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Separating after living together - the practicalities of untangling your lives

Facing a separation is never easy and you can find yourself caught in a whirlwind of emotions. It is often difficult to find the head space to think about what should happen next, let alone communicate about this and start taking steps to move your life forward.

Managing the impact of your separation on any children that you have will undoubtedly be your priority, so it is important to have a sensible discussion about this with your partner to ensure that the children’s needs are prioritised. As difficult as this can be when relations are strained, you will need to find a way to co-parent for the sake of your children.

It is also important that you have support in place for yourself – it can be helpful to have family and friends around you who can help out and look after you, and an impartial ear to provide practical suggestions. If you feel that you are struggling to come to terms with your separation, don’t be afraid to seek support through your GP or a local counselling service.

There will also be several practical and financial things to sort out. Rather than taking unilateral action, it would be sensible to have a discussion with your partner about separating your finances and to have a clear agreement in place about what is going to happen, the steps you are each going to take and by when.

The law for couples separating after living together, without being married, is different to the law on divorce. Claims through the courts are limited to issues around ownership of property and financial support for children. However, your lives will have been intertwined for some time, and having lived together, there will doubtless be a lot to sort out.

Below are some of the things you need to think about (but this is by no means an exhaustive list):

• What will happen to the house (whether owned or rented)?
• Who will move out?
• How will the mortgage or rent be paid as an interim arrangement?
• If you own your property together, will one of you stay in it and take on the mortgage in your name, or will you sell it? How will the equity be divided? 
• If you will stay living together for a while, how this will work practically?
• Dividing and closing joint bank accounts
• Limiting or cancelling overdrafts
• Dividing savings
• Closing joint credit accounts / cancelling second credit cards
• Moving household bills into one name
• Considering single occupancy council tax if living alone
• Any benefits and tax credits that you may be entitled to
• Reviewing death in service benefit nominees for your pension
• Checking your insurance provision and moving this into sole names
• Transferring car ownership registration documents 
• Division of personal possessions, furniture and household items

If you have children, their well-being and security are likely to be your primary consideration and often arrangements fall around what you decide is best for your children. You will also need to think about child maintenance, if the children are to spend more time with one parent than the other. It would be sensible to speak to your children’s schools so that they are aware of what is going on and monitor whether it may be helpful for your children to have some additional pastoral support.

You may also have pets. You will need to discuss where they will live, and ensure that all pet registration information is transferred across if necessary.

If you and your partner run a business together or you both have an interest in a business, this can be complex to sort out and so detailed advice from a lawyer and tax expert may be needed.

Whatever your situation, it is always worth getting some legal advice to check what your rights are and the points that you and your partner will need to work through. Depending on your circumstances, it may be worthwhile having a separation agreement or a parenting plan where children are involved. A lawyer will be able to help you with this. If you are having problems discussing or agreeing matters between yourselves, it may be a good idea to attend mediation.

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at April 2018. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.

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