The end of a relationship is a sad and upsetting time. It can be very emotional but also very frightening, as the future you had planned with your partner is now going to change. Before you separate or start proceedings it is a good idea to have some initial advice from a lawyer to find out your rights and to understand how you can try to conclude matters as amicably as possible.

Tip 1 – Get all your documents ready

You will need your original marriage certificate if you are going to be starting a divorce, if you do not have this then you will need to get a copy from the registry office in the area you were married. If you were married abroad sometimes the certificate will be translated and it is important that the translation is with the certificate as it will be needed. You will need to provide dates of birth and marriage during the proceedings – make a note of them if you can’t remember.

You will need to get your financial documents ready, as so many of our bank statements and financial documents are no longer sent to us in the post and simply emailed you may need to ask for new copies or find the emailed documents. You will have to provide copies of bank statements, policies, share certificates, wage slips, loan agreements and any other documents regarding your income or assets. 

If when you bought your family home, you provided the deposit or contributed more during the relationship you will need to provide documentary proof of any paperwork drawn up at the time the house was purchased.

Tip 2 – Get your up to date pension statement

Pensions can be valuable assets and you will have to provide your most recent statement. We are all sent an annual pension statement but if you have misplaced your copy or have not received one as you have moved address or changed jobs you will need to get an up to date statement for all of your pensions – even ones you may have frozen or stopped paying into from previous jobs. If you are near retirement age you can get a state pension forecast by completing an online form. 

Tip 3 – Value any property

If you have a house or any property you are named as an owner, such as a share of a family members home, you need to have an idea of the value, this can be an estimate from a local estate agent. Formal valuations may need to be obtained in the future during the proceedings and if this is ordered by the court it will have to be from an independent valuer so not the one you have already contact. It will help if you also get the most recent mortgage redemption statement so you can see how much equity you will receive if the house is sold. It will tell you if there are any penalty fees for early payment of the mortgage which may be needed.

Tip 4 – Write down your income and outgoings

It may sound a simple task, but you will need to know how much money you have coming into your household and how much your outgoings are. It may be needed when you are applying for a mortgage or considering maintenance payments or applying for benefits.

Tip 5 – Get some financial advice

It is very important to get independent financial advice; you need to discuss your future and what you are going to be able to afford. If you are looking to get a mortgage or buy out your partners interest in a property you need to know what you can afford as this may alter your plans. They will be able to look at pension forecasts and help with a breakdown of future income.

Tip 6 – Communicate with your former partner

However difficult it is the best person to decide your future is you and if you can sit and discuss the options and reach an agreement it will be quicker and cheaper for both of you. Often it is not possible, but you could meet with a mediator who will be able to work through all the options to try and help you reach an amicable settlement.

Tip 7 – Make sure bills are paid regularly

When you are separating it is easy to forget or miss some bills. It is important to pay any bills or debts in your own name, and at least half of any bills in your joint name. If you both forget to pay a bill such as contents insurance, it may cause you difficulties if you needed to make a claim. Likewise, if you do not pay a debt your credit will be in difficulties with a mortgage application. If a bill is in joint names you are both liable even if you pay your half, if possible, transfer bills into your or your partners sole name so you know who is responsible for them and make sure you tell your partner so that no payments are missed or paid twice.

Tip 8 – Get support if you are not coping well

Everyone reacts differently to a divorce and some need extra support and help. Speak to your family they will give you emotional comfort. Sometimes you may not feel able to discuss matters with your family so see your GP or health visitor who will be able to provide any medical assistance or make referrals for counselling if needed. If you are feeling anxious for your safety in any way contact the police or charitable refuge for help.

Tip 9 – Seek legal advice 

Seek help from a lawyer, often people think they can deal with their own divorce, but it can be complicated and with the added emotional element it can be very stressful. You need to have the best possible start for your new future and the best way to do that is to make sure the matter is dealt with properly.

Tip 10 – Don’t delay or bury your head in the sand

The situation will not improve on its own and the longer you leave matters they are likely to get worse. Having a divorce or separation is not an easy part of your life but there is light at the end of the tunnel. If you do not resolve the divorce you are still married to your partner so are each other’s next of kin and are connected financially. If you conclude the divorce but do not deal with the finances again you are still connected and this can cause difficulties with future mortgage applications, credit ratings and relationships. 

If you need any help please contact one of our lawyers in our Cardiff, Cowbridge or Chepstow office who will be able to discuss the matter with you.

Sally Fitzherbert