First steps after separation

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Wondering if anyone can help, a family member has had her husband walk out on her after 25+ years of marriage.  He has left to live with another woman.  What are the first steps she should take. There are no dependant children at home, but she doesn't have a job so no source of income, at the moment he pays for everything from his salary.   
We are unsure as yet of what his intentions are, he hasn't said and at the moment everything is so raw she can't eat/sleep yet alone ask what his plans are. 
As her family we want to support her but have no idea what the first steps are.  I have tried ringing Citizens Advice but can't get through to anyone.

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  • bouicca21
    bouicca21 Posts: 6,519 Forumite
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    Get her over to Wikivorce.  Lots of advice plus, just as important, support from those who have been through it.
  • FabFifty
    FabFifty Posts: 146 Forumite
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    First step - appointment with solicitor to discuss divorce.

    Also, copy/photograph all paperwork that proves his income/savings & similar.

    Limited information on the Citizens Advice website: www.citizensadvice.org.uk/family/how-to-separate1/deciding-what-to-do-when-you-separate

  • willowcat27
    willowcat27 Posts: 105 Forumite
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    bouicca21 said:
    Get her over to Wikivorce.  Lots of advice plus, just as important, support from those who have been through it.
    Wow - thank you so much for telling me about Wikivorce. I hadn't heard of it but have just had a quick look and it's amazing how much information is on there.  I can see that my afternoon will be spent reading everything and I will definitely pass this on.
    Thank you, I really appreciate it - I was beginning to feel quite lost for a moment back there.
  • TBagpuss
    TBagpuss Posts: 11,205 Forumite
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    It would be sensible for her to speak to a solicitor. Realistically, if he has moved out to live with another woman then it's highly unlikely thast he is coming back so she should start palnning for a divorce, and step one is knowing her options and what to expect.
    Wikivorce can be very useful but it's not a replacement for proper, profesional legal adivce.

    Many family solicitors will offer an initial free meeeting so she can find someone she feels able to talk to and is comfortable with.

    It would be semnsible for her to start getting together her finacial information - things like getting a fee for what the house is worth, making lists of other assets sdhe is a ware of such as any pensions she or her husbad have, what she knowns about his earnings etc.

    Assumingthat things like the mortgage are in joint banames, make sure that she has access to and is checking the accounts regualrly. Right now her husbad is probably feeling guilty and is still paying, but that may wear off, so it's importnat that she has access and cen see striaght away if he stops paying or reduces what he pays.

    She should be able to apply for a sinlge persona's discount to bring down the councik tax bill.

    How old is she, and when did she last have a job? Unless she is already at retirement age she is goingto need to start looking for a job so she can become finacially self sufficient - all other considerations aside, having a job will give her more options when it comes to future housing choices, even a  relatively small income will create a bit of mortgage capacity. 

    She has obviously had a shock and shoukld not agree to any proposals he might make, too soon. As a minimum, of he suggests things like selling the house, or says he will give' her certain assets, she needsto talk to a solicitor before agreeing. All assetsd eother of them have including any in one persons sole name will be part of the 'pot' to be divided up, and if he is the higher earner she may end up being ntitled to more than 50%, so dont assume that any offer he makes is fair or reasonable. 

    If her name is not on the house she should register her matrimonial home rights asap. 

    If he has just walked out and she was not expecting it then she should give herself time to come to terms with it before she makes ANY big decisions. She might find it usful to talk to a counsellor to help her deal with the shock and emotional backlash. 

    Check out www.entitledto.co.uk to see whether she is eligable ti laim any benefits in the short term. Obviosly if he is paying the mortgage then she can't claim for that, and she would have to declare as hers 50% of any joint accounts, but it is possible, depending on the corcumstnaces, that she may be eligable for something, until she is able to find a job. 
    All posts are my personal opinion, not formal advice Always get proper, professional advice (particularly about anything legal!)
  • elsien
    elsien Posts: 32,918 Forumite
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    How old is she, and when did she last work? Do they have joint bank accounts/mortgage or is the property mortgage free? 
    She needs to think short term and long term - how will she manage for the next weeks/months, and then what happens after that? 
    All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

    Pedant alert - it's could have, not could of.
  • Jude57
    Jude57 Posts: 554 Forumite
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    Contact the Council Tax department to claim Single Person Discount as there's now only one adult living in the house.

    Check entitledto.co.uk to see what other benefits she might be entitled to claim and put the claim in immediately so that there's as little time as possible with no income. She'll probably be entitled to claim Universal Credit. The claim can always be cancelled at any point if it turns out she doesn't need to claim benefits but it's much harder to backdate a claim if she does need them. I'd also recommend having a look at the Benefits board here, too as there are lots of knowledgeable posters there who can guide you.

    Your family member doesn't have to make any irrevocable decisions yet and of course she'll still be feeling very raw but it's important she gets some guaranteed income and, at this point, benefits are her best option. It's unlikely that she'd be given spousal support for life but much depends on her age and earning capability. Remember, Universal Credit can also be paid if you earn a low wage, and it's a passport to things like Council Tax reduction, free prescriptions/dental/optical treatment, too, so very important to claim ASAP.

    Most women without dependants or extreme disabilities would be expected to eventually find paid work so I'd also recommend your family member contacts her local Jobcentre. Not only to claim Employment Support Allowance but because she'd also get National Insurance credits towards her State Pension. As well as that, there will be courses she can go on to help prepare her to rejoin the workforce and, despite their poor public image, I've found Jobcentre staff generally very helpful.


  • MalMonroe
    MalMonroe Posts: 5,783 Forumite
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    edited 23 May 2022 at 5:43PM
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    Hi, I'm so sorry to hear this, the same thing happened to me after a 22 year relationship many years ago and I had a 9 year old to raise alone as well.

    I did have a part time job at the time but wasn't aware that since I had a child, I could have claimed benefits, so that's definitely something to look into, as others have suggested. I was lucky enough to be able to swap my part time job for a full time one. But then had to find childcare and pay for it. If only someone had have told me what I was entitled to. . .  still, I do feel proud that I made it on my own. 

    I was utterly devastated when he left me for someone else and found that talking to friends and anyone else who would listen was invaluable. They didn't even have to say anything. And I think just getting everything off her chest will help your relative.

    The fact that she's waiting for him to let her know what his intentions are is very telling. It sounds as if he's just been running the whole show during their marriage. Now is the time for your relative to start saying what SHE wants and what SHE is going to do. It really doesn't matter what his plans are. Now your relative needs to start looking after herself and her own best interests.

    I know it's a horrible time because I've been through it. And as a single parent. But I didn't let him dictate what was going to happen, especially after he'd had the nerve to freeze our joint current bank account! How dare he??  I was more furious than upset after that happened.

    Seeing a solicitor is a must, too, so that your relative can start the ball rolling for a divorce which is of benefit to her rather than him. 

    I've never heard of wikivorce before but having just had a look at their site, I think it would have been really helpful for me. As you say, lots of advice and information. 

    I think it's great that your relative has you to support her, and wish her all the very best for the future. As bleak as things may seem now, she will survive and come through the experience a much stronger person. I feel I did, anyway. I certainly don't think I'd have gone back to Uni to get my degree for one thing, if I'd still been married. Once I got used to looking after myself and standing up for myself and supporting my daughter, things weren't so bad. It's just, as you said, all very raw at the beginning. 
    Please note - taken from the Forum Rules and amended for my own personal use (with thanks) : It is up to you to investigate, check, double-check and check yet again before you make any decisions or take any action based on any information you glean from any of my posts. Although I do carry out careful research before posting and never intend to mislead or supply out-of-date or incorrect information, please do not rely 100% on what you are reading. Verify everything in order to protect yourself as you are responsible for any action you consequently take.
  • RAS
    RAS Posts: 32,774 Forumite
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    Does she have her own independent bank account? How much is in any shared bank accounts?

    Withdraw a small amount of cash immediately, in case ex freezes any joint ones. 
    If she doesn't have her own bank account open a new basic bank account immediately, either with someone like Co-op or Barclays. These do not require a credit check but do require ID and evidence of her address so pick a bank that is physically close if needs be.
    Who pays her phone/internet costs? These could be terminated if it is ex. 
    Check entitledto and make a UC claim even if it's later closed.
    Get copies of all joint bank statements. Read the utility meters. Check for any details of other assets like pensions.
    If the house is in his name, register matrimonial rights, if joint, join the Land Registry alerts system. 
    Apply for the Single Person's Council Tax discount,
    If she is of working age (under 66), look for work even if it's initially part-time.

    And then get a session with a good solicitor, even if she later DIYs, so she knows her rights.
    See her GP and see if she can get any counselling if she's struggling as you suggest.

    It's a huge shock and she will be bereft in the proper meaning of the word. Recognise that recovery is a staged process, and she will experience different emotions at different times and it's important that she can step back a bit to secure her future rather than get overwhelmed. 
    The person who has not made a mistake, has made nothing
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