These are challenging times for all relationships, so what do you do if you’ve reached the end of the road – asks Amy Langford shares her thoughts on managing divorce or separation during lockdown and beyond.
If you were considering separation before lockdown, being at home more with your spouse may have convinced you that you really should separate or get divorced.
Separation or divorce?
Separation in legal terms is less ‘final’ than divorce. It begins as soon as you stop living as a couple, even if you still share the same home. If this is the case for you, you may want to consider a separation agreement. Put simply, this is a contract that sets out how you’d both like your assets and income to be divided, although it doesn’t cover certain considerations such as pensions. Bear in mind that if you decide to get divorced later, your separation agreement may have a significant influence on your settlement.
Divorce is the formal, legal termination of your marriage. It usually results in legal agreements surrounding your finances, property and contact with children. After securing a divorce, you are free to marry again.
Things to consider immediately
The breakdown of a relationship is often emotionally draining but you need to try to keep a clear head so you can make decisions. Before you do anything else, you need to consider:
- Your children. Think carefully about how best to explain the situation to your children. Try not to blame your partner, no matter how much hurt or pain you are feeling.
- Your Will. Your legal status changes when the divorce process is complete – but until then you are your spouse’s widow/widower on death.
- Home ownership. If your spouse owns the house in their sole name, you may need to register ‘home rights’ against the title to protect yourself.
- Consider closing joint bank accounts or setting an overdraft limit.
It is a good idea to talk to a specialist family lawyer about these issues early on. This will protect your position, help you make the right choices for you and your children, and also reduce potential conflict. It will help to understand elements such as the timing of a divorce, the grounds for divorce, and ways to resolve issues about children and finance.
Virtual family law services
Most services, including family law, have now implemented different ways of working during lockdown. The Family Law Company provides virtual meetings to clients, and we keep in contact throughout the process via phone and email. Divorce petitions can be submitted online and your lawyer will help you through the process. Other family court applications such as applications for Child Arrangement Orders can now be filed online too.
If your divorce does have to go to court due to issues about your children or finances, the family courts are still hearing cases virtually, usually using Skype or the telephone. Of course, there will be some cases that are not suitable for virtual hearings, but the court and your lawyer will do their utmost to ensure the case is heard.
Even after lockdown, these measures are likely to be in place for some time to come but we are here to help, and we are always at the end of phone when you need us.
Amy Langford is an Associate Solicitor specialising in all areas of family law. To contact Amy about managing your divorce or separation please call 01392 421777 or email [email protected]