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I’m thinking of separating from my partner – what should I do first legally?

You may be surprised that when faced with the above question, I always ask my client whether they have been to relationship counselling. A relationship counsellor or psychologist is not always about reconciliation but can also assist parties in separating responsibly. This is particularly important when there are children involved. If reconciliation is not on the cards, then perhaps a healthy discussion can be held regarding how parties are going to separate and avoid conflict. Sheltering the children from psychological or emotional harm by being exposed to conflict, should be of paramount consideration.

1. Early legal advice can be very helpful when considering separation. Make sure to engage an experienced family lawyer, preferably one who practices exclusively in family law. Knowing and understanding the process and procedure involved in a legal separation is imperative. If you know your rights and entitlements, it will assist you in any discussions that you may have with your spouse partner. You may wish to make a proposal or if you are considering a proposal that has been made by your partner, you will be informed as to whether what is being offered is fair or reasonable.

When going to see your lawyer, you will get the most out of your first appointment if you are organised.

  • If you are seeking advice regarding parenting matters, then write down what parenting arrangement you consider to be in your children’s best interest and why.
  • If you have any concerns, then make a list and give examples of incidents which have caused you to hold the concern.
  • If you have any evidence, such as text messages or photographs, then make sure to print them or save them somewhere safe where they will not be lost or deleted.
  • If you are seeking advice regarding financial matters, then make a list of your current assets and liabilities.
  • Write out a brief chronology of the relationship history in bullet point format, addressing when the relationship started who had what assets or liabilities, what were your respective roles during the relationship, were there any lump sum contributions made by either of you or your family or friends, such as gifts or inheritances or compensation payments.

2. It is sometimes a good idea to start collating your financial documents which can evidence what the current bank balances are or what assets are owned and who made what contributions.

  • It is recommended to speak to your lawyer before withdrawing money or selling or disposing of assets. Do not draw money from accounts which you are not legally entitled to draw from (for example a company account to which you are not entitled). Ask your lawyer to advise you as to your options and to recommend the best way to protect assets.

3. Do not be tempted to talk to anyone with an ear. Separation is an emotional event and if it can be done politely and considerately then it will be easier on all involved.

  • Consider sharing your emotions with a qualified psychologist rather than friends. Avoid social media.
  • Do not vent via inappropriate social media posts, which can potentially be used as evidence in future court proceedings.
  • Think about changing your personal passwords, including to cloud storage, which can sometimes be accessed via multiple devices in a household.

We offer a free initial consultation, during which we can share with you our experience and help you on your path. Get in touch with us to make an appointment.