As soon as it is clear that a separation is going ahead (whether or not a divorce or civil partnership dissolution will follow immediately), try to agree urgent, short term financial matters with your spouse or civil partner. If you cannot agree or are worried your spouse or civil partner may deal with the finances without telling you, consider taking the following steps to protect your position:
- If the family home or other property is owned in your spouse or partner's sole name, you may want to register your interest at the Land Registry using a 'Matrimonial Homes notice' or a 'restriction' if you need to register an interest against a property that isn't the family home. This will protect you as far as possible from your spouse or civil partner trying to sell, transfer or mortgage the property without your knowledge or agreement. For more details, contact www.landreg.gov.uk/.
- Consider severing the joint tenancy - see Jargon made clear of any jointly held property - see Different Types of Ownership
- Contact your bank, credit card and any other providers, if you have joint accounts or loans. Explain what has happened and instruct them to stop your spouse or civil partner running up any new debts or withdrawing funds. If you decide to freeze the accounts it will have consequences for you both so make sure you consider this carefully. It will mean that you can't access the account either so you will need to make agreements to ensure you have access to cash whilst things are being sorted out. You will also need to make agreements to ensure that any joint bills can still be paid for example by direct debit or standing order.
- Change the password on any bank accounts and accounts with any gas, water or electricity providers or the serves or hire purchase agreements that you are responsible for.
- Change your password on your computers and email accounts to prevent access by your spouse or civil partner or others.
- Contact your landlord if you rent and if you alone want to stay in your current home. You may be able to arrange to continue the tenancy in your name alone - see Living arrangements for details of how to do this.
- Contact your lender if you have a mortgage whether in your name or jointly. Explain what has happened and discuss how you'll manage the mortgage repayments.
- Check whether you are eligible for tax credits and state benefits by talking to the Tax Credits Office and Jobcentre Plus. For help understanding your entitlement and claiming benefits, go to Directgov's online benefit advisor tool or contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
- Apply to the court for an injunction to stop your spouse or civil partner from disposing, transferring or selling assets or from moving assets abroad if this would prevent a fair settlement. This is a complex area of law, often needing urgent action without first informing your spouse or civil partner. If you have concerns about what your spouse or civil partner may be doing with their assets then speak to a solicitor urgently.