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What to do if your partner leaves

Deciding what to do when you separate,

The partner you’re separating from could be your husband, wife or civil partner - even if you’re not divorcing or ending your civil partnership straight away. You need to have been married for at least 1 year before you can divorce or end your civil partnership.

When you separate, you might need to work out things like:

where your children will live and how often they’ll see the parent they don't live with
where you’re going to live
how to divide up any money or belongings you share
whether you’ll be able to afford to pay the bills once you’re living separately.

If your partner makes you feel anxious or threatened, you should get help from CAB or a solicitor.

Don’t try to agree anything about your separation without speaking to someone first.
Try mediation first - if you google mediation in your area one will usually come up.

You don’t have to go to court to decide what to do when you separate unless you really can’t agree with each other, but even if you do agree, it’s a good idea to talk to a solicitor. If you can not agree then it is likely you will have to go to court and it maybe a good idea to start thinking about why the Court should grant you to stay in the hone and for you to have the children and start gathering your evidence. However It is better for you and your family to keep a separation as amicable as possible.

It’s best to keep arrangements about children informal if you can.

This is because courts normally won’t decide who a child lives or spends time with if they think the parents can sort things out between themselves. This is known as the ‘no order principle’.

However, you’ll normally need to go to court if:

you’re worried about your children’s safety

you or your children have experienced domestic violence

you feel vulnerable or controlled by your ex-partner

you’ve tried mediation and still can’t agree

your ex-partner won’t let you see your children

You're both responsible for the cost of looking after your children after you separate - even if you’re not married or in a civil partnership.

If you’re the parent who moves out, you might have to pay maintenance to the parent who looks after the children.

It’s usually best if you can arrange this between yourselves - this is called a ‘family based child arrangement’.

You can get free advice from Child Maintenance Options, if you need help agreeing.

Deciding what to do with your home

There are very few circumstances where your partner can make you leave your home. They can’t change the locks or force you to leave, so try to take time to figure out what you both want and need.

Normally, you’ll need to decide whether:

one of you stays in the home while the other moves out

you both move out and end your tenancy, or sell your home

one of you buys the other out so they own the home

you both stay in the home and live separate lives

What you do will depend on what you can afford and whether you’ve got children.

It might also depend on whether you have rights to stay in the home after you separate.

Managing your money

You and your ex-partner might be able to agree between yourselves how to divide your money. Even if you do, it’s a good idea to talk to a solicitor once you’ve decided what you want to do.

When you’re deciding how to divide your money, you’ll need to work out how much money you have in bank or building society accounts, savings or investments.

You’ll also need to include any debts you share, like credit cards or loans.

If you don’t think you’ll have enough money

If you’re married or in a civil partnership you can ask for financial support from your ex-partner as soon as you separate. This is known as ‘spousal maintenance’ and is a regular payment to help you pay bills and other living costs. You can't get spousal maintenance if you weren't married or in a civil partnership. 

You might also be able to get help paying your rent or mortgage.

Who to tell that you’ve separated

If you pay council tax, you should tell your local council - you’ll pay less if you live on your own.

You’ll also need to tell your local council you’ve separated if you get Housing Benefit or council tax reduction.

If you get benefits, being part of a couple might affect how much you get. You should tell the office that deals with your claim that you've separated as soon as possible - most benefits have a 30-day deadline.

If you get tax credits, you should tell the HMRC within 30 days.

Paying for solicitors

You’ll usually need to talk to a solicitor at some point during your separation. To help keep your legal bills down, you should:

try to agree as much as you can with your ex-partner before you go to a solicitor

read as much as you can about separation - you could look online or go to the library

find out if any solicitors near you offer free advice

ask your solicitor if they’ll work for a fixed fee - this way, you’ll always know exactly how much you’ll have to pay

Legal aid

You might be able to get legal aid to pay for mediation when you separate, but it’s hard to get it for solicitors' fees - even if you’re on benefits.

You can usually only get legal aid if you or your children have been victims of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse includes controlling behaviour, like stopping you from withdrawing your own money.

Check if you can get legal aid on GOV.UK.

If you’re ready to end your marriage or civil partnership

You can start to divorce or dissolve your civil partnership if you’ve been married or in a civil partnership for at least 1 year.

When you divorce, it will help if you and your ex-partner have already agreed:

what will happen to your children, money and property

the reason

If you don’t agree, you might need to go to court so a judge can make a decision about what you should do. This is known as a ‘court hearing’.


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