This is a question asked frequently by separating couples. Depending on the circumstances, there are various legal implications to separating. We recommend that you seek advice about these at the earliest opportunity after separation, whether you are married to your partner or not.
Although it can be an overwhelming and emotional time, obtaining advice at the outset could prove invaluable. Speaking to a trained professional will help you decide how to move forwards, at a time when things may seem at their most uncertain.
Every family Solicitor at Birketts is also a member of Resolution. Resolution is a national organisation of family justice professionals, committed to resolving family matters in a constructive, non-confrontational and cost-effective way. Our team strives to resolve issues in ways which consider the whole family. There are a range of issues our team can advise on.
- How to start the divorce process (including completing and answering a divorce petition), and progressing the divorce to the end.
- How to respond to your spouse’s solicitor when you first receive a letter from them.
- The legal implications of divorce and separation.
- How to decide what is to happen with your house, and all your other assets and debts.
- The financial claims you have as a spouse, including for spousal maintenance, property, pensions and lump sums.
- Financial court orders (legally binding orders that stipulate what will happen to your assets and debts).
- Separation agreements.
- Financial agreements entered into before marriage (prenuptial agreements).
- Financial agreements entered into after marriage (post-nuptial agreements).
- How to decide the arrangements for the children, including when they shall spend time with each parent, and how.
- How to decide specific issues relating to the children, including which school they attend, whether they should have specific medical treatments, including vaccinations, and what you can do in the event that you cannot reach an agreement with the other parent.
- Financial claims for children made by unmarried parents (Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989).
- Advice regarding child abduction.
Non-molestation orders and occupation orders
- Protecting you from harassment/violence/intimidation in family circumstances including applying for a non-molestation order.
- Defending an application for a non-molestation order.
- Making an application to the court for an occupation order to ask the court to decide who shall remain living in the family home, or responding to applications for an occupation order.
Alternative methods of dispute resolution
Generally, court proceedings should be a last resort to try and resolve family disputes. There are various other ways of resolving matters:
- Mediation – where an impartial professional mediator assists couples in reaching an agreement in relation to any family issue, including the arrangements for the children, and the financial implication of divorce and separation.
- Arbitration – where a private judge (arbitrator) decides matters on your behalf (which is called making an award), the decision is binding on all parties to the arbitration.
- Negotiations – this can be via solicitor correspondence, or a ‘round table meeting’ which is where you, your ex-partner and your legal representatives sit around a table to negotiate an outcome.
- Collaborative law – this can involve you, your ex-partner instructing a family consultant and/or financial adviser for expert advice, as well as your own family lawyer each. All parties formally commit to trying to resolve the issues by agreement, rather than through court proceedings. If the collaborative process breaks down, the professionals are prevented from continuing to act for you.
If you are recently separated we would recommend speaking to a family Solicitor. Birketts provide fixed-fee initial meetings which enable you to get an understanding of how the law affects you on separation, and to help you decide what to do next. Legal advice is very much tailored to your specific circumstances, as every separation/divorce is different. Seeking advice early on could prevent you from making a mistake which could be detrimental to your legal position. If you would like more information, please contact Molly Barker or another member of the Birketts Family Team.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at January 2022.