Nobody goes into a relationship with plans for a future separation, so when things go wrong, few couples are prepared.  The end of a relationship, no matter how amicable, is fraught with emotions, whether it’s sadness, grief or, where there’s been friction, anger or fear.

That can make it difficult to discuss what happens next.  However hard it may be, there are a few key issues that, if considered early on, could pave the way to reach an amicable split.

1: Finances

This is always a touchy subject, but must be tackled.  Immediate issues such as where you will be living and who will pay the mortgage, rent or bills while the overall financial settlement is sorted out, should be agreed at an early stage.  If there are children, it can be devastating to have to cope with moving house straight away, as well as dealing with their parents’ separation.

It may be necessary for you to continue to live under the same roof, in which case some ground rules need to be set at the outset and respected.

Simply cutting all financial support may be tempting to those feeling bitter or hurt, but is likely to lead to mortgage or rent arrears and even repossession of the family home.  Your spouse might be forced to claim maintenance through formal channels, which is unlikely to set a good background for future discussions.

Benefits may be available to one of you now that you are living separately and can take the immediate pressure off you both financially, while the longer-term arrangements are worked out.

Good communication about who is to use a bank account or credit card, who will be responsible for any big payments coming up, e.g. a holiday booked before the decision to split was made, can also avoid misunderstandings or financial problems.

2: Children

Continuity is key for the children and usually keeping in touch with both parents and the extended family on both sides is essential, even where one parent has moved out of the family home.  In situations where domestic violence is an issue, expert advice at an early stage is needed.  Try and agree the arrangements for the immediate future, even if the long-term situation is unclear.

Take advice from organisations, such as Kids in the Middle or Family Lives, about how to talk the children through the decision to separate.  This will help to reassure them that they are not to blame and are still loved by both parents.

It is vitally important to remember that the children should not be involved in your dispute, so talking to them about the issues that you are struggling to agree on or making comments about the other parent is unhelpful and can cause children unnecessary anxiety.

3: Joint possessions

If one of you is leaving the home temporarily, are there any items which they wish or need to take with them now?  If there are children, it is usually better for the home to remain as normal as possible in the immediate aftermath of a decision to separate, rather than to be stripped of furniture or items which the children may enjoy using.

Who should use the family car?  If it’s necessary to share it while long-term plans are made a decision will need to be made that gives both partners reasonable use.

Dividing the contents of the house can be a surprisingly emotive subject, so, ideally, it is best left until later on, after emotions have settled and it is clear where everyone will be living.

4: Communication

Plans for how to keep the lines of communication open are especially important when kids are involved.  This includes when it’s OK to call the other at work and when it’s not.  Children need to feel that Mum and Dad may not be living together, but they’re not actively out to hurt each other.

If there are no children involved things may be different, but being able to communicate without things descending into insults is important.  What could you do to keep things on a ‘grown-up’ level?

If you really find all this just too much to handle, you may benefit from a mediation session with an unbiased third-party who can help you both to deal with the practicalities and manage the emotional issues.