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Is separation your New Year’s resolution?

What’s your New Year’s resolution? Do more exercise; drink less alcohol; get more sleep; join a club.

New year separation

Bradie Pell

Or is it to sort out your relationship?  If your relationship is faltering, is the new year a good time to look forward and consider your future.

Is it time to start considering what a separation may look like?  Could a trial separation work? – maybe some breathing space could bring a new perspective on how your relationship could work. Or is it time to make the decision to permanently separate?

Whatever the reason or permanency, when a relationship comes to an end, it’s difficult to know what to do next.  You’ve probably spent a considerable period of your life with the person you are separating from, and you will be entering unchartered territory.

Here, Bradie Pell, partner and head of Graysons’ family team offers tips and practical steps (rather than legal advice) that could help during the early days of your separation.

  1. The date of your separation will be one of the first questions various agencies and solicitors will ask. Try to make a note of it, and of the date when you both agreed the relationship was over, even if you physically remained in the same house after that date.
  2. Think about how you will address your separation with any children. If it is safe to do so, try to discuss interim care arrangements. It’s important that children don’t think they have to choose between you – they need to know they have a right to spend time with both of you, so try to make arrangements for that. Agreeing things between you is by far the best way, but if you can’t, take early legal advice to avoid exposing the children to conflict.
  3. Think about the practicalities. There will be several things to consider, such as children, pets, the house, home contents, income sharing, payment of bills, use of bank accounts and so on.  Make a list of issues that need to be resolved and address each aspect individually.  Discuss this together if you can, but if not, try to agree a channel of communication; email, for example, or a parenting app such as MyFamilyWizard (several parenting apps are available, and they can be really useful).  The aim is to try to agree a “holding position”, such as how the mortgage or rent will be paid or who is going to stay in the same house until matters are resolved and long-term arrangements made. These initial interim arrangements may not be your ideal solution but should help until you obtain some legal advice and decide what you would like to happen long term.  For this reason, it is best to take legal advice before, or very shortly after separation.
  4. Consider mediation. In the right circumstances, it can be a useful forum to avoid disputes, and you can self-refer. A mediator will guide you through the options and help you to discuss matters that are in dispute, such as finances or children issues.  Any agreement reached in mediation can usually be put into a legally binding document by a solicitor. A mediator cannot give you legal advice, but you can obtain independent legal advice alongside your mediation.
  5. It is important to take legal advice early if you can. Many solicitors offer an initial free consultation in which you can give an overview of your position and be guided as to what your next steps should be. This is an ideal opportunity to find out what your costs will be, how these can be paid, what aspects of your separation you can undertake yourself and where you will need a solicitor. Any urgent steps needed can also be discussed at this meeting.

Contact our family law experts if you need advice.  An initial free appointment is available to new clients and we can let you know what your costs will be for any work you wish us to undertake.

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