It’s a sad and difficult time when a relationship is breaking up, for both parties involved. Unless it’s a joint agreement then the onus is often on one person to start the ball rolling, which can be very stressful and often overwhelming. If this is you and you’re not sure where to start, what you need to consider, or where to turn to for help or advice, hopefully you will find something to help you.
There are often a number of stages that someone goes through when ending a relationship.
Considering breaking up
If you are considering leaving your partner then you probably have loads of questions and concerns floating around in your head. Where will I live? How will they react? How will we afford it? What about the kids? What happens if they find someone else? What if I regret it? Will I lose everything I’ve worked for?
Whatever your thoughts, its likely to be a confusing time for you. Do you have a friend or family member that you can trust? It might be worth sharing your situation with them so that you can try to consider each concern rationally rather lumping them together into one big worry that feels too big to address. Alternatively, you could try writing down all of your questions and concerns, again helping to consider them more logically. Most family solicitors will offer a free initial consultation where they could answer some of your questions for you.
Getting clarity on your situation and your concerns can help you to take the next step in the process of breaking up a relationship.
Talking about breaking up
When the time comes to talk about breaking up with your partner, it’s worth giving the following areas some consideration beforehand.
Timing – You are both likely to be upset after the discussion, so try choosing a time when you don’t have anything to do directly afterwards, to give you the chance to get used to the idea without any other distractions.
Reactions – If your partner is likely to be upset by the discussion then they could react badly. While this might not be acceptable to you it probably is understandable, so prepare in advance for a bad reaction. Perhaps you could arrange to stay the night with a friend or family member.
Counselling – It may be that your partner really wants to try to make the relationship work and you may also feel that you would be willing to give it a try. Counselling can help with this, as the counsellor will be an unbiased, 3rd party. They can help you to work through your issues and potentially outline a way forward for you to stay together, or to break up amicably. Relate is the UK’s largest provider of relationship support and is a great place to start.
Acceptance – Your partner may find it difficult to accept your decision to break-up, and may attempt to ‘carry on as normal’ and ignore the situation. It might be worthwhile putting it in writing for them so that they can go over it again and ask any questions. You could also perhaps encourage them to speak to a trusted friend or family member so that they can get some support, and discuss it with someone else other than you.
Agreeing to break up
Once you have agreed to break up, there will likely be lots of practical and emotional things to deal with. Just because one person initiates a break-up doesn’t mean that it will be easy for them to move forward. If that was you, don’t be surprised if you start to feel emotional and even question whether you are doing the right thing. Most people who get to this stage have been considering it for a long time so try not to let your emotions cloud your judgement. You might have lots of questions at this stage, and if you haven’t already, it’s probably worth seeking legal advice so that you get the answers to some of the big questions around children, property and finances. Make a note of all the questions that come to mind, and write down the answers as you find them out, so that you can return to them at a later date.
Coming to an agreement about breaking up
In an ideal situation, a couple with shared interests, such as children, property, and finances, will be able to come up with an agreement that both are comfortable with. If you feel that this is your situation, you can ask a family lawyer to come up with a Separation Agreement which documents all of the decisions that you have agreed upon together. If you’re married or in a civil partnership, it might be worth speaking to a family lawyer about a consent order.
Some couples find it difficult to agree on the important elements, (particularly where children are concerned) then you can appoint a family solicitor to negotiate on your behalf. They will contact your partner and attempt to come to an agreement that both you and your partner can be comfortable with.
Where negotiation isn’t an option or doesn’t work, then you can put your case in front of the court. The court will look at the situation and may place specific orders depending on the decisions that you are asking them to make. A child arrangement order is an example of this, where the courts can make key decisions around your children. Before a court will get involved in any kind of decision making, you need to be able to evidence that you have tried mediation before involving them. If you haven’t already involved a family lawyer then you will need to do so at this stage.
Divorce or Dissolution
If you are married or in a Civil Partnership, and you decide to divorce or obtain a dissolution, this can be a long process and is a completely separate arrangement. Sometimes people split and don’t ever get a divorce/dissolution, or they wait many years before formalising the split. If you have put in place formal agreements such as those outlined above, then these can be used as a starting point for divorce / dissolution proceedings.
Whatever situation you find yourself in right now, hopefully you feel more equipped to take the next step that are right for you. Rucklidge Law is a Family Law Specialist, and we offer free 30-minute consultations to anyone needing advice on a family law issue.