Things to think about when you split up from a partner
This content applies to Scotland only.
Housing laws vary between Scotland and England. Get advice relating to England
Separating from a husband, wife or partner is never easy. Coping with your emotions, aswell as facing a lot of practical and potentially distressing decisions concerning your home, your financial circumstances and your children, will be difficult. This page provides an overview of the things you will need to think about.
This section on relationship breakdown is designed to help you work out your options and rights as regards the family home. It doesn't cover divorce proceedings or provisions for your children, but you can find more information about these topics on the Citizens Advice Scotland Adviceguide website. To find out more about ending (known as dissolution) civil partnerships, download the Adviceguide's factsheet.
You can download a checklist, which summarises the information on this page.
Counselling and mediation
You and your partner may find it hard to agree on how best to divide your property and responsibilities, especially if you are upset, angry or bitter about the break up. A counsellor may be able to help you come to terms with your feelings and end the relationship more amicably, although they cannot help you make decisions about your home or children. A mediator may be able to help you both come to an amicable arrangement about access and childcare, the family home and other issues. The page on counselling and mediation has contact details of agencies in Scotland.
What are my options?
If you and your partner are splitting up, you may decide that:
- one of you will remain living in your home and the other will move out
- you'll both leave and get new places - if you own your home, this means you will need to sell it and decide how to split the proceeds
- you'll carry on living together but as separate households - this may only be a temporary solution until you can afford to move on, or, if your split is amicable, it may be a more permanent situation.
Your options may also depend on the situation between you and your partner, for example if:
- your partner is abusive or violent towards you
- your partner wants you to leave the family home
- your partner has walked out on you.
How do we decide who should stay in the family home?
Who will stay in the family home will depend on your rights and on your personal circumstances, for example whether you are married, whether you have children or whether one of you uses your home as a business premises. It will also depend on whether your home is rented or owned. You'll also need to work out whether you can afford to stay on in the property on your own (see 'what about financial issues' below). If you are married or in a civil partnership, this decision will need to be made as part of the divorce or dissolution process.
We rent our home
If you're living in rented property, the person whose name is on the tenancy agreement doesn't necessarily have to be the person who stays there. You may be able to get the tenancy of the home transferred to the other partner.
We own our home
Likewise, the person who owns the home doesn't necessarily have to stay: you may be able to get ownership of the home transferred.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of staying in the home?
There are advantages and disadvantages to staying on in the home after your partner has moved out.
- You won't have to undergo the upheaval of moving home - this is particularly important if you have children.
- You won't have to move away from your work, family and friends, or children's school.
- The home may be too large and/or expensive for you to run on your own.
- If your partner has been violent or abusive to you, this may not be very safe, as they will know where you live.
- It may be harder to make a fresh start if you are still living in the home you shared.
What if we can't agree?
If you can't agree, you could consider mediation to help you come to a mutual decision. The page on counselling and mediation has information on agencies near you. A trained mediator can help you talk through your situation together and reach a satisfactory compromise. You should still discuss the outcome of any mediation sessions with a solicitor before coming to a final agreement.
If you are unable to agree on issues concerning your home, finances or children, you may have to take the matter to court. However, going to court can be expensive and upsetting, so it's best to try and sort things out between you if you can. If you are on benefits or a very low income, you may be entitled to legal aid to help cover legal costs.
If you are married and getting divorced or applying to get a civil partnership dissolved, these issues will be decided as part of the legal proceedings, but again, it will save you time, money and stress if you can come to an agreement without resorting to the courts.
The page on financial issues contains an overview of things you'll need to consider if you're splitting up from your partner. If you are getting divorced, the division of your finances will be settled as part of the divorce process. This also applies if you are getting a civil partnership dissolved.
If you had a joint mortgage with your partner, that will also have to be changed. Have a look at our section on changing your mortgage for more information.
When your situation changes like this, it's also important to think about making a will, or changing your existing will. The page on making a will in the section on buying a home has more information.
Separation agreements, divorce and dissolution
If you and your partner split up, you can consider instructing a solicitor to negotiate and draw up a separation agreement on your behalf. A separation agreement is a formal legal document detailing everything you and your partner have agreed about your joint affairs. A separation agreement can cover things like who gets the house, who will be responsible for paying off any joint debts and pension matters, as well as dealing with things like contact with your children if you have any.
A separation agreement is an option for you whether you are married, in a civil partnership or living with your partner. If you are married or in a civil partnership and intend to either get divorced or have your partnership dissolved, you can have a separation agreement drawn up before the divorce or dissolution is finalised. This might be especially useful if you don't intend to get divorced or have your partnership dissolved right away. A solicitor who specialises in family law will be able to explain your options in more detail.
Divorce and dissolution
If you are married or in a civil partnership and your relationship has broken down 'irretrievably' (in other words, if it has definitely come to an end) you may want to consider divorce or dissolution. If you decide to go down this route it will not happen quickly. It can be a long and complicated process and you should speak to a solicitor who specialises in family law for detailed advice.
If you are getting a divorce or dissolution the court will decide what happens to the family home, taking account of the financial position of both people in the marriage or civil partnership, along with the needs of any children.
If you have children their welfare will always be the main consideration for the court and this might influence the decision about who should continue to stay in the house. For example, if your children live with you in the family home the court may decide that you can stay there. The most important thing to remember is that there are no hard and fast rules - it depends on your individual circumstances.
If you don't have any children the court is more likely to order that your home be sold and the proceeds of the sale be divided between you and your ex-partner as appropriate. However, it will depend on your individual circumstances.
If you decide to move out, you will need to find a new place to live. If possible, try to find somewhere before you move out. The page on moving on and the section on finding accommodation can help you work out your housing options.
The section on moving home has more information on things you need to do and people and organisations you may need to contact if you are moving out.
If you end up with nowhere to stay, you can make a homeless application to the council. Depending on your circumstances, you may be entitled to permanent housing.