Putting children first during a separation or divorce
Putting children first during a separation or divorce is not always easy, but family law expert Rachel Pritchard shares her key advice to help families separate amicably with the best interests of the children.
If you are separating or considering divorce proceedings, use these 8 steps to ensure you start on the right path to an amicable separation process by taking a proactive approach and gaining control of the situation.
Get legal advice at an early stage
Seeing a solicitor doesn’t mean you have taken a formal step in the legal process. You can take as long as you need after the first meeting to consider your options. It is reassuring to know your rights and responsibilities at an early stage and it may help you make the decision as to whether a separation or divorce is the right step. Marriage counselling is an option that many solicitors will discuss with clients who haven’t reached the decision of whether or not to separate. Finding a solicitor you feel comfortable with is the first step and this is why we offer a free initial conversation so that you can decide how you feel about our initial advice and approach.
Do your research
The internet can be a minefield but can also provide a wealth of information and resources. The Resolution website is a good starting point. Speaking to a solicitor before you start the research process may help as a good solicitor can point you in the direction of useful resources depending on your particular circumstances.
Consider your options
There is a lot to think about when separating or starting divorce proceedings, from the arrangements for the children through to the various financial issues, but a useful first question to answer can be what process would you like to use to answer those questions. Not all processes are contentious – mediation and collaborative processes are widely available and should be considered where appropriate.
Understand your finances
Preparing a budget can be a good starting point. Resolving financial issues as part of a separation will almost certainly include an analysis of income and outgoings so having this prepared in advance will mean you are ahead of the game. Other financial issues to consider are capital (including pensions) and liabilities. If you are IT savvy and/or a fan of a spreadsheet, set out details of what you and your partner/spouse have in advance of any discussions.
There will be a number of decisions to make about the children going forward and even if you decide that your relationship is at an end you will continue to be parents for years to come. Being able to communicate effectively about the children in spite of your separation will hugely benefit the children, demonstrating that they are the priority for you both. This can also assist in building a foundation for communicating on other issues, such as the finances. Communication can take many different methods – find one that works for you and your family.
Consider and discuss child maintenance
Once living separately consider financial obligations for the children. Child maintenance is governed by the Child Maintenance Service, their online calculator is a good starting point. Solicitors can also discuss and provide advice on aspects of child maintenance and how they may relate to your specific circumstances.
Find your marriage certificate
You or your solicitor will need the details from your marriage certificate to prepare your divorce petition. Knowing where your marriage certificate is or ordering a replacement from the General Register Office is a proactive step that can avoid delay once you have made the decision to proceed with a divorce.
Advise relevant agencies
If your partner/spouse moves out of the family home, you may want to update utility providers and the council that they no longer live there, particularly if you may be eligible for a council tax discount. You may also be entitled to additional financial assistance due to the change in your household income e.g. you may be entitled to state benefits such as Universal Credit that you were not entitled to previously. The Citizens Advice Bureau is a good starting point for such advice.
Specialist separation and divorce legal advice
If you are ready to get in touch with our family law team to discuss your separation, divorce, dissolution of a civil partnership, please call 0117 906 9400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book an initial conversation.
If you would prefer to find out where you stand legally, you can use our online questionnaire which will provide you with a personalised report. You can then use this once you are ready to talk.