Navigating a Legal Separation in 2024: Six Mistakes to Avoid

Christmas and the weeks leading up to it can be an emotional time for many couples. Thoughts of family gatherings can bring up feelings of anxiety or resentment. Money worries can manifest themselves and cause additional pressure. Then, there can be differing expectations and traditions around the day itself that can create friction if not resolved. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that January is a common month for couples to seek legal separation.

If you and your spouse or partner are thinking about legal separation in 2024, it is important that you remain as calm and collected as possible. As well as the many tasks that you need to sort out, there are also several things you absolutely should not do during a legal separation. Here are six mistakes to avoid.

Making large financial decisions during a legal separation

It is very tempting in the first stages of a legal separation to make big decisions, in order to get things moving and extract yourself from what feels like a horrible nightmare. Two common examples of this are moving out of (and/or selling) the family home or liquidating shares in a jointly owned business. Unless there is an immediate fear for your safety, it is generally better to sit tight and take advice before making a large financial move. Moving out during a legal separation could seriously compromise your ability to see your children, as well as impact negatively on any future claims on the marital home.

Making large emotional decisions during a legal separation

In a similar vein, making emotional changes too fast can cause unnecessary friction and mistrust. Don’t move forward with another romantic relationship too quickly, for example, or say dramatic things to each other that you may later regret. The calmer everyone can remain, the easier the separation will go – and the faster the logistics can be sorted out to allow as amicable a split as possible. Where children are involved, this is especially important. Don’t stop talking to your partner or their legal representatives – silence can lead to misunderstandings and feelings of resentment in being ignored.

Denying your partner access to the children

Looking out for the wellbeing of any children involved really is the most important aspect of a legal separation. However angry you may be towards your spouse or partner, denying them access to the children will make things far worse for everyone (unless there are safety or health-related issues to consider). However your feelings have changed towards your partner, they are still your children’s parent, or an adult with whom they have developed a significant personal relationship. Try to work together during your legal separation to establish routines, guidelines and boundaries that will enable you both to support and enjoy the company of your children.

Encouraging friends and families to ‘take sides’ in your legal separation

It is, of course, entirely understandable that you will want to seek comfort and support from family members and friends during a difficult legal separation. However, you should do all you can to avoid this turning into a recruitment drive to get them on your side. This can be awkward for friends and family members who still love you both. It is likely that you will all need to remain in contact at least to some extent, so cordial relations and quiet, loving support for everyone involved is by far the best outcome to strive for.

Signing documents or paperwork without having your solicitor check them first

Always run any paperwork via your solicitor before signing or agreeing to its release or publication. This includes financial records, divorce paperwork, forms pertaining to the ongoing care of children, division of assets and more. Such documents become legally binding once signed, and it can be difficult to reverse any decisions made during the legal separation later on. Your solicitor is there to help you make sense of the arguments presented, work out what you want and support you in arriving at a workable compromise.

Going public with all your partners shortcomings

Social media can be great for sharing positive news, but it does have its dark side. Never air your ‘dirty laundry’ on the internet, or use your social media platforms to rant and rave about your partner in public during a legal separation. This will raise tempers and cause resentment with your partner (the things you post are almost certain to get back to them somehow). The things you write could also be used against you in court, especially if they are proven beyond doubt to be untrue.

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