What should you do next if your relationship is over?
The last five months have taken their toll on all areas of our lives and if that, for you, means the end of your relationship, then as you face the unknown of a life alone, here are some tips to help you feel in control and navigate through what will undoubtedly be one of the toughest stages of your life.
Step 1: Get an emotional coach
Before you bang down the door of the local family law firm, take a moment to just have someone hold up a metaphorical mirror, to challenge your decision and make sure that you are making the right choice for you. Be certain that a different perspective, and perhaps some professional tools, can’t reconcile your differences and save your relationship first. If it truly is over, then straight to step 2.
Step 2: Get the best lawyer you can afford…..and LISTEN to their advice!
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people say, ‘oh it’s ok, we are going to separate amicably; we don’t need lawyers’ only to get a year down the line to find out their partner was saying that to their face, and yet behind their back hatching a plan to tear the other one down both emotionally and financially. Get the best lawyer you can afford.
With regards the point on listening to your lawyer’s advice…you are emotionally attached to every conversation, every argument, every decision and outcome that you have with your partner but your lawyer is objective and acting in your best interest. They have heard all that you describe to them about your relationship before. There isn’t a story that they haven’t experienced in one way or other with previous clients and so listen to their words and follow their plan. The amount of times I get told ‘if only I listened and did what my lawyer suggested from the start I’d have saved a fortune in legal fees’.
Their time, is your money, so use it wisely!
Which brings me to my next point….
Step 3: Trust….and who to trust
Trust yourself. Trust your lawyer.
Don’t trust your partner.
Your partner has been the person who you have shared your most intimate moments with. Human nature is to naturally believe in the good in this other person, as otherwise, your decision to spend so many years of your life with them would be made wrong. This makes you vulnerable! No matter how good and trustworthy you feel that this person has been in the past, separation and divorce tests everyone to the limit, and brings the worst out in people at some point in that process.
From the moment you decide you’re leaving, your trust should only be in yourself with regards this relationship. It is every person for themself now. Protect yourself!
Joint bank accounts give free access to both names on the account. Don’t underestimate the potential of the other person to empty it out. Don’t leave yourself exposed and instead get your bank to require joint signatures on all withdrawals. Be fair, there is no gain in ripping each other off as it will all come out in the wash, but the divorce process can be lengthy and if you rely on the funds in your joint account don’t leave yourself open and exposed to them being cleared out. Make a fair agreement with your partner as to how those funds should support you both through the process.
Step 4: Get your finances in order
As part of the divorce process your lawyer will need information on all your income, expenditure, assets, debts, bank accounts, savings, investments, pensions, life insurance policies and any trusts that you have in place. You will need to submit information on your current spending requirements and future requirements and so the sooner you get organised, the easier the financial discussions will be.
Make a budget for what you need and make a plan for how you’re going to fund yourself for the time until your divorce settles. Make sure you have access to the funds that you need and that you are not left without means. I had one client who had a joint business with his wife, and she stockpiled money for herself and then froze all their accounts and refused him access to anything. He was left unable to get money to feed himself, his child and the animals on the farm that they jointly ran.
Don’t leave yourself exposed!
Step 5: Seek financial advice
The sooner you take control and responsibility for your own financial security, the better. Seek advice early to build a plan to support you through your divorce and into your new future. It is more common for divorces to end in full and final settlement nowadays, with a clean break order. This will result in a lump sum passing between the spouses. If you are the one who will be receiving that lump sum, make sure that you get professional advice as to how to build a financial plan to make the money last and support you in the way that you require in your future.
Written by Esther Lewis of Aletheia Wealth Limited. Esther features in The Hug Directory and is available for a confidential initial conversation if you require.
Aletheia Wealth Limited is an Appointed Representative of and represents only St. James’s Place Wealth Management plc (which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority)