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Starting to Separate


Before you begin

In some unhealthy relationships, one person has more power than the other. This can affect how well you and your partner communicate and cooperate as you separate, and it can show up as abusive behaviours. Your and your family’s safety may be at risk.

If your partner makes you feel anxious or threatened, you should get help. If you are in immediate danger, dial 999 for the police. Women can call the freephone National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 at any time. Man can call the Men’s Advice Line on 0808 801 0327 which helps men suffering domestic abuse.

Getting started

We’ve decided to end our relationship. What’s next? There’s a lot to think about and understand. This tool will help you think about what’s going to be required of you in your separation or divorce and what to do next.  

You’ll answer some questions about your relationship, family life, and living arrangements. You’ll identify the issues you and your ex-partner will need to focus on. You’ll learn about the law, what legal processes you need to follow and find out where to get high quality information to support your unique situation. You’ll also assess how you and your ex-partner can work together to resolve your family matters and make arrangements for the future. You may be able to discuss and decide issues by yourselves, and you may need some help to make good arrangements for your lives apart. 

You’ll get a personalised summary that you can download or print out.  It’s completely anonymous, free and should only take you around 15 minutes to complete. 


87.1% of users of the Starting to Separate tool were satisfied or very satisfied with the information and support they received

(based on usage up to 9th September 2020)

What do you think of Separation Planner?

We’ve put together a survey that gives you the opportunity to tell us what you think. We will use your information to understand better how our users use the service and to help us improve it for users in the future.

We use the term ‘(ex-)partner’

Throughout we use the phrase ‘(ex-)partner’ for your husband, wife, civil partner, or partner you have lived with. If your relationship has broken up, we consider the other party to be your ex-partner.

Your family, living arrangements and the law

The next questions look at your relationship, family life, living arrangements and where you are in your separation journey. Answering these questions and reading the information that follows them will help you understand some of the fundamental issues to sort out when you separate or divorce.

Where are you in your separation journey?
Are you and your ex-partner married, living together (cohabiting) or in a civil partnership?
Do you and your ex-partner have children together?
Do you or your ex-partner have children from another relationship?
How old are the children you and/or your ex-partner are responsible for?
(Tick all that apply)
Do you still jointly rent or own a family home(s) with your ex-partner?
(Tick all that apply)
Do you have a plan for how you'll manage your money and belongings?

Priority matters

The next set of questions will help you think about things that may make your separation or divorce more difficult to manage. There may be issues you need to prioritise and address first. In particular, your personal safety during separation. You may benefit from expert input to resolve issues. You’ll see your answers together with relevant information for you in your summary report all of which are completely confidential.

Do any of the following priority issues apply to your situation?
Complex family finances could include a significant pension fund, large investments, multiple properties, a high level of wealth (income or capital), foreign assets and/or complicated tax implications.
You/your ex-partner usually or always lives outside England and Wales and it’s where you are settled (e.g. it’s where your home is, where your car is registered, and where your financial arrangements are set up)
Debt is considered to be any household or consumer debt. This includes overdrafts, loans (including personal loans, business, car loans, student loans), your mortgage, hire purchase, credit cards, store cards or taxes you owe.
Addiction is not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you. It’s associated with gambling, drugs and alcohol, but it's possible to be addicted to anything, including work, internet use, solvents and shopping.
(Tick all that apply. However, if none of these apply to your situation, simply move on to the next question)
You said there’s a problem with debt for either you or your ex-partner. Which of these describes your situation?
For example: if one or both has a debt management plan, Individual Voluntary Arrangement, or is in bankruptcy.
Are you concerned you're in an abusive relationship with your ex-partner?
If you answer 'Yes' or 'I'm not sure' to the following question we'll include some information about abusive relationships in your report. It may be necessary to carefully consider your safety and the safety of any children, if you're separating from an abusive relationship.
Are you in danger now?

Working through separation together

The success of your separation will depend on how well you and your ex-partner can work together and manage any conflict.

It can be expensive and emotionally stressful if you can’t agree workable and fair arrangements and you end up in court. The next set of questions will help you think about how ready and willing you and your ex-partner to make decisions together. You can find out about sources of help to make good arrangements for your lives apart and resolve matters out of court. 

Working with your ex-partner to agree how you can live apart can be emotionally draining and hard work. So the questions also encourage you to think about who might be able to support you emotionally and practically in this time.

Are you willing to compromise and negotiate to reach an agreement on living apart?
Are you both willing to share all the financial information needed to make a good separation agreement?
Do both you and your ex-partner accept that your relationship is over?
Are there friends or family who can support you practically and emotionally during your separation or divorce?

Further information and help

Would you like to get further information and resources for any of the following?
(Tick all that apply. However, if none of these apply to your situation, simply move on to the next question)

Thank you to The Legal Education Foundation for supporting this work.

The Legal Education Foundation logo

Check your situation with our assessment tools

  • Safe to Separate

    Everyone has arguments from time to time. When you are separating these can become more frequent. But sometimes one partner is more dominant in the relationship than the other. This can create unhealthy relationships and lead to behaviours that are abusive potentially putting you and your children at increased risk of harm.

    This tool helps you to think about your relationship and consider your safety risks. It gives you an action plan to help you all stay safe during separation.

    woman with head in hands
  • Ready to Separate

    Whether you are you are just going through separation or have been separated for a while, this tool can help you get some clarity and help you think about what to do next.

    You’ll answer some questions about your relationship and family life. You’ll learn about separation, the law, and you'll find support and guidance to help make this difficult time easier for you and your family.

    couple fighting on bed

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