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New Year is a time for reflection and resolutions. It’s seen as a fresh start and those who have been unhappy in their personal relationships often choose this time of year to reflect on what they want for their future and whether or not they wish to separate.

However, ending a relationship often precipitates other issues which need to be addressed. These can be things such as what will happen to the children and who will leave the family home. Or will it have to be sold? Ending a relationship is a significant change in your life. Of course, it can have a huge impact upon you, especially if it’s not thought through properly. This guide is to highlight 5 areas to think about during this time. Hopefully, it will help you through your decision-making process.

5 tips for preparing for divorce

1. Legally ending your relationship

Nowadays, we have a few options with how your relationship may have been formalised. It could be through marriage, civil partnership or simply cohabitation. The former two require a formal process through court to end that union. Whether it be divorce in the case of marriage or dissolution proceedings in relation to a civil partnership. Although, this does not apply to couples who simply live together despite the myth of Common Law Husband and Wife. There are lots of online resources to help give you insight into the steps you need to take to formally end your relationship. However, if you don’t, there are legal implications such as your spouse being your next of kin – even if you have separated. Therefore, you need to give serious consideration as to how you wish to legally end your relationship.

2. Taking care of the kids

Research says that parents separating does not need to harm children or have a long term impact on them. However, how their parents deal with the separation can. Exposing children to the conflict will harm them. If you have never had concerns about the relationship between your child and their other parent then there isn’t necessarily any reason why that should change if you are separated. It’s important not to allow the adult issues to merge into your children’s affairs. Granted, you should let your children have their say about what the new arrangements could look like but reassure them they are going to be ok. It’s not their fault Mum and Dad are separating and Mum and Dad will continue to be there for them!

As a parent, it is difficult to share your children’s time and see less of them at an already difficult period of your life. This can start to cause resentment or feelings that the other parent is trying to take your children away from you. Try to keep a dialogue going with your ex and work together so you are both seeing the children as much as possible. After all, happy parents make happy children. If you need help with this then contact your local mediator for assistance or seek legal advice. For more details about children and separation, check out voicesinthemiddle.com.

3. Think about your finances

Do you own assets between you irrespective of whose name they are registered in? Have you financially contributed with money or in other ways? Are you married? These are all relevant questions you need to ask yourself. Financial consequences of separation are not always straight forward. Do your research and understand your legal rights. If you are married, matters can be a little more straight forward. This is due to the law that’s there to protect both of your interests. However, if you are not married but have been living together and/or have children, then the law is far more complicated.

What about your income needs? Any changes in your circumstances may entitle you to benefits. However, you will need to understand the impact any maintenance payments may have upon this entitlement. If you have children, what financial arrangements will you make in relation to them? Before you engage in discussions with your ex make sure you understand your legal entitlements. You may not have the opportunity to make a second claim if you get it wrong from the outset.

4. Take care of yourself!

It may seem impossible now, but there are ways to have a less stressful, if not happy, divorce. And most of these strategies involve something more impossible sounding: working with, rather than against, your spouse. Firstly, make sure you are in the right frame of mind to make the long term decisions when preparing for divorce. Keep on talking to your support network. Don’t forget, if you are really struggling, you can speak to your GP. They are there to help.

Mediation can be used to help you both negotiate and settle disputes between you rather than fighting it out. This process can save time and money, which can ease the emotional burden and stresses otherwise associated with separation/divorce. Using an out of court process could give you a better chance of getting what you want, rather than leaving it up to a judge. It is also able to help you with all of the factors above. Therapeutic Mediation enables you to work with a therapist whilst also focusing on the emotive issues of the children and your future security. It can also help you both to understand how the other person is feeling or thinking to understand their behaviours and agree on strategies as to how you will interact with each other in moving forward.

Mediation isn’t however necessarily for everyone but an initial pre-mediation meeting with a mediator could help identify this and signpost you to the alternatives if appropriate. Legal aid is also available for mediation provided you are financially eligible. There is also a process called collaborative law, in which couple use mediation and negotiation but with their lawyers to settle disputes rather than fighting it out in a courtroom. If mediation itself is not an option then this may be the next best thing for you.

5. Seek legal advice

Obtaining legal advice not only helps to have someone familiar with the legal and emotional terrain on your side but also creates a buffer between you and your ex. It can remove much of the stress associated with preparing for divorce or separation.

Instructing a lawyer is an important decision and shouldn’t be taken lightly. You’ll want someone with experience in the field and someone you feel comfortable with, both in a personal and professional manner. You also want to be on the same page when it comes to legal strategy and what you hope to accomplish through your separation or divorce. Resolution, a national organisation of family lawyers committed to non-confrontational divorce, separation and other family problems can provide you with a list of lawyers in your area.

Finally, make sure you and your legal team are upfront about the fees and likely expenses of the process. Good family lawyers may not be cheap, but they should be clear about what they cost.

If you would like more information on preparing for divorce, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our award-winning family separation experts who are here to help. Our team consists of Family Lawyer Mediators, Therapeutic Mediators and lawyers with many years of experience in helping families separate in the best way for them. Please call on 0151 647 7372, email us at family@174law.co.uk or message us through Facebook.