Planning in the short term in divorce for finances and family
Whether it is your decision to part or not, it is best to have a short term plan in mind. This will invariably involve finances and arrangements for any children. If you suddenly decide to separate and leave without any discussions whatsoever, the road ahead will be very hard indeed (except for cases of violence/abuse).
Your legal position should also be considered. If you can come to some temporary agreement, so much the better, particularly regarding children but care should be taken if you are asked to sign any agreement and this should be discussed with your solicitor as it could affect your position at a later stage. Any constructive communication and consideration for each other at this time could lead to a less stressful process ahead for all the family and, therefore, less costly.
The family home
If there are children, it is usually better for them to remain in the family home and you should consider their stability at this difficult time. Although you may already have formed long term plans in your mind, you should remember that your spouse may still be in a state of shock. Day to day living may be all that can be achieved at this early stage but a short term plan should enable you both to find some level ground for a time while your options are considered. Now is not the time to demand that the house be sold or to change the locks. It could also be beneficial to realise at this stage that there is no such absolute law as the 50/50 split regarding property in divorce.
If you decide to move out
This should not affect any financial decisions. It may be better to stay with a friend or relative rather than with a new partner. Leave your contact details and arrange to meet to discuss matters.
Check back in Emotions to see the article, Telling your spouse.
Who pays the mortgage?
Mortgage or rent payments should be continued in the usual manner if at all possible and, if there is trust between you, then the usual banking arrangements could continue. This is of course more important where there is only one of you earning. If one of you is at home looking after children, it could become very difficult to sort out legal, child and financial matters, if the only source of income is cut off or drastically reduced.
What if the property is in my spouse's name only?
If the family property is in the sole name of the other spouse, this can be altered by registering it in your name also and you should draw your solicitor's attention to this. If there is any other property owned by your spouse, then steps can be taken to prevent it being sold before a settlement is agreed if you can show grounds for believing this.
When the property is in your joint names and you wish to safeguard your half should anything happen to you whilst the divorce process continues, you can ask your solicitor to arrange this. This means that should you die, your share in the property would form part of your estate. Your solicitor will advise you but you should consider whether this action would be seen as inflammatory particularly when children are involved. You should also bear in mind that the courts have full powers to allocate property as they see fit.
Who controls the bank accounts?
It is worthwhile giving some thought to your banking arrangements particularly if you fear that large sums of money may be taken from a bank or building society or that charges could be made to joint credit card or store accounts. In fact, all options should be considered as your family's financial position should be safeguarded particularly where there are debts. Where accounts are in joint names, you are both jointly liable even after you separate and it may be prudent to change accounts to sole names or to agree with your bank to only allow certain sums to be drawn when both of you sign. Another option is to reduce the spending limit on credit cards or arrange for your spouse to have a new one. Freezing accounts is also an option to be discussed with your solicitor.
When family Trusts are involved, you should seek expert advice either through your solicitor or your financial adviser but you must make your solicitor aware of the situation.
Overspending causes much bad feeling and resentment. When one of you could be severely restricted financially and perhaps caring for children, it is often thoughtless to be the one seen enjoying a spending spree. This could make agreement difficult in the long run and debts have to be paid for. Hopefully, normal day to day spending can continue in the short term and financial obligations can be met. Perhaps you could discuss together what these obligations are and your future plans. This is important when one of you has controlled the purse strings and the other is not as financially aware. If you are left with little or no income, it could be wise to consider which benefits may be available to you. Details are in our Financial section.
In the short term, it is best for children to maintain contact with both parents, unless there is abuse. It is so easy to forget the children's feelings when you may be struggling to cope with your own. Whatever happens, your children have the right to see both of you and they will always be your children. Having said that, it can be very difficult to arrange contact if one of you has suddenly moved out and the other is struggling to come to terms with the situation. So, if there are initial problems, be prepared for these. It is normal and these should pass within a short time. Shock is quite a powerful emotion and you can read more about the intense feelings you may both experience in the Emotions section and about what to expect with your children in Children and teenagers sections.
How can I see my children?
Problems could be exacerbated by your choice of language. If you are the one asking to see your children, it will probably be detrimental if you demand to see them, that you have a right to see them. At the same time, if you refuse to discuss anything else which is cause for great concern to your spouse, this could make matters worse. Worries about finances, legalities and emotions all have a knock-on effect. When there is an atmosphere of distrust, it can be more difficult to arrange mutually agreed child contact. In this early stage, it is not usually advisable to threaten 'going to court'. This can make matters worse and the courts really want you to do your best to sort things out and your solicitor would probably advise against this. Introducing a new partner at this early stage could also hamper progress. Perhaps you could consider all this and maintain initial contact by letter or phone if emotions are running so high. Mothers would perhaps like to read the article about fathers living away in our Parents section.
But will they forget me?
Your children will always love you. They will always be your children. Try to consider what is best for them. It may well be that one or two weeks without contact could be enough time for emotions to settle down and for everyone to behave more rationally.
Look back at the previous article on children In this section and read through our Children's and Parents sections. You will find age-related books for children and yourself in our Books section. If your spouse does not know about this website, it may be a good idea to point it out.
Fear and isolation are crippling feelings. Knowledge and understanding can only help the whole family.
How do I know what is happening at school?
Schools appreciate being kept informed about your changing family circumstances. This enables them to look out for any behavioural problems and to understand them in view of this. You should give them your new contact details and ask for any correspondence to be sent to each of you. But if your presence at a school event could cause some upset at this early stage, try to think what is best for your child. You may have come to terms with the new arrangements but has the rest of the family?
Should I tell my employer?
Your performance at work could be adversely affected and it may be best to inform your employer about your new personal circumstances. If you feel you cannot do this personally, you could write a note and be sure to include any new contact details. Divorce is widespread and your employer probably has some direct or indirect experience. You may need extra time off due to increased family commitments or legal meetings. You may also need time off due to stress. This may be the time to call in favours and ask for extra support from friends and family. Have a browse through our Health section.
Friends and family
Contact with friends and family is important. Try not to isolate yourself. Older members from both sides of the family could be supportive and offer good advice. If the children have a good relationship with their grandparents, contact should be encouraged. This could provide a safe haven for them. Do you remember visiting your grandparents as a child? It could be cruel and unnecessary to prevent this.
But as in all types of dispute, people will be happy to offer advice about what they would do in your situation and some will inevitably take sides. Don't be disappointed. This is normal. Seek out the company of your best friends, people you know you can trust and confide in. Be careful when talking to people you don't know well; remember that you may be vulnerable and should perhaps attempt to keep your personal business to yourself.
And, finally - solicitors. While you come to terms with the short-term repercussions of the separation, you must set aside time for good legal advice. Read our articles In this section about solicitors and have a look in the Books section to see our recommended book, The "Which? Guide to Divorce". This is an excellent reference book. Perhaps you could also find out about mediation. Check out our article on this.
"Whether you think you will succeed or not, you are right." Henry Ford