What are the separation dos and don’ts?
I have been a matrimonial lawyer for many years now and I am often asked what the separation dos and don’ts are.
The disclaimer answer is that no two separations are the same and what I would advise is dependent on the circumstances of each case. This is because anything relating to ones family is different to another; there could be issues to do with how someone is treating the other in terms of domestic violence, or I may need to consider where someone is to live in the short-term and longer term, there could be children to consider in terms of their needs/where they should live/what time they should spend with a parent, what assets are involved in a particular case and what claim someone has.
I have tried to come up with a few pointers that may help you and your spouse, civil partner, partner deal with things in the most positive way possible at the outset. Hopefully this will benefit not only each of you in terms of your own wellbeing but also if there are children involved. I also hope that these pointers can help financially too. Litigation can become expensive very quickly.
So, where to start…
- You’ve reached a point where you’ve realised your relationship is at an end. Try to remember that this may only mean a romantic relationship and at some point you may want to try and remain as friends. I know this is easy for me to say as I know it isn’t always easy but I would recommend calm and respectful communication between one another. This can really help in the long run to avoid matters turning contentious very quickly.
- It may be appropriate in certain circumstances to limit communication in the very early stages whilst emotions are running high. Try to avoid saying or sending something you would regret.
- Write a list of how you would like to deal with your separation as adults co-separating (did I just make up the new version of conscious uncoupling?).
- In relation to some practical points it could be worth considering if you have any joint bank or building society accounts? It might be worth checking the arrangements of these accounts in case one of you can withdraw funds without the other knowing.
- Do you have a Will in place now your circumstances are changing? Have you thought about what you would like to happen in the event of your death and if there are children involved, who you would like to look after them?
- Do you have any policies that name beneficiaries, such as a life insurance or work-based benefit? Do you want to change this now your circumstances are changing?
- Most importantly, look after you – you are naturally going through a highly emotional time and you need to be kind to yourself. In a world where we are bombarded with information about diet and exercise, don’t pressurise yourself to start a militant regime. Find a balance in order to feel good about yourself, for example, a 30 minute walk in the fresh air.
- If you are in any doubt as to your position, seek some initial guidance from a qualified professional. This could be an initial consultation with me to help get your head around where you stand but also you could consider mediation.