Realising your marriage is over is a difficult conclusion to reach.

You may not feel ready to move out of the family home.  You may not feel ready to ask your spouse to do so.  You may have separated but you may not feel ready to speak to a solicitor and take legal advice.  Even so, there are steps you may need to take in the meantime.  This will ensure that when you are ready to move forward, you are in the best position to do so.

Consider your will arrangements

It is important that you review the arrangements you have in place in the event of your death.

Check if you have a Will.  While you remain married and are not yet divorced, if you have a Will, this remains valid.  While you may have originally intended for your spouse to inherit your estate in full, this may no longer be your intention.  It is advisable to therefore look to review and change the terms of your Will.

If you do not have a Will, the rules of Intestacy apply.  This means your spouse will significantly benefit from your estate.  Again, this may no longer be your intention and it is therefore advisable to prepare a Will setting out how you wish for your assets to be distributed upon your death.

Should you sever your tenancy?

If you own a property with your spouse jointly, check how this is held.

If it is held by you as “joint tenants” then should either of you die, your share will automatically pass to the other.  This is regardless of the provision you have made in your Will, if you have one.

If the property is held by you as “tenants in common”, you both have a separate share in the property.   If you die, your share will pass into your estate and will be dealt with by way of your Will if you have one.  If you do not, it passes in accordance with the rules of intestacy.

While your initial intention may have been to hold the property as “joint tenants”, many individuals no longer want their share to pass to the other automatically in the event of their death.  One option is to sever the tenancy which will change the ownership from a joint tenancy to a tenancy in common.   If you do this, it is also advisable that you have a Will prepared.

Are you claiming everything you are entitled to?

If you are separated and the only adult living in your home, you should be entitled to a 25% discount on your council tax.

If you have children, you should also look into the position regarding child benefit. Child benefit is only paid to one parent who is the main carer of the children.  Child benefit is not paid to couples who are living together, if either are earning over £60,000.  If either are earning over £50,000, then tax will be payable.

You may not have previously qualified for child benefit, for example, if your spouse was earning more than £60,000.  If as a single parent, your income is below that threshold, then you may now be entitled to claim this.

It may also be worth looking into whether you will qualify for any other benefits.  If you have traditionally, for example, been a stay-at-home parent or are only working part-time hours and are on a limited income, you may qualify for Universal Credit.

Keep your documents safe

Going through a divorce and resolving the financial matters arising from that, can involve a large amount of paperwork.  For example, if you wish to start divorce proceedings, you will need your original (or a certified copy) of your marriage certificate.  The financial process is also likely to require you to disclose your financial information to your spouse.  It is worth beginning to sort through any paperwork you have, for example, by beginning to collate your bank statements and payslips.

Sort your joint accounts

You and your spouse may have joint accounts together.  You may think about closing these accounts and dividing the sums held. Alternatively, some banks will agree to placing a freeze on the account.  This means that neither of you can withdraw money without the consent of the other.

These options may not be practical if you still have joint outgoings which relate to the family home.  Whether this is a sensible step also depends on your relationship with your spouse.   If your relationship is amicable, then this precautionary measure may not be necessary.

Register your matrimonial home rights

If the family home is in your spouse’s sole name, you will still have what is known as “matrimonial home rights”.  This will give you a right to occupy the family home, even though the property is not in your sole name.

If the property is in your spouse’s sole name, potentially, they could sell this without your consent.  To help prevent this from taking place, you should protect your interest by registering your matrimonial home rights at the land registry using a matrimonial home rights notice.  This will ensure that your matrimonial home rights are brought to the attention of any prospective purchaser.

For further information or to book a free initial consultation, please contact the family law team on 01403 627 853 or by email