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We want to separate – what legal steps should we take?

When a relationship has come to an end, it can be difficult to know what the first steps are to take in terms of the legal implications. Sometimes you might not want to completely divorce, you might want a period of time in which you both consider whether that is the right thing for you and your family. Family law solicitors can help you through the various legal stages of separation and help you to decide what is best for you.

What is a separation agreement?

If you are considering divorce but are not yet certain that that is the best thing for you as a couple and the children that you have together, then a separation agreement could be the best thing for you. One of the primary purposes of a legal separation agreement is that the couple agree to live apart, and they also set up a financial settlement which will be presented to the court if they ultimately decide to settle for a divorce. A deed of separation can also deal with the payment of school fees, a mortgage or rent, and how other shared outgoings will be met.

A legal separation agreement consists of two things:

  1. To outline the living situation of the separating couple
  2. To outline the rights and obligations of both individuals upon the separation, most importantly regarding finances

We want a divorce – what next?

If you have decided that, after your separation, a divorce is the best possible option for you, then there are a few requirements that you must be able to fulfil. These involve fulfilling the grounds for divorce that are:

  • Unreasonable behaviour

This is when one member of the partnership can prove that the other has behaved in a way that is unacceptable to live with. In most cases, this can include instances of excessive drinking, violent behaviour or financial extravagance.

  • Adultery

You must be able to prove that your spouse has had sexual intercourse with another person of the opposite sex, and that you find it intolerable to continue living with them as a spouse.

  • Desertion

This grounds for divorce is rarely used because it involves proving that a spouse had the intention to divorce throughout an entire 2 year period that they had deserted their partner for.

  • 2 years separation with consent

If you and your partner have agreed to live apart for five years after the presentation of your divorce petition, and if you both agree to a divorce, then this can also be considered reasonable grounds for a divorce.

  • 5 years separation with no consent required

If you and your spouse have been living apart for five years after the presentation of your divorce petition, then it is considered grounds for divorce, and your former partner does not have to consent.

How will it affect our children?

When you are separating, there may be a number of different things that you need to legally consider when it comes to your children. A child arrangement order may need to be used, or perhaps a number of different orders that may need to be put into place. These include:

  • Residence orders

This is a legally binding order between you and your ex-partner that will help you to decide on where your children will live.

  • Contact Orders

This is a legally binding order which sets out how much contact you and your ex will have with your children.

  • Prohibited steps orders

This is a legally binding order that will prevent either of you from taking particular action with your children, such as taking them abroad.

  • Specific issue orders

This is a legally binding order that helps you to resolve a specific dispute, for instance what school your children should attend.

  • Parental responsibility agreements

These agreements protect your legal rights to be involved in important decisions about your children’s health, education and welfare.

  • Agreements on change of name

These are agreements that you can set out with your ex when either of you want to change your child’s name.

  • Agreements on international or national relocation

These are agreements that help you to settle disputes about moving children abroad or to another area of the country with the other parent.

Whatever you decide is best for you, there are a number of different ways that legal help you be advisable, and family law solicitors can help you.

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