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Individuals & Families Separation: What Are the Next Steps?

Following a separation, your situation can feel uncertain and unsettling. Our Family Law team sets out some information and practical steps to help guide you through the initial stages of your separation.

Your situation following separation can feel very uncertain and unsettling. The path ahead may not be at all clear and the enormity of everything you need to think about and work through can be quite overwhelming. 

There is a large amount of conflicting information available online, and friends or family members may also have differing opinions of what should or shouldn't happen following your change in status.

Here, our Family Law team sets out some information and practical steps which may help guide you through the initial stages of your separation:

  • Financials
  • Practical steps
  • Matters relating to children
  • Additional support resources

Financials

The law in Scotland tries to encourage a financial “clean break”. However, it can often be difficult to know where to start when thinking about how best to divide assets and liabilities following a separation.

Both you and your spouse are entitled to a fair share of the total value of your net “matrimonial property” acquired during the period of marriage. “Matrimonial property” includes all assets held in both or either of your names, provided they were obtained by either of you through your own efforts during the marriage and existed at the date of separation. This includes bank accounts, pensions, shareholdings, properties, cars etc. Anything that is capable of being owned (and valued) is included. Inherited assets and assets gifted to you by a third party are excluded from the definition of matrimonial property (provided they remain in the same form in which they were gifted or inherited). However, in some cases these inherited assets and gifts may still be relevant when looking at the resources available to both parties and how a financial settlement might be structured.

A fair share of matrimonial property usually means an equal share unless certain principles apply to justify an unequal share. Information gathering is a crucial task in determining what that “fair share” should be.

As a starting point, it would be useful to put together the following information:

  • A list of all the assets you had in your name, or in joint names with your spouse on the day you separated. Do the same for any debts or liabilities.
  • Bank statements showing the balance on your account(s) at the date of your separation.
  • Your most recent annual pension statement – or a letter from your pension provider(s) confirming the CETV (cash equivalent transfer value) for your pension(s) as at your date of separation.
    Obtain a valuation of your state pension (fill out this form).
  • Mortgage statement showing the amount outstanding as at the time of your separation.
  • All details for any investments which are held in your name, or in joint names with another person.
  • A note of all commercial interests, including most recent accounts for the business.
  • Details of all outstanding credit card balances as at the date of your separation and outstanding finance agreements (eg for vehicles).

If this information is not readily accessible to you, your solicitor can obtain this on your behalf if you sign a mandate giving this authorisation. Your financial planner or investment manager will also be able to help.

Separately, spouses have an obligation to financially support one another. This is a separate claim, known as “aliment” or “periodical allowance” after divorce. For this part of your claim we look at each spouse’s needs and resources.

To establish whether you might have a claim for spousal support you should make a note of your total income and outgoings on a monthly basis to ascertain whether you have sufficient income to meet your necessary outgoings. If there is a shortfall, you have a potential claim for interim financial support from your spouse, provided your spouse has sufficient income to make up the difference (or part of it).

To prove your claim, you would need to provide: payslips for the last three months; most recent tax return (if applicable); and bank statements showing your income and expenditure for the last three months.

Practical steps

As a result of separation, there are likely to be some changes to your current living arrangements. This means there are a number of people and organisations you may need to inform about the change in your personal circumstances, for example:

  • Your landlord or mortgage lender
  • Your local authority council tax department (N.B. you may be entitled to single occupancy discount)
  • Your bank or building society
  • Any creditors you have (such as companies with which you have a credit card, personal loan or finance agreement)
  • Your employer (e.g. change of address and your next of kin details)
  • Utility companies for your water, gas, electricity and telephone supplier (this is important if the person named on the bill will no longer be responsible for paying or if you are setting up a new home)
  • Your insurance company/ies
  • Your children’s schools (next of kin details, if they are changing)
  • Your doctor and dentist (next of kin and address details)
    The Post Office (if you need to redirect your mail)
  • The DVLA (by law, if your address changes, you need to change your address details on your driving licence or vehicle registration documents)
  • TV Licensing (if you need to change the address details on your television licence)
  • Your local passport office (if you need to change your name and address on your passport)
  • The Tax Credits office (if you need to apply for Tax Credits for the first time)
  • The disability and carers service (if you are receiving Attendance Allowance or Disability Living Allowance)

You should also:

  • Check the terms of your current Will, or consider making a Will, to ensure your assets are distributed in line with your wishes if the worst happens
  • Review the terms of your pension to check whether your named beneficiary reflects your current intentions
  • You will also need to check that any school letters and reports will be sent out to you separately

Matters relating to children

MacRoberts’ specialist Family Law team can advise you on your parental rights and responsibilities relating to any child or children of your relationship, and assist in negotiating and formalising any out of court agreement reached.

We also provide guidance for parents who must get consent to move to another country or go on holiday with their children, whether within the UK or beyond.

Find out more

Additional resources

Below is a list of additional resources to support individuals, couples and families who are experiencing relationship difficulties or have gone through a separation. Our team can recommend specialists in the field of relationship counselling, or additional resources to support you, upon request. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you wish to discuss this further.

  • Relationships Scotland – Scotland's largest provider of relationship counselling, family mediation and child contact services
  • CALM – A leading app for relaxation, mediation and sleep
  • Mind – Information on mindfulness, how to pracitce it and how it can help with mental health problems
  • NHS: Every Mind Matters – Simple and practical advice to help you deal with stress and anxiety, boost your mood or sleep better

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