When the festive season is over… Family law

There is a huge amount of preparation leading up to Christmas; choosing presents, writing cards, buying food, arranging family get-togethers, attending school plays and carol services, decorating the house, wrapping presents and so the list goes on.

For most people, there is little time to think about whether their relationship is fulfilling or whether they wish to be in the same personal situation next year.

It is said that family solicitors receive a high volume of enquiries in January.  However, experience shows that it is often March or April before people feel ready to make a change. This may be a culmination of many months, or sometimes years of wanting to make a change. This choice is not an easy one. Uncertainties about financial provision, arrangements for the children and the practicalities of moving life forward in a different way flow from this decision.

Whether you are married or living together you should take initial advice to understand the legal implications of a separation and what this means for you.

If you are married and wish to commence divorce proceedings, one of you needs to prepare a divorce petition to start the process. Your financial arrangements may be complex including more than one property, perhaps a family business, several pensions and investments. You are advised to make a court application at an early stage to have the benefit of a court set timetable to bring about a resolution in a timely way. Negotiations for settlement may continue alongside the court process. Some couples are able to reach an agreement by themselves or via solicitors. This agreement should be reflected in a consent order and sent to the court for sealing to ensure a clean-break.

If you are living together and separate, you do not have the same rights as a married couple that separate. For example, you cannot claim an interest in your former partner’s savings, pension or other assets and you can not claim maintenance for yourself. If the property you live in is not in your name, unless you have made a capital contribution to the property, you may have no claim to an interest in the property. If you are able to reach an agreement between you, this can be formally recorded in a Separation Agreement. If you have children together, you are able to make a claim under Schedule 1 of the Children Act for provision for the children.

It is often difficult to navigate the emotional impact of separation and to maintain lines of communication to agree arrangements for the children for the future.

If you are contemplating separation or divorce, you are advised to seek legal advice at an early stage to understand your options and to have a strategy in place to give you control of your situation, which is in flux.

For more advice contact Susanne Leach on 01562 512428 or email sleach@thursfields.co.uk

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