When a marriage breaks down, there are invariably a number of important issues which will need to be resolved between yourself and your partner, possibly including childcare arrangements, your own living arrangements, finances, property ownership and other possessions.
Initially you may not be ready to think about applying for a divorce, rather you may decide to separate informally without going to court. Once you separate, there are a number of people it may be sensible to inform, for example the housing benefit office, your utility bill companies, the benefits or tax office, the children’s school and GP, your bank or other financial institutions, credit companies, insurance companies and the post office if you wish mail to be redirected. As far as finances are concerned, you and your partner will need to think carefully about your changed circumstances and plan accordingly. It may be that money is tight and therefore budgeting for 2 households instead of one could put a strain on already limited resources. Discussion and planning is key. If, however, you think that your partner is going to make unilateral decisions without discussion with you, such as running up debts on a credit card or spending savings unwisely, you may have to take urgent steps to stop that.
If you and your partner agree on arrangements with regards to the care of the children, there is no need to engage solicitors or go to court, however, any informal arrangement made when you separate may affect future decisions if you do ever go to court. If you wish to discuss any aspect of your childcare arrangements, you can talk to one of our family law advisors. Our solicitors will assist you in resolving any problems you have, preferably by agreement and without the need for going to court. An application will be made to the court only if it is not possible to resolve the matter without doing so. A court will make decisions in respect of a child based on what it considers to be the child’s best interests.
At the end of a marriage, both parents are responsible for financially supporting the children, regardless of where they will live. There are 3 ways to resolve issues of child maintenance; either by agreement, through the Child Maintenance Service or through the courts. Our specialist family law advisors can assist you in discussing what level of maintenance should be payable and what the most appropriate option may be for you.
Upon separation, you may need to sort out ownership of any property or other assets that you have. This too can be done by agreement, or failing that through the courts. We can advise you on all aspects of this, including what information will be needed in order to assess an appropriate financial settlement. All property, whether it is owned individually by yourself or your partner, or jointly, is likely to be taken in to account. Any attempt to hide ownership of property or possessions will be viewed negatively in any subsequent court proceedings and is likely to result in the obstructive party being penalised by the court. If you a have a mortgage on your property which is in joint names, both parties are jointly and severally liable for the mortgage payments. This means that you are both liable for the full amount owing on the mortgage each month. It is important to ensure that payments are not missed, as this could result in the home being placed at risk of repossession, as well as having a negative impact on your future credit rating. Again our family law solicitors can advise you in respect of any issues surrounding home ownership and mortgage payments. If the property is not in your name, it is possible to protect your interest in it by registering a notice or restriction against the property. You should do this immediately if you think there is a risk that the property may be sold or re-mortgaged without your consent.
Once you are ready to consider your future plans, we will talk you through the process of ‘financial disclosure’ which is the exchange of all relevant information with a view to resolving your finances in the long term. Once you have completed this exchange of information, we will assist you in negotiating the best possible financial settlement to secure you and your family’s future, preferably by agreement, and if no agreement can be reached, by representing you in court.
Clare Curran is the Partner in charge of the family law department here at Worthingtons Solicitors and can be contacted on telephone number 028 91811538 firstname.lastname@example.org should you wish to discuss any queries you have in respect of any of these issues.