Ending a long term relationship or marriage is one of the most stressful things that you will go through in life. Holidays, time at home, family and Christmas pressure can cause the cracks in a relationship to show, or one or both of you may decide that a new year is the time to move on in a different direction.
Regardless of the reasons for the breakdown of the relationship or the time of year, below are some tips to help you to start focusing, taking some control and moving forward if things have reached crunch point:
Put your children first
A break up will be an uncertain time for your children and they will need plenty of reassurance. It’s important that you think about the right message to give the children, and that you and your ex agree to adopt the same approach in what you are telling the children now and focus on how you are going to successfully co-parent in the future.
Don’t speak badly of your ex in front of the children – they will already be feeling conflicted and this will only cause them further upset.
Keep in touch with their school and let them know that is happening, so that they can keep an eye on the children. The school will also be able to arrange pastoral support, such as access to a school counsellor, and a neutral place where the children can talk about their worries and feelings.
Short term arrangements
Think about the practicalities of working through your separation. Is one of you going to move out? Is it affordable to run two homes as a stop-gap? Where will the children live?
However difficult it may be, try to maintain communications with your ex-partner – it will make it easier in the long run if you can have sensible conversations about practical arrangements, finances etc. Think about how best you can communicate – whether by email, phone or face to face. Perhaps you would benefit from someone helping to facilitate those conversations – a mediator, consultant or counsellor, perhaps.
How are you coping emotionally? If you are struggling to deal with the reality of your break-up, think about speaking to a counsellor or therapist, who can help you work through your feelings.
Speak to a lawyer
Don’t rely on the advice of well-meaning friends, someone down the pub or Google. Whilst friends or acquaintances may have been through a separation and keen to share their experience, everyone’s situation is different, and the law can be applied differently depending on your circumstances.
The law for married and unmarried couples is also completely different, so make sure that you are clear as to what you can and cannot do in your circumstances. Think about making a will, or updating your existing will.
By all means, lean on family and friends for emotional support – it’s important to have people you can talk to and rely on, but make sure that you get some solid legal advice so that you know your rights and obligations.
Understand your finances
Your financial situation can often change as a result of separation. It is important to know what your financial circumstances are, and those of your ex, so that you can work out how things should be split and any payments that one of you may need to make to the other (you will know more about this after speaking to a lawyer).
Think about your housing, savings, current and future income. Put together a budget of your monthly outgoings so that you can see what is going to be affordable, and if you don’t own your home outright, speak to a mortgage advisor to better understand what you can or cannot afford on your own.
Start making plans
Separating can be a long process, and it can feel at the outset like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Start to visualise the future that you want now, and put in place manageable, bitesize goals for the next few months to help you get there.
If you are coming to terms with a separation and in need of some sound, practical legal advice, please get in touch.