When you separate from your partner, you’ll need to work out things like:

  • where your children will live and how often they’ll see the parent they don’t live with
  • where you’re going to live
  • how to divide up any money or belongings you share
  • whether you’ll be able to afford to pay the bills once you’re living separately
  • If you’re in the UK as a dependant on your partner’s visa, you’ll also need to check if you can stay in the UK on a visa after a divorce.

Don’t feel pressured into a decision that’s not right for you. You’ll have a better chance of reaching an agreement if you wait until you’re ready to talk.

You need to have been married for at least 1 year before you can get divorced or dissolve your civil partnership, so there’s usually time to work things out.

If your partner makes you feel anxious or threatened, you should get help.

Don’t try to agree anything about your separation without speaking to someone first.

You can call Refuge or Women’s Aid on 0808 2000 247 at any time.

Men’s Advice Line is a charity that helps men suffering domestic abuse. You can call their helpline on 0808 801 0327 between 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

If you’re unsure about what to do next, contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

You don’t have to go to court to decide what to do when you separate unless you really can’t agree with each other. It’s often cheaper and quicker to figure it out yourselves.

If you’re struggling to decide, you should try mediation to see if you can reach an agreement with the help of a mediator.

This is something you’ll have to do anyway if you later decide to go to court.

Mediation is a cost-effective way of sorting any differences you have with your ex-partner about money, property or children.

You should try to talk to a mediator when you separate. You can go straight to a solicitor, but the first question they’ll often ask you is whether you’ve tried mediation.

Even if you end up having to go to court to sort out your differences, you normally need to prove that you’ve been to a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM). This is an introductory meeting to explain what mediation is and how it might help you.

There are exceptions when you don’t have to go to mediation first – for example, if you’ve suffered domestic abuse.

It’s better to try and reach an agreement through mediation if you can – you could save thousands of pounds in legal fees.

If your ex-partner doesn’t want to see a mediator, you should go to the MIAM on your own. You’ll then be able to prove you’ve tried mediation if you later want to go court. You can’t force your ex-partner to go to mediation.

See this family mediation leaflet on GOV.UK for more information about how mediation works, and what happens at an MIAM.

Find your nearest family mediator on the Family Mediation Council website: www.familymediationcouncil.org.uk

Mediation isn’t free, but it’s is quicker and cheaper than going to court. If you’re on a low income you might be able to get legal aid to pay for:

  • the MIAM – this covers both of you, even if only one of you qualifies for legal aid
  • mediation sessions for the person who qualifies
  • help from a solicitor after mediation, for example to make your agreement legally binding

Legally binding means you have to stick to the terms of the agreement by law.

Check if you’re eligible for legal aid on www.gov.uk

You’ll normally have to pay about £30 for an MIAM, although sometimes this first meeting is free. Follow-up sessions usually cost you and your partner about £80 each – most people need to go to 3 or 4.

The cost of mediation varies depending on where you live. Phone around to find the best price, but bear in mind the cheapest might not be the best.

Some mediators base their charges on how much you earn – so you might pay less if you’re on a low income.

If you want to keep the costs of mediation down, try to agree as much as you can with your ex-partner before you start. You could also agree a fixed number of sessions with your mediator – this might help you and your ex-partner focus on getting a quicker resolution.


Tom Togher

Citizens Advice Salford