With January comes the cold weather as well as the peak season for divorce. Christmas, with its tensions over money and family, can often be the final straw, leading to New Year’s resolutions for some to split up once and for all.
Divorce is emotionally gruelling and it’s difficult to concentrate on the details if you’re depressed or angry. Obviously your first consideration must be the welfare of any children, if you have them. Then you’ll need to focus on money matters. These will be complex and different for every case but there are a few basics you must prioritise to protect yourself financially.
1. Get an emergency fund in your own name
You’ll need to file for divorce, either by yourself or through a lawyer. The government guide to divorce tells you how to do it either by post or online. If your spouse is unwilling to do it, or pay for it, you’ll have to foot the £550 bill yourself, although those on low incomes can get help with this fee. A solicitor can do all of this but it may cost more.
2. Get your share of the house
Check your name is on the deeds of the family home. If it’s solely in your spouse’s name, perhaps because he or she is the only one paying the mortgage, you can get a ‘home rights notice’ by filling in a free HR1 form from the Land Registry to back up your claim to the property.
Once this is done, you must be informed first before your ex-partner can sell the house or get a larger mortgage. For holiday homes and other properties, it’s possible to register a ‘restriction’ at the Land Registry which has a similar effect.
3. Claim your part of spouse’s pension
After the house, this is most couples’ largest asset. If you gave up your job to look after the kids/cats/house when you married, you also forsook your own pension savings (and employer contributions). Protect your future by making sure you get your rightful share of that pension and making new arrangements for retirement.
4. Help from the government
As a newly single head of the household, you’re likely to have a reduced income and therefore be eligible for government support such as tax credits and child benefit.
5. Watch out for debts
If you have loans jointly, such as a credit card or mortgage in both your names, then you and your soon-to-be ex are BOTH liable to pay off the FULL amount. Try to organise the repayment of the loan fairly or speak to your lender who may accept lower payments temporarily or stop your partner running up more debt.
SMM recommends visiting a marriage guidance counsellor or using a service such as Relate before filing for divorce. But if all options are exhausted, see our SMM guide to the basics of divorce finance for more help.