless and until you are ready to do so.

 

However, if you've decided that now is the time to get things resolved, you may wish to consider a divorce if you're married. If so, consider whether you want to do it yourself, use a solicitor, or use a service such as ours which will support and guide you throughout the process, including helping you to reach a financial agreement or an agreement about arrangements for the children.

 

If you aren't married, you might consider formalising matters into a separation agreement which can take into account any agreement about who will pay what, or who will have what from the house etc. It can also take into account longer term matters such as who will pay for the children's driving lessons, or university fees if you want to get everything agreed.

 

If you are married but aren't ready to take any formal steps towards a divorce, you might also want to consider a separation agreement to formalise any agreement as to finances. If done properly, this will provide a good basis for the court to take into account on any eventual divorce proceedings and can be a useful option.

 

Financial agreement

It is a good idea to try to reach a financial agreement with your ex, whether that is through direct discussion, mediation or negotiation with the help of a third party. But it is important that you don't agree to anything final until you have taken some advice. You need to make sure that you know your ex's financial position and understand the position you will be in if you decide to go with the agreement. There may also be other things that you haven't thought about, so even taking one-off advice might help you get some clarity.

 

 

Separation is a difficult time, and there are lots of matters to consider. You don't need to do anything until you are ready but we strongly suggest you consider the above protective measures in the early stages of your separation, to try to protect your position in the long-term.

 

** This article contains general guidance only and does not constitute legal advice. You should seek individual advice based on your own circumstances. **

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paula Tanner

Former solicitor and founder of Ethos Family Solutions

 

 

Need some help?

01792 420581

family@ethosfamilysolutions.co.uk

www.ethosfamilysolutions.co.uk

 

 

 

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