6 practical steps to take immediately if you are getting divorced

It’s a sad fact of life that a holiday can be one of the biggest triggers of relationship breakdown. As a result, there’s usually a spike in divorces at the end of every summer. The question most people in this situation ask is, “What do I do now?” In this blog, I look at some of the practical steps you should take if you are planning to get divorced.

The marriage certificate is a particularly important document and if you don't have the original you should apply for a duplicate from the registry office or the place in which you were married

There are two aspects of getting divorced: the emotional and the practical. Often, these overlap. Sometimes emotions inhibit people's ability to take practical steps and sometimes frustrations with practical issues take their toll emotionally.

I'm going to focus here on six practical steps you can take if you are divorcing or separating from your partner. These can make a big difference if you want to move on quickly and start your life afresh.

1. Make plans in relation to your children

If you have children, they are probably your primary concern. It helps everyone involved if you can agree with your partner how you are going to break the news of your break up to them and what you are going to say.

Before this, you should try to agree with your partner how you are going to share their parenting, especially if one of you is moving out of the family home. By reaching an agreement amicably there will not be a requirement to obtain a formal order from the court.

2. Get your documents in order

It's not unusual for one spouse to take charge of looking after paperwork such as your marriage certificate, property deeds or mortgage information, bank statements, pay slips, pensions information, tax returns, etc. If this isn't you, you should start pulling together a list of relevant information such as account and reference numbers as you will need this for your financial disclosure (see below).

The marriage certificate is a particularly important document and if you don't have the original you should apply for a duplicate from the registry office or the place in which you were married.

3. Prepare your financial information

Once you instruct a solicitor (see below), they will need a complete picture of your financial position. This can take some time to get together so you should start the process as soon as you can.

This will include getting hold of a year's worth of bank statements, up to date pension statements, details of credit card and other debts, and information about any other assets you hold such as premium bonds or shares.

If you own a property, you should also obtain an informal valuation from a local estate agent so you have an idea how much it is worth (most agents will do this for free). You may need a more formal valuation in due course, but this will be a useful starting point. You should also obtain confirmation from the mortgage company as to the amount owing on the mortgage and whether there are any penalties for early redemption.

4. Open a bank account in your sole name

If all your bank accounts are in joint names, open one in your own name so that you have complete control of your finances. This may involve coming to an arrangement with your partner about responsibilities for ongoing payments such as the mortgage or utilities and the sooner you do this the better.

5. Change your passwords and forward your post

If your partner has access to your email, online banking or other online accounts, change your passwords immediately. Open a new email account if necessary and notify relevant people of it as soon as possible. Similarly, if you move out of your home, have your post redirected until you are sure all your correspondents are aware of your new address.

6. Instruct a solicitor

You probably expect me to say this, but I would advise you to do this as soon as possible especially if you have concerns about your or your children's safety.

Also, if you live in a property that is in your partner's sole name, you may need to protect your rights and place a restriction at the Land Registry to prevent the sale of the property without your knowledge or consent.

Most solicitors will not rush to start proceedings but will outline your options and where you stand in relation financial matters and custody of your children. They should also tell you about alternatives to court proceedings, such as mediation.

Your solicitor will also be able to advise you on changing your will. If your partner is currently your main beneficiary you will probably want to change this.

If you have any queries in relation to divorce or separation, please contact me at [email protected].