As a rule, when relationships end it is a time to make important decisions and reach agreements.
So, it is useful for couples to understand what they need to do when separating or divorcing.
Ending a relationship, whether a marriage or a civil partnership, usually means finding a way to agree on:
- Child arrangements (often called ‘custody’).
- Child maintenance payments.
- Sharing out money and property.
If there are Children in the Relationship
You will need to share financial support for any children that you and your ex-partner have. But, there are several ways to arrange child maintenance, including making a family-based arrangement.
There are specific rules on making child arrangements if you divorce or separate in England or in Wales. You must make suitable arrangements for taking care of your children.
Finding some agreement on these things is only one part of a separating or divorcing checklist. It is separate from carrying out the legal paperwork needed to bring an official end to a relationship.
If Married or Living in a Civil Partnership
In most cases, you will need to find a fair way of dividing money and property (and some possessions). You would need to apply to a court to make it ‘legally’ binding.
Note: Do it before you finalise the legal paperwork for getting divorced or dissolving a civil partnership. But, your rights differ when sorting out finances on separation after cohabiting (not married or in a civil partnership).
Ending a Marriage
The only official way to end a marriage is to get a divorce (in England or Wales). Even so, there are several other options besides divorcing an ex-partner, such as:
- Living apart without completely ending the marriage by getting a judicial separation.
- Applying to the court to annul a marriage that is ‘void’ (not legally valid) or ‘voidable’ (defective).
Ending a Civil Partnership
There is an official way to end a civil partnership (also known as dissolving it). You can also choose to get a legal separation instead. This option may suit you if you prefer living apart without ending the civil partnership.
Making Agreements on Children, Money, and Property
As a rule, if you can make agreements between yourselves you can avoid having to attend court hearings. But, the court will still need legal paperwork to ‘officially’ end the relationship, or grant ‘legally’ binding agreements.
Often, using independent mediation can help parting couples reach amicable agreements. If so, check if you can get legal aid for using mediation services.
Note: Anyone separating from an abusive partner should qualify. In most cases, legal aid for victims of domestic abuse or violence would help to pay the court costs.