Five tips for anyone considering separating from their partner

The end of a relationship is never easy, but it is important that people are aware of the procedure. If you are considering ending your relationship, whether it be amicable or not, here are five key points worth knowing.

1) What are the first steps I should take when separation becomes inevitable?

There is no need to rush into a decision that will affect not only you but the rest of your family (particularly where children are involved). However, it is worthwhile getting legal advice, even if you have not yet made that final decision to part. Many couples are able to resolve their financial issues without a solicitor, but obtaining advice early on means that you are able to make good decisions about how to proceed. Many solicitors, including Gullands, offer initial appointments for a fixed fee, which do not obligate you to proceed any further with that solicitor, but allow you to get some idea of what the next steps are.

2) How do I choose the right solicitor?

Separating can be extremely difficult, particularly if children are involved, so it is imperative that you choose a specialist solicitor who is best suited to your individual situation. For instance, if children are involved then you should choose a specialist family practitioner, accustomed to family courts. If your case includes other issues such as a business or trust, it is best to ensure that your solicitor has expertise in these areas. Whilst a solicitor’s experience is important, it is also important to use one that you are comfortable with.

3) What rights do I have?

If you are married, generally the starting point is that the assets will be divided equally between the parties but there are many other factors to be taken into account, most particularly the needs of the parties and any dependent children. If you are unmarried, the protection is not so great, and the parties may only be able to resolve their respective interests in joint property. An initial appointment with a solicitor will help clarify this for you.

4) How can I protect my interests prior to separation?

Try to get together as much financial information as you can. There are strict boundaries that prevent people from using any illegitimately gained paperwork as evidence in divorce cases, so your partner’s texts and emails will not provide sufficient paperwork. Instead, be aware of what your spouse’s assets might be, what your own assets are, and what you share, find out what the house is worth and what you owe on the mortgage. Don’t panic about what you don’t know as many people have no idea what their partner earns. Just be vigilant, for example money being moved from joint accounts should ring alarm bells! If you are married, the process calls for full financial disclosure, so you would expect to receive this information as matters progress. If you can bear it, stay in any jointly owned property. This can help alleviate the financial burden on separation but if you are not safe, or it is too distressing, consider moving out or asking your partner to leave and seek advice from your solicitor on ways in which your spouse/partner can be ordered to leave the property. Simply leaving a joint property does not mean that you lose your entitlement to it, but staying might mean you can sort things out faster.

5) What mistakes should I avoid during a divorce?

A common error many couples make is focusing on who caused the relationship to end. This should be avoided, the focus should be on how to move forward, and. not on the past. Where there are children, they should be the priority. It is accepted that both parents should have contact with their children. Keeping the children’s best interests at the heart of all decisions, should help the parties make better decisions and stay as amicable as possible, in all aspects of the end of the relationship.

Julie Hobson can be reached at