When clients first come to me for advice about their separation, whether they are in a marriage, a situation where they have been cohabiting or maybe where they have never lived together but are parents, they are not always at the same emotional and financial stage of the separation process. Some clients have only just reached the conclusion that the relationship is at an end whilst others may have been living separately for many years.
What happens during the separation process?
The separation process should ideally always start with a face to face meeting with a solicitor. During that first meeting I believe it’s key to understand the client’s circumstances and those of their partner. It’s also important to explain the relevant law and then apply it to their situation. At this first meeting clients should also be told about their options and alternatives to court such as mediation. I often find a diagram is the best way of explaining the legal process (although, I’m no artist).
In order to start the separation process there are many questions which the client needs to answer or make enquiries about. Such as; finding out about the benefits available or about mortgage borrowing, obtaining details of the value of their assets, pensions, and checking tax returns etc. In more complex cases we may need to make enquiries of the client’s accountant, Companies House, HMRC or the Land Registry. I find the best way to do this is by providing my clients with a ‘to do’ list so that everything is in one place and nothing is forgotten.
At the start of the separation process I will suggest that clients prepare a financial budget using a template provided so that they know how much they will need or can afford to pay. Clients may need to make some notes about a child arrangement, a complex company structure, or the reasons why a marriage has broken down. I may also ask for them to consider rehousing costs, whether for themselves or their partner. In some cases it might be necessary to provide advice on some urgent action.
Very often a client will have researched separation, divorce, financial settlements or child related issues on the internet. There is a lot of information out there! However there is no substitute to speaking direct to an experienced family solicitor at such an important stage in one’s life.
For more information on the separation process or any other family matters, please contact our Family Law team on 0161 475 7676.