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Taking the decision to separate can be one of the most difficult decisions a person will make during their lifetime. If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, it is important for you and your family that you have the right support and advice to help you get through it.

As a family solicitor and mediator, I would always suggest that, once you have decided you wish to separate from your husband or wife, you should speak to a legal adviser. They will help you to understand what the practical and legal implications are of your separation and explain to you your options in relation to divorce proceedings, sorting out finances and agreeing arrangements for your children.

Setting up an initial appointment with a solicitor may seem like a daunting prospect and you may be feeling completely in the dark as to what to expect. There is not a set rule as to what discussions will take place during that initial meeting and it will very much depend on your objectives and individual circumstances. However, here is a rough guide to the common topics which I often discuss with a client who wishes to separate during that first meeting:-

1. Reconciliation. It is important at the outset to understand whether you consider your relationship to be reconcilable or whether you have determined your marriage to have irretrievably broken down. If you are considering reconciliation, I can refer you to marriage counselling services if this is something you wish to explore;

2. Divorce Proceedings. If you have come to the conclusion that your marriage has come to an end, I will discuss with you whether you would like to issue divorce proceedings. I will explain the divorce process, costs and timescale involved;

3. Property and Finances. At the initial meeting my aim is to get a basic understanding as to yours and your spouses’ financial circumstances. To do this, I will ask a series of questions and obtain information about yours and your spouses’ finances including:-

a. Details of any property(ies) you own including values and any outstanding mortgage figures;
b. Details of any bank accounts which you hold and the balance of each account;
c. Details of any savings and investments which you have including ISAs, Premium Bonds, shares, NS&I certificates etc;
d. Details of any insurance policies including those with a surrender value;
e. The value of any individual items of value such as cars, jewellery and antiques;
f. Any liabilities you have including credit cards, loans, finance agreements etc;
g. Details of your income whether from employment, state benefits, self-employment, rental income etc
h. Information surrounding the value of any pension funds.
It is not necessary for you to have all of this information to hand, but the more details you are able to provide the better understanding I will have about your financial circumstances and what considerations need to be taken into account.

4. Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. Once I understand your financial situation I will then explain how the law considers finances on divorce including the factors that a court would take into account when determining how assets are to be split. I will also explain the different options available to a Court when making orders relating to income, property and pensions.

5. Children. If you and your spouse have dependent children, we may discuss possible arrangements for the time that you and your spouse will each spend with them. I may ask you to think about whether you are able to agree a parenting plan including arrangements during term time, school holidays and special occasions.

6. Options. There are a number of options available to resolve disputes in relation to sorting out the finances or arrangements for your children. At our initial meeting, I will briefly explain these including:-

a. Instructing solicitors to negotiate on your behalf;
b. Mediation
c. Arbitration
d. Collaborative law
e. Court proceedings.

I will help you to understand the benefits and any drawbacks in relation to each option and whether they seem appropriate for you in your individual circumstances.

7. Costs. I will aim to give you an indication as to the costs of resolving matters concerning divorce, finances and children depending upon the issues involved and the route you choose to reach a resolution. This may include my charges and charges of others such as Court fees and other professional experts.

8. Your objectives. By the end of the initial meeting my aim is to understand your objectives and advise you as to next steps.

At Consilia Legal we have a experienced team of expert family solicitors in Leeds and Harrogate.

If you would like to arrange an appointment to discuss divorce and separation, please contact me on 0113 322 9222 or at