Your options for legal or financial advice on separation if you were cohabiting
If you and your partner are separating, you may be able to sort everything out without taking legal or other professional advice. But if your ex-partner won’t stick to what you’ve agreed or you want to know what your rights are, it may be worth taking professional advice.
Using a mediator for separation
A mediator can help you and your ex-partner sort out children and financial matters. They don’t take sides or give advice; instead, they can help you work towards an agreement. An increasing number of solicitors specialising in family law are also trained mediators.
Mediation works best where you trust each other to be open and honest. If you and your ex-partner cannot talk about who should look after the children or how you will divide your money, mediation may not be suitable. It is also not appropriate where there has been domestic violence or where one partner is controlling or intimidating. A mediator will tell you whether your situation is suitable for mediation.
Mediators cannot give legal advice. That means you should see a solicitor before or during mediation so you know your rights and, if you want a legally-binding agreement, you’ll need to get a solicitor to draw it up.
You can find a mediator:
- In England or Wales: on the Family Mediation Council website or on the National Family Mediation website
- In Northern Ireland: on the Family Mediation NI website
- In Scotland: on the Relationships Scotland website
Using a solicitor for separation
A solicitor can give you advice on your rights if you want to make a claim against your ex-partner for a share of the family home or other assets. You can use them to:
- Give you independent legal advice, either if you are negotiating a settlement through mediation or considering taking court action
- Negotiate on your behalf directly with your ex-partner’s solicitor; and/or
- Draw up a legal agreement, based on what you’ve agreed independently with your ex-partner
A solicitor may give you information about your financial entitlement that you would not otherwise be aware of. However, they can be expensive. Ask if the solicitor offers a fixed-fee package.
You can find a solicitor:
- In England or Wales: on the Resolution website. Solicitors who are members of Resolution are committed to minimising confrontation during relationship breakdown. If you prefer you can find a solicitor on the Law Society website
- In Northern Ireland: on the Law Society of Northern Ireland website
- In Scotland: on the Family Law Association website. FLA members are committed to minimising confrontation during relationship breakdown. If you prefer you can find a family lawyer on the Law Society of Scotland website
Using a collaborative family lawyer
Collaborative family lawyers are specially trained solicitors who can help you reach agreement through a series of meetings with your ex-partner. You and your ex-partner each have your own collaborative family lawyer.
- You all sign an agreement not to go to court
- You agree to work together to resolve the issues between you; and
- Meetings are carried out face-to-face between all four of you
They are not very often used when cohabiting couples split up because of the costs involved.
You can find a collaborative family lawyer:
- In England or Wales: on the Resolution website
- In Northern Ireland: on the A friendly divorce website
- In Scotland: on the Consensus Collaboration Scotland website
Using an accountant
An accountant can be used to value assets, such as a business. Some accountants specialise in assessing whether one partner is downplaying the value of a business they own. They are called ‘forensic accountants’.
If you choose the right accountant they will be experts in valuing businesses – something that a lawyer would not have experience of. However, the costs can be high, especially for a forensic accountant.
You can find a chartered accountant:
- In England or Wales: on the website of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales
- In Northern Ireland: on the Chartered Accountants Ireland website
- In Scotland: on the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland website
Using an actuary
An actuary is unlikely to be used by cohabiting couples who separate as – unlike divorce or dissolution – there’s no obligation for one partner to share their pension with the other. If you want your pension to be taken into account when dividing assets, an actuary may be useful, depending on the type of pension.
You can find an actuary on the website of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries.
Using a financial adviser
A financial adviser can advise on issues such as how to divide assets in the most tax-efficient way and how to invest the proceeds of a house sale or similar. You will have to pay for their services; normally, an hourly rate or a fixed fee. Their specialist advice and expertise may be valuable if your financial situation is very complicated and you have joint assets.
Your next step
If you have to pay legal fees, understand your options