Your options for legal or financial advice on separation if you were cohabiting

Money Advice Service

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 might 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 can’t talk about who should look after the children or how you will divide your money, mediation may not be suitable.

It’s also not appropriate where there has been domestic abuse, including where one partner is controlling or intimidating. A mediator will tell you whether your situation is suitable for mediation.

Mediators can’t 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:

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
  • 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:

Using a collaborative family lawyer

Collaborative family lawyers are specially trained solicitors who can help you reach an agreement through a series of meetings with your ex-partner. You and your ex-partner will each hire 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.
  • Meetings are face-to-face with all four of you present.

They are not often used when cohabiting couples split up because the costs can be high.

You can find a collaborative family lawyer:

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’.

The right accountant will be expert in valuing businesses – which a lawyer would not usually have experience of doing. However, the costs can be high, especially for a forensic accountant.

You can find a chartered accountant:

Using an actuary

An actuary is unlikely to be used by cohabiting couples who separate because – unlike divorce or dissolution – one partner doesn’t have to share their pension with the other. But if you want your pension to be taken into account when dividing assets, an actuary might 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.

You can find an independent financial adviser on ourChoosing a financial adviser page, or for financial advisers based in England or Wales who are accredited as experts in separation on the Resolution website.

If you separate and are not married or in a civil partnership, you still might have to pay legal fees. If you can’t pay them from your savings or income, learn what other options you have in our How to pay legal fees when you separate if you were cohabiting guide.

This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.

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