What do I do next?
You’ve split up. Whoever’s fault it is and whoever’s decision it is to part, you will probably find you are struggling to see the wood for the trees. Your emotions are on a roller coaster. You have a list as long as your arm of things you think you should be doing. You’re feel like you’re struggling to cope and you’re wondering what do I do next?
Give yourself a break and take some time to breathe. Go for a walk. Have a coffee in the garden. I was about a year further through my divorce than my best friend and I remember telling her that she’d be in a much better place in 12 months. I’m not sure that she believed me, but 12 months later and she was!
I would suggest starting with some easy wins. I love making lists and they’re even better when you can tick things off quickly. You may not have been the one who paid the bills, looked after the direct debits or sorted any of the household admin in the past, but now you are. So, let’s start here.
Running two households costs more than running one, so it is worth trying to reduce your monthly outgoings as soon as possible. Some easy ways to do that are shopping around for gas, electric, insurance, credit cards (more on this later) and internet/phone/TV. You are entitled to a 25% reduction in your council tax if you are the only adult in your home. So call the council! Ensure the bill is in your name and let them know that you are the sole adult occupant. Changing supermarkets can also be a simple way of saving money, or even just opting for own brands rather than premium.
Budgeting is important: what income do you have, what essential expenditure do you have and what expenditure can you cut out? The Money Advice Service have some brilliant advice, including a budget planner.
One of the things that seems to prey on many newly separated people’s minds is transport. Couples often choose to have only one car and so the separation means that another is now needed, particularly when you have children to taxi around. It is a good idea to think about what you need and whether you want to lease or buy.
It is a good idea to have your own bank accounts, separate to any joint accounts. You can use these accounts to pay your household bills, etc., leaving the joint accounts to be closed later. If you agree, you may be able to change your existing accounts.
Experiences of changing bank accounts from joint to sole names seem to vary depending on your bank. One bank requires both you and your former partner to meet with them in person, whereas another asks you to complete a form, ask your ex to sign it and drop it back in. This seems to be the luck of the draw, rather than banking protocol.
If it is at all possible, the arrangements for the children, at least in the short term, should be agreed between you. There is no right or wrong way to do this. However, I would suggest trying to meet away from home, without the children. Whatever you agree, you should stick to the agreements as far as possible and give the other person as much notice as possible if they need to change. If you find this impossible, contact a mediator. They should be able to help you to work out the best way forward, and come to an agreement.
These are all short-term measures, just to get you through the first few months, while you work out and agree longer term arrangements.
It is easy to view this stage as the end, but if you can think of it as an opportunity to start to design a new life for yourself and your family, you may find yourself being able to view your decisions more positively.
If you have enjoyed this blog, you may also enjoy “When will things get better?”.
Tamsin Caine is a Chartered Financial Planner at Smart Divorce. She specialises in working with separating or divorcing clients to help them to understand how to divide their finances to move forward with their lives. If you would like to speak to Tamsin or find out more about how she can help, email her at Tamsin@smartdivorce.co.uk or call her on 07975 922766.