This was first published in the Wigan Observer on the 31st December 2013
Q: I’m thinking of separating from my partner. What do I need to consider?
A: Each New Year is celebrated for the passing of one year and the arrival another. With it the comes excitement of new opportunities and the desire to make a ‘fresh start’ along with a host of other resolutions with rarely see the end of the month of January.
It’s a sad fact, but may not come as a total surprise, that January is one of the most common months for couples, many of those married, to decide to go their separate ways, the next busiest being after children return to school after their summer holidays.
In fact, the first day back to work in January after New Year is widely referred to in the Family Law fraternity as ‘D-day’, as it’s often the busiest day for people to enquire about a divorce.
Unfortunately, in our increasingly busy lives one thing that seems to suffer more than others are our families. When thrust together during extended holidays and especially during Christmas, often after too much alcohol is consumed, arguments can occur which too often can also lead to domestic abuse in more serious situations.
The hectic holidays puts a huge strain on relationships for couples who may be already disagreeing. Some couples may decide to part before Christmas but agree to hold off until after, particularly when children are involved. Others decide that they can’t stay in the relationship for another year and want to make that fresh start as January arrives.
But while many may be caught up the emotional turmoil that comes with separation, few actually stop to consider the practicalities which need dealing with after a divorce or separation. Now is certainly a good time to get your ‘house in order’ so to speak. Avoid leaving matters until the last minute as the time may pass when a more planned action could benefit you.
One thing to consider is the terms of your Will, if you have one. Until a divorce is finalised your spouse will remain your next of kin. A Will is often made in conjunction with severing the tenancy of any jointly owned property. If not, the ‘rule of survivorship’ means that the co-owning partner will take sole ownership upon the death of the other. Clearly, sooner rather than later is a good time to set out your wishes.
If you do have a Will, you may wish to change provisions which include your former partner. When filing for a divorce, some provisions may no longer apply if you pass away, which may leave your Will invalid. If your Will appoints a former spouse as a trustee or an executor, after divorce they would be excluded from doing so. A Will can also make provision in respect of any dependant children, identifying a suitable guardian to care for them if your former partner is unable to do so.
Following a divorce/separation, many previously sharing a surname decide to revert back to their original name. You could just revert to your former name but most organisations will require proof such as a copy Decree Absolute of divorce or a Change of Name Deed. Beware changing the name of any children which will require agreement of both parents, or an order from the court which will prove costly.
Another important consideration is joint bank accounts. Keep in mind that until you update the bank of your situation, both you and your former partner will be able to withdraw money from your account. Going into the overdraft will make you jointly responsible for the debt. You may need to come to some agreement to keep the account, or other arrangements, if you still have joint commitments such as a mortgage on a property, otherwise you may need to contact the bank and ask them to close it.
Finally, all personal documents should be updated, especially if you have changed your name or bank information. Documents such as your passport, driving licence, insurance policies and bills should all be kept up to date with your latest details.
Anticipating a separation can be emotionally draining and it is easy to forget about other important considerations. If you are concerned about any issues surrounding divorce or separation it is important to plan, and you should consider seeking advice from an experienced family lawyer. It could be money well spent to avoid storing up problems for the future.
Best wishes for the New Year whatever it brings.