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Deciding what to do when you separate

This advice applies to Cymru

When you separate from your partner, you'll need to work out things like:

  • where your children will live and how often they’ll see the parent they don't live with

  • where you’re going to live

  • how to divide up any money or belongings you share

  • whether you’ll be able to afford to pay the bills once you’re living separately

If you’re in the UK as a dependant on your partner’s visa, you’ll also need to check if you can stay -  check if you can stay in the UK on a visa after a divorce.

Don’t feel pressured into a decision that’s not right for you. You’ll have a better chance of reaching an agreement if you wait until you’re ready to talk.

If you’re struggling to decide, you should try mediation to see if you can reach an agreement with the help of a mediator.

Find out how mediation can help you separate.

If you can’t agree with your ex-partner

It’s best to speak to a solicitor if you and your partner haven’t been able to discuss or agree the arrangements for your separation, or your agreement’s broken down.

If you’ve got children

It’s best to keep arrangements about children informal if you can.

Read more about making child arrangements or what to do if you think your ex-partner is taking your children away.

Child maintenance

You're both responsible for the cost of looking after your children after you separate - even if you’re not married or in a civil partnership.

If you’re the parent who moves out, you might have to pay maintenance to the parent who looks after the children.

It’s usually best if you can arrange this between yourselves - this is called a ‘family based child arrangement’.

Read more about child maintenance.

Deciding what to do with your home

There are very few circumstances where your partner can make you leave your home. They can’t change the locks or force you to leave, so try to take time to figure out what you both want and need.

Read what to do if your partner is trying to force you to move.

Normally, you’ll need to decide whether:

  • one of you stays in the home while the other moves out

  • you both move out and end your tenancy, or sell your home

  • one of you buys the other out so they own the home

  • you both stay in the home and live separate lives

What you do will depend on what you can afford and whether you’ve got children.

It might also depend on whether you have rights to stay in the home after you separate, for example whether you’re married or your name is on the deeds.

Read more about what happens to your home when you separate.

Managing your money 

There’s no easy way to work out how to divide your money, but if you and your ex-partner can figure it out between yourselves it’ll be cheaper than asking a court to help you decide.

You’ll need to work out how much money you have in bank or building society accounts, savings or investments.

You’ll also need to include any debts you share, like credit cards or loans.

Find out how to divide your money and belongings when you separate.

Dividing up pensions 

If you’re married or in a civil partnership, you’ll normally be entitled to a share of your ex-partner’s pension when you divorce or end your civil partnership.  

Dividing up a pension can be complicated so it’s a good idea to talk to a solicitor.

If you don’t think you’ll have enough money 

If you’re married or in a civil partnership you can ask for financial support from your ex-partner as soon as you separate. This is known as ‘spousal maintenance’ and is a regular payment to help you pay bills and other living costs. You can't get spousal maintenance if you weren't married or in a civil partnership.  

Find out how to arrange spousal maintenance

You might also be able to get help paying your rent or mortgage. 

Who to tell that you’ve separated

If you get benefits, being part of a couple might affect how much you get. You should tell the office that deals with your claim that you've separated as soon as possible - most benefits have a 30-day deadline.

If you get tax credits, you should tell the HMRC within 30 days.

Paying for solicitors

You’ll usually need to talk to a solicitor at some point during your separation. To help keep your legal bills down, you should:

  • try to agree as much as you can with your ex-partner before you go to a solicitor

  • read as much as you can about separation - you could look online or go to the library

  • find out if any solicitors near you offer free advice - this normally won’t be more than 30 minutes, but it could still help

  • ask your solicitor if they’ll work for a fixed fee - this way, you’ll always know exactly how much you’ll have to pay

Read more about the help you can get with legal costs

If you’re ready to end your marriage or civil partnership

Find out how to end your marriage.

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