Get a separation FAQs
If the relationship breaks down between you and your partner, it's important to make sure you have all the right documents in place to minimise complications and unnecessary stress.
If you choose to make a Separation agreement with your spouse or civil partner, this will ensure that most of the practical matters are dealt with in advance of the divorce or dissolution. Remember to inform everyone about your Change of address when you move out of the shared home. If you own a property together under a joint tenancy, this may also be the right time to Sever the joint tenancy and become tenants in common. If upon marriage or civil partnership, you adopted your spouse's surname, a decree absolute (for marriage) or final order (for civil partnership) can be used to revert to your old surname. However, if any other name change was carried out you can change it with a Statutory declaration of name change. Finally, if you have a Will, you should review it at this point to make sure that it reflects any new wishes and new circumstances.
If your marriage or civil partnership doesn't work out, mutually agreeing on the practical matters when you separate can help smooth the process and save time and money. A Separation agreement records who is entitled to the assets, both in terms of finances and possessions, and it contains everything needed to protect both parties throughout the separation proceedings, ensuring that both parties comply with the law. It covers a range of issues, including periodic payments during the separation, administration of the marital property, division of assets and funds, as well as the status of funds in joint bank accounts. For further information read Separating from your spouse or civil partner.
You can hold property jointly with someone else (such as a partner) in two different ways - joint tenants or tenants in common. Married couples buying a property together usually opt for a joint tenancy, so that if one dies the other can carry on living at the property and have the deceased partner's share pass onto the surviving spouse. However, if you break up, you may decide that you want to change to a tenancy in common so that you both hold the property in distinct shares (eg 60% and 40%) to reflect the contributions made to the purchase price. A Notice to sever joint tenancy will enable you to change your tenancy from a joint tenancy to a tenancy in common. If the property then becomes sold, the percentages will be the proportion of the sale proceeds that each individual owner will receive (eg one partner owns 60% of the property and will therefore receive 60% of the sale proceeds). For further information read Co-ownership of property.
If you decide to separate from your partner, it may be a good time to review your will to account for the change of circumstances or to reflect your new wishes. Unless you're making a very minor change (in a codicil) it's generally best to make a brand new Last will and testament which overrides your old will. You'll have to go through the same process of appointing executors and guardians (if necessary) and have it formally signed in the presence of two witnesses over 18.
If the marriage or civil partnership is no longer working or has reached a point where the couple agree that separating is the best way forward, then they may consider filing for divorce or for a dissolution of the civil partnership. Consider using Rocket Lawyer's Divorce from £250+VAT to make the process simple. For further information read How to get a divorce or dissolution and the Divorce process. For further information on the grounds for which you can apply for divorce read Grounds for divorce.
Spousal maintenance refers to one partner financially supporting the other partner after a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership. It's designed to help the financially weaker party in adjusting to their new financial position after separation, especially if they were reliant on their partner. Both parties can mutually agree to one providing financial support to the other, or one party can apply to the court to seek spousal maintenance. For further information read Spousal maintenance.
Financial arrangements include assets as well as money. Consent and clean break orders are forms of financial arrangements whereby the separating couple decide how all the assets, including money and any property, are to be divided between the individuals. If the separating couple can't come to an agreement about spousal maintenance or a voluntary financial arrangement, then the court can impose a financial order which may include a lump sum, ongoing maintenance or ownership of property. For further information read Divorce and financial arrangements.
Child maintenance refers to the financial support parents will make to help with the upbringing and care of their children. Parents can choose to make informal arrangements or seek advice from the Child Maintenance Service who will make a calculation and oversee the collection and distribution of child maintenance payments. For further information read Child maintenance.
Child custody refers to the arrangements for deciding which parent will look after the children after you separate from your partner. Following a divorce, dissolution or separation, most parents will make their own informal arrangements regarding who their children will live with, how often the other parent can see them and who will oversee the day-to-day upbringing for their children. However, if separating parents can't agree to an informal arrangement then the courts can intervene and issue a Child arrangement order. Alternatively, the parents can voluntarily choose to use a family mediation service to help them come to a mutual agreement. For further information read Child custody.
Domestic violence is a sensitive area for many people. However, when issues of domestic violence arise, it's important to seek help. You should sort out any arrangements to ensure the safety and wellbeing of yourself and any children that may be affected. If you're experiencing, or fear that someone may be experiencing, domestic violence contact one of the domestic violence helplines or Ask a lawyer for advice. For further information read Domestic violence and legal remedies.
Ask a lawyer if you live outside England and Wales.