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Where to turn for help?
Episode 11st August 2022 • Splitting Up • Joanne Major
00:00:00 00:15:50

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In this first episode of Splitting Up Dot Pod we hear Mandy's separation story.

For year Mandy suffered mental torture and financial abuse before the discovery of her husband's gambling debts led her to leave him. She didn't know where to turn, but luckily had her friend Joanne Major - a family lawyer and founder of - who was able to help.

Many people facing separation don't know where to turn, so we hear from Joanne about the kind of help that's available and how to cut through the confusion of the internet to get real help from professional people.


Mena 0:14

Hello there and welcome to the very first episode of splitting up dot pod, a podcast to help those of you who are going through a breakup and not knowing where to turn. My name is Mena Ruparel. In the coming episodes, we will hopefully show you that you're not alone, and however complicated life appears right now, and how little help there seems to be, there are people out there who can help. Everybody's experience is different. But if you're going through this for the first time, it can be terrifying. We will feature a number of client's stories, looking at the challenges they have faced and the issues they have struggled with and how they are coming through it. We will then talk to an expert, whether it's in family law, financial advice, mediation, relationship counselling, or someone you perhaps never knew existed but could help you get through the trauma of a big separation. They'll give free advice and answer some of the most frequently asked questions they hear every day.

Mena 1:19

The podcast is a spinoff from the website, which is a new one stop shop for online separation advice. All the experts we chat to here are on the long list of advisors on the site, and who you'll be able to contact for a first consultation. Our aim is to help you navigate what Joanne Major, the founder of calls "the jigsaw of separation, where there are so many pieces which all look so similar at the start, but all come together in the end." Joanne's an award winning family lawyer in the North East of England. She's a friend of mine, and a friend of Mandy, the first person we want to introduce you to who, like everyone, faced a unique set of problems that seemed so overwhelming she almost stayed in an abusive relationship. Mandy is not her real name, but you'll understand why she wants to remain anonymous. Her husband controlled the household finances, taking and spending her wages each month. But it turns out he was a gambler who had stacked up huge debts and put the whole family at risk. Mandy had no idea where to turn except to her friend Joanne

Mandy 2:35

It was horrendous. It was literally horrific. I had suicidal thoughts, I'd gone up to 22 Stone - I had put in any 12 stone on my marriage, and I was, you know, kept with a hand over me constantly, but I didn't really see it, you know, I just thought, oh, you know, it's amazing life amazing husband. And you know what? It wasn't. I was mentally tortured, financially abused. And you know, those were the darkest days thinking, should I leave? Should I go? Do I stay for financial reasons? Do I stay for my daughter? Do I live in hell for any longer than I needed to?

Mandy 3:11

And really just know which way to turn and where to go. You feel silly, sometimes talking to family and friends and, you know, maybe going back every time, so I’d tried to do this before - didn't have the strength to leave at the time - and every time I went back, it just got worse and worse, the name calling, the financial abuse, the torture, the narcissism. And one day, it was money - money worries - I found a lot, a lot of debt. And I thought right I have to leave I'm going to lose everything. Not only going to lose myself, but going to lose my family, my daughter, going to probably lose me because I'm not going to have the strength to probably stay alive. And then one day I just made the decision to just wake up and go.

Mandy 3:55

I got a locksmith and change the locks – I was a little bit naughty. I had to, because I had to be safe under my roof with my daughter. I blocked all contact with my ex-partner and went straight to a solicitor and I tried to keep my head held high and you know, knew I was going to go through with it.

Mandy 4:16

But where to turn, what to do afterwards was probably the hardest thing: thinking where do I go? Who do I speak to? What's out there? For help for myself to be the best mum I can be, financial reasons, health reasons, mental health, mortgage, home.

Mandy 4:38

I had Joanne, so I was really, really lucky to have such a wonderful friend by my side who was also a divorce lawyer whereas a lot of people aren't going to have that, are they? I wouldn't have had a clue what to do. I probably would have lost everything because there was no other help out there

Mandy 4:56

It was in lockdown I had no income so I was thinking which way do I turn to? What do I do? Can I afford to stay in the house with a mortgage? So I used Google quite a lot. There wasn't a lot but I had to just read on Google really. So this is why I always think it's so much easier to go back - that's what you think in that time because there's no help - there's nothing there.20And when I left you know there were days I didn't want to get out of bed but I had to, and I just kept going and kept going.

Mandy 5:33

ve a mortgage on my own.Mandy:

Mena 6:19

So that was Mandy story. Thanks so much for sharing it with us, Mandy. It's been a tough few years. But it's so great to hear that you're through the worst of it. There are quite a few things in what Mandy shared that we are keen to pick up on. It seemed like there were so many questions, but nowhere to go to start trying to answer them. And seeing as this is our very first episode, it's only right we start by hearing from Joanne Major of Major Family Law - a niche specialised family law practice in the North East of England. Jo is an award winning family lawyer, and as I mentioned, is the person behind and this podcast SplittingUp Dot Pod. Hi, Joe. Welcome. And that's very much for joining me, you have a huge amount of experience in this field, haven't you?

Joanne 7:06

Hi, Mina, thank you for the introduction. Yes, I am a divorce and family law specialist, a lawyer and have been practising exclusively in the area of family law, divorce family breakdown for the last 26 years. So I would like to think that I do know an awful lot about the area of splitting up

Mena 7:24

know that you won an award in:

Joanne 7:41

Having having practised exclusively in the area of divorce and family law for the last 26 years, I've dealt with many initial free consultations with clients - it's something that we do routinely - and during those consultations, it's quite apparent that when people are considering a breakdown of a relationship or splitting up for the first time, they often just don't know where to start. So they don't know who to approach, who's an expert, who really knows what they're talking about, and as Mandy said in her discussion earlier, she was lucky, I guess, in a sense that she knew me personally. So therefore it was easy for her to approach me to seek advice: what are the things that she needs to start thinking about, even before necessarily making the decision to end the relationship. So it's based on experience of people not knowing who to turn to, on where to go, when they're faced with a challenge of a potential breakdown in their relationship.

Mena 8:41

The Internet can be a bit hit and miss can't it when it comes to information? There's a lot out there.

Joanne 8:47

I think the internet is tremendous, but I think it provides too many choices. So there's too many choices, too much information. And where do you start looking? Do you start looking in your area? Do you start looking for the word expert? Is it the best family lawyer, the best divorce lawyer, and people just don't really know what to do. It's awash with information, so therefore, how do you dilute that information and make it accessible for people to understand about who to approach, who are the right people, and that was really part of the reason for creating It was to essentially bring all of the relevant and necessary experts and supporting organisations that people may need when they are considering a breakdown of a relationship or they're splitting up, into one place.

Joanne 9:34

So rather than maybe making ten different Google searches and finding ten different lawyers in your area or out of the area and based on cost and how people look and what it is they're saying about themselves, but it's really to try and help narrow those choices so that people know that they are speaking to an expert and not just a divorce or family lawyer. Also it's the supporting services that are often required when people are splitting up and that's the reason really for creating this full service site, because it's all of the supporting organisations that really, people often need when they're considering going through this process for the first time.


So if I got this right, splitting is a hub of information. So lots of information from the law side, but also these experts that you've got, that people will need to contact during the course of their relationship breakdown. Because it's really complicated, isn't it? And particularly when it comes to finance? There are there are lots of different options for people to think about. So how does the website help in that respect?


Sure. Well, I suppose in some ways, it's empowering people to get information themselves and to start thinking about the bigger picture if they're splitting up. So rather than just putting the call in to the lawyer, it's perhaps looking at all of the other things they're going to have to think about on their journey. So for example, as Mandy was saying earlier, one of the concerns that she had was in relation to her daughter, and she was concerned about the relationship that the daughter was going to have following the breakdown, because she'd been in a very difficult relationship. She described it as being quite an abusive relationship. And so does that impact on the daughter, the relationship between daughter and father is different between husband and wife. And that's an interesting dynamic.


And sometimes people need to talk to other people, not just lawyers, or family or friends, because sometimes people can get too involved in those discussions. Often, I'll give advice to clients that maybe you should have a discussion with a mediator, or if somebody is particularly vulnerable, it might be helpful at the early stage, to maybe find yourself a divorce coach, or a Relationship Consultant, or some well-being, some support that you need, and there's lots of different organisations out there, counselling services, but people particularly tailored to the breakdown of marriage, who could really help. And people sometimes don't even know that these different organisations and supporting services are there to help them in these early stages?


Yeah, of course, if people are going through this for the first time, they're not going to know where to start, are they? So the place to start is going to be And of course, it may be that they don't need to do anything other than in the first instance, look at the information, get familiar with some of the terminology, have a think about what they're going to do. But what if they get to a point when they think I really need to speak to somebody? Are there people that listeners of this podcast can speak to?


Absolutely, the websites been created with a list of experts, it's in a simplistic, easy to navigate style. And there's a grid of experts in their field of all of the different supporting roles that people might be able to help people facing a splitting up for the first time. And if you want to have a consultation with a specialist, divorce and family lawyer or a child or expert, or a mediator, the website's been created in such a way that you just simply have to press the contract for information and you can be diverted to speak to one of the experts to support you, in that particular area where you're needing assistance.


That's great Jo. So there are definitely faces and names, so that the listeners can contact those people have a look at the Q&A, have a look at the information that's free on the website, speak to somebody if they want to, and I know that that you've already said that you've spoken to lots of clients over the years. And this website is a combination of the most frequently asked questions. So the information on the website is is really a great wealth of your information over the years that you've gathered together?


Yes, absolutely. I mean, one of one of the things that we often do, by way of an initial consultation with a client, and I'm sure I'm like many lawyers, it's gathering information about the person. So for example, in Mandy's case, what are all of the issues that she's facing when she's considering a potential divorce or separation from a spouse? Because the issues are different for different people. So some people might have financial issues. For some people, it might be a second marriage, and they might have concerns about how would they protect adult children of a previous marriage if they're going to be separating from a spouse? There could be issues about behaviours, controlling behaviours, there could be debt issues like Mandy explained earlier. And so therefore, all of the supporting services that have been listed on lead to an expert who should be able to support that person on that journey.


Thanks very much, Jo. That's been really great advice. That's Joanne Major, family lawyer, and creator of, which you can head to now for more information. Thanks to Mandy for sharing her story, and thanks to you for listening to the first episode of splitting up dot pod.


If you found this helpful, please share it and sign up for the series wherever you get your podcasts We'll be covering a whole range of topics. The next episode will dig into some of the financial issues Mandy raised. And if you have a situation you'd like to talk about on this podcast, or an experience you've already been through that you'd like to share, please drop us a line through And we'll get one of our experts to help you and others going through similar experience.