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New Year, new start – Things you need to know about Separation and Divorce

This week, there will, undoubtedly, be the usual press coverage about ‘Divorce Day’ and numerous eye-watering statistics about how many couples have separated over the Christmas period. At this time of year, the papers are always keen to remind us how even celebrities (this year, Louise Redknapp and Ant McPartlin) are not immune to the inevitable relationship pressures the festive period can bring.

If you, or someone you know, has recently separated, the internet can be a source of anxiety and confusion. Social media presents a filtered version of the ‘Perfect Christmas’. The internet is flooded with, often conflicting, advice for newly separated spouses and parents. Anyone who has separated at this time of year may feel they have been reduced to a statistic.

The New Year can be a time for reflection. It is safe to say that most people, whether they are single, married, separated or divorced, view the New Year as a good time to change old habits and try to get their house in order.

Rather than re-iterate well-worn statistics or speculate on why relationships can be particularly hard at this time of year, here are some sage tips and advice about what to do if you have recently separated:

  1. If you are a parent, talk about the children. It is important that the arrangements for where the children are to live, and how frequently they will see and spend time with each parent, are agreed as soon as possible. Even if you cannot agree on anything else, reaching an agreement in respect of the children is a good starting point. If communication between you and your ex breaks down, you may wish to consider speaking to a family lawyer and/or mediator to assist with agreeing the arrangements for the children.
  2. If you are not married, find out what your rights and responsibilities are now that you have separated. Do you have children together? If so, what are your financial obligations? It may be a good idea to speak to the Child Maintenance Service and a family lawyer about this. If you own property together or separately, it is recommended that you seek independent legal advice from a family lawyer to make sure that you are fully informed of your legal position.
  3. If you are married, it is a good idea to find out what your financial entitlement and obligations may be now that you have separated. There may be actions that you need to take immediately to protect yourself and/or your assets. A family solicitor who specialises in financial matters can provide you with bespoke advice based upon your individual circumstances. Even if you do not want to consider divorce at this stage, it is important to ensure that any steps you do take in the interim are in your best interests. Mediation can also assist with any difficulties in communication in this respect.
  4. Consider making a new Will. This applies whether you are married or not. It may be some time since you made a Will, or you may not have a Will at all. If something was to happen to you, it is important that you are fully informed about what will happen to any assets you own. You may want to put in place specific provision for your children or relatives now that you have separated. Talk to a Private Client solicitor who specialises in advice on Wills.

Hopefully, the above will provide the newly separated with a useful starting point. If you want to discuss this further, you can contact Jenny Arnold (Family Associate at JMW Solicitors) on 0161 828 1840 or jenny.arnold@jmw.co.uk.