10 Steps to Take When Leaving a Relationship

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Our Family Solicitors appreciate that separation can be a highly traumatic, emotional, and stressful time.

It is important to take control of the situation and seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity.

In this blog, we set out the main considerations when starting the separation process and how you can begin the journey to separate individual lives.

Note that reference to marriage includes a reference to both a marriage and a civil partnership.

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10 Steps to take when leaving a relationship

1. Length of marriage

The most basic but important consideration is that you must have been married for at least one year before you can end a marriage or civil partnership.

You are able to separate within a year of the marriage, but you cannot begin formal divorce/dissolution proceedings until your first anniversary has passed.

2. Safety first

Regardless of the length of the marriage, you must ensure that you, or any children, are not at risk of any harm arising from the separation.

If there has been domestic abuse during the relationship, or your former partner is displaying signs of violent or dangerous behaviour, then you should consider contacting the police and your local domestic abuse service.  

Our family solicitors can assist by helping you to apply to the court for a non-molestation order (to prevent your former partner from molesting or threatening you or any children) or an occupation order (to grant you the right to remain in the home and exclude your ex-partner from an area around the home). 

There are also several organisations available, for both men and women, who provide support and assistance to those experiencing domestic abuse:

  1. TDAS - 0161 872 7368
  2. Refuge – 0808 2000 247 open 24 hours a day. Live chat is open Monday-Friday between 3pm and 10pm;
  3. Women’s Aid or Men’s Aid;
  4. ManKind Initiative – 01823 334244 open Mon-Fri 10am to 4pm

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Length of marriage

3. Protecting children

It is important to consider how any children will be experiencing the separation and ensure that they do not witness any conflict.

You should not involve the children in any adult issues, and they should be informed of the separation gently, sensitively, and in a way they can understand.

Any confrontation or anger witnessed by children can cause emotional and psychological distress in the short and long term, so it is important that this is avoided.

The children may also be feeling scared, confused, or angry and will need lots of extra love, attention, and support.

You cannot be there fully for your children if you are not also looking after yourself, so make sure you are taking time to process the relationship breakdown and learn to deal with your emotions in a healthy way.

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Protecting children

4. Agree the arrangements for the children  

In addition to the emotional needs and welfare of any children, if you are thinking about separating, one of your biggest worries is likely to be where the children will live and the time they spend with both parents.

This is a very sensitive and difficult topic, so it is good to try and come to an agreement between the two of you and focus on what is best for the children.

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS)  provide advice and support for separated families.

Their website contains advice and resources to help parents agree the care arrangements for children and contains a template ‘Parenting Plan’ to record any co-parenting agreements for you both to follow.

The resolution also has a practical and accessible co-parenting guide, which aims to give parents access to information and support.

If you are unable to come to an agreement as to child arrangements, then our solicitors can assist you in making an application to the court for a formal order determining the arrangements for the children.

Before this, though, and if appropriate, we may recommend you attend mediation, either together or separately, and try to reach an agreement through conversations with an independent, neutral third party.

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Agree the arrangements for the children

5. Living arrangements

As well as the children, you must consider where you and your former partner will live.

It may be that you are comfortable with both remaining in the same house but living separate lives.

Alternatively, one of you may have to move out and live in temporary rented accommodation or even purchase a new property if able to.

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Living arrangements

6. Finances

Whilst working out how to divide and deal with financial assets during a divorce is a daunting prospect, it is an important consideration. It may help to begin by considering the following:

1. Make a list of all the bank accounts, properties, investments, insurance policies, pensions, significant belongings, and any liabilities that you hold, as well as those of your ex-partner.

Significant belongings include vehicles, expensive jewellery, paintings, collectables, furniture, etc.

Liabilities include mortgages, credit cards, store cards, secured loans, personal loans and any other liabilities.

Once the divorce process begins, it will be necessary to produce documentary evidence of your assets, income, and liabilities, so it would be a good idea to have these documents located and ready to disclose.

2. If there is a risk that your ex-partner may potentially withdraw significant funds, spend funds, or create a debt in a joint account, you can contact the bank to request that they freeze the account.

If the consent of the other account holder is required and you cannot obtain this, or if the money is held in an account in your former partner’s sole name, then you can apply to the court for a freezing injunction if you feel that there is a real risk that funds would otherwise be dissipated.

Please contact our solicitors at Myerson if you believe this action is required.


3. Work out your financial needs, e.g., monthly expenses such as rent/mortgage, council tax, utility bills, other household bills, food, clothing, school fees, social activities, motoring costs, etc.

4. Think about what financial outcome would work for you both.

For example, would you like to retain the matrimonial home, or do you need a home for you and any children? Is your income sufficient on its own, or will you require spousal maintenance?

If things between you and your former partner remain amicable, then you could consider sitting down and starting to discuss how you both intend to move things forward and deal with separating your financial ties.

You should consider both interim and long-term arrangements.

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7. Collate documentation

You will need to provide your marriage or civil partnership certificate.

If you do not have this, then you can obtain a copy online.

8. Review your will

You should also think about the longer-term consequences of the divorce or dissolution and consider updating (or making) a will to ensure that your assets do not pass to your former partner or that your former partner does not remain as the executor of your will.

By creating a new will, you can also ensure that your assets are passed to your children, and not to any new stepchildren of your former partner etc.

You should also ensure that you no longer own any assets jointly with your former partner, as otherwise, these assets will automatically pass to your ex upon your death (if this is not the intention).

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Collate documentation

9. Other experts and support

In addition to legal advice, you may also need to obtain advice from accountants, Independent Financial Advisers or pension experts.

We have an array of links and relationships with various experts such as RICS surveyors, forensic accountants and expert barristers with whom we can instruct to assist you with your matter.

In addition, the end of a marriage, whatever the length, can be an incredibly upsetting, emotional and stressful experience, so it is important to look after yourself and consult friends or family for support.

If you feel it would be helpful, we can refer you to expert therapists or counsellors to help you process and deal with the experience.

10. Obtain legal advice

Our family solicitors can chat through your situation and offer an initial, no-obligation telephone conversation at no cost.

Our solicitors are also all members of resolution, which is a family law organisation that requires its members to commit to resolving family disputes in a non-confrontational manner.

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Other experts and support

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If you are thinking of leaving a relationship and need advice from a legal professional, contact our Family Lawyers on: