Today we begin a new series of legal advice articles called Ask the Solicitor, in partnership with Altrincham law firm Hill and Company.
First up is family solicitor Dan Knox.
My wife and I have decided to separate after seven years of marriage. We have two children, Molly, aged 5, and Parker, aged 3. For their benefit, I think it might be best for me to leave our family home, my wife and I are not getting along and often squabble about the smallest thing. I fear that our constant fighting will affect the kids and it is also taking a toll on my own mental health. I usually try to avoid having to go home in the evenings so as to minimise any potential arguments. Is there anything I need to consider before I move out of the house?
Firstly, here at Hill and Company, we appreciate that this is an incredibly difficult time and we commend you for considering the needs of your children and prioritising your mental health.
When deciding whether to leave the family home initially we would recommend you consider:
Prior to separation, most couples are able to fund their lifestyle having had the benefit of two incomes. Post separation, you will likely have to consider not only the practicalities of funding another property but also whether your wife will be able to continue to fund the outgoings on the family home. In addition, any property which you will move into will have to be suitable for the children.
After separation, any divorce and or financial proceedings may take many months, due to the current processing times of the court. Even where there is agreement, any ‘interim’ housing arrangements could in fact be in place for 12–24 months.
Before moving out of the family home, it would be advisable to try and agree with your wife when and how you will enjoy time with your children. This is often an area of contention.
Agreement will be needed as to how the children will split their time between two households in a way that is positive and practical for all.
In the event that the time you spend with your children can be agreed with or without the help of professionals, you will need to consider that moving out of the family home will be a big adjustment for everyone, but especially for the children.
A period of adjustment will be needed for everyone, and you will need your own support network to make sense of the changes that are taking place
There is so much to consider, however in our experience it is better for everyone and especially for the children, whose welfare should be central to all the decisions you make pertaining to your family, that all parties are as happy as possible, during these difficult first steps apart. The main beneficiaries of this will be the children.
If you choose to move out of the family home, there are additional practical considerations which we would recommend that you take:
Storage for your contents
Gaining entry to the property and access to your belongings may be difficult should communications with your wife be unamenable.
Participation in the day to day running of the family home
If you move out, you should consider the fact that you will no longer have control over a major family asset including any decisions about its upkeep, or access rights for sale viewings.
Being in a state of limbo
If you move out of the home, for both parties this can often remove any urgency they may have otherwise felt to resolve the matters in dispute.
I hope this broad brush advice helps, it is always best if you are unsure to seek further independent legal advice.
Good luck for the future.
If you need advice about your separation, or any other legal issue, you can contact Dan or one of our other trusted legal advisors here at Hill and Company by telephone on 0161 928 3201.