First 10 Steps
1. Take Care: If you have ever flown on an airplane, you have heard the flight attendant say something like, “if the oxygen masks drop from the ceiling, first put on yours before helping others.” This is good advice for anyone separating. Separation is as emotionally difficult as a death in the family. It is important that you look after yourself. Eat properly. Get exercise. Spend time with your extended family and friends. Go to church. Meditate or pray. Go to a counselor or therapist. Find a way to understand and come to terms with your feelings. We recommend you read a book by Abigail Trafford called Crazy Time. It is an excellent resource and will help you understand the emotions you are going through. In the end, remember that you need to be strong to begin the ascent.
2. Safety: Most spouses are upset during separation, but few are violent. If you are worried that your spouse may become violent, you must put together a safety plan immediately. You must ensure you have easy access to transportation so that you can get away quickly. Put a suitcase of clothes and other necessities for you and your children in your car or somewhere easily accessible. Have a plan as to where you will go or whom you can call for help. If you have access to a cellular phone, have it with you at all times. Ensure you have access to credit and money. In most cases, a rapid exit is not necessary, but it's better to be safe than sorry.
3. Joint Accounts: If you are worried that you spouse will use your joint funds or run up debt on joint credit cards or lines of credit, you need to contact the bank and freeze these accounts as soon as possible. Do it in writing and keep a copy of your letter. Note that some joint accounts require both account holders’ signatures to make changes – ask your bank about your account status. Also, remember that by freezing the account, you'll be limiting your access to the funds as well.
4. Collect Documents: We need proof of all assets and debts on the date of separation and date of marriage (if available). As a result, start collecting bank statements, RRSP statements, pay stubs, tax returns, Notices of Assessment, credit card statements and any other documentation you have regarding your financial affairs. Put these documents in a safe place.
5. Children: Start thinking about how much time the children will spend with each of you. Discuss your ideas with one of our lawyers before you discuss it with your spouse. We can share with you our insight from having helped hundreds of families in the same situation. If you and your spouse are on reasonably good terms, we recommend you attempt to negotiate an agreement regarding the children before one of you moves out. You will then be able to tell the children together about the separation and explain in detail when they will see each of you. This gives your children a sense of security about their future.
6. Household Contents: Make a list of everything in the house, including furniture, vehicles and personal items. Do a video of your home contents. List separately any gifts that were given to you or to your spouse by a third party. If that third party gift was to you, it's yours and outside of the equalization process. If it was a gift to both of you, then the value of the item should be divided in half. If you brought something into the marriage, it is yours to keep. Otherwise, everything else should be divided equally. If you and your spouse are on speaking terms, talk to him or her about your proposal regarding the division of the household contents. If you have questions, ask one of our lawyers at your initial consultation or follow-up appointment. They can help you approach this sometimes thorny issue and give you a different perspective.
7. Don't Fight and Don’t Seek Revenge: Separation is an emotional time. Tempers often flare. Be careful. Don't get into an argument that could lead to someone getting physically hurt. Nobody wants a criminal record. If you have children, it is especially important that you not argue in their presence as it can sometimes cause long-term psychological and emotional trauma. Also, if the reason of the separation was an affair, resist the urge to tell the children. This has also been proven to cause psychological distress even in adult children. Do not use your children for support.
8. Seek Employment: If you are not working and you are physically able to do so, then you need to start making plans for your future. One of our lawyers can speak to you about the possibility of getting spousal support (a monthly payment of money for you) from your spouse, but you must still try to become “economically self-sufficient” if possible. Consider whether you need to go back to school, seek employment or start you own business. You need a plan. Share your ideas with one of our lawyers and they will give you feedback.
9. Learn More: We have included some links to other web sites that may be helpful. Read this website. Read some of the many books on divorce and separation. Of course, seek support from your friends and family, but remember they are often the worst source of legal advice – so ask one of our lawyers if you have questions on legal matters. Often your more simple questions can be answered by one of our staff members, so call or email us with your questions. Stay away from negative influences and people who urge you to seek revenge. Learn the facts. We can help.
10. Meet with One of Our Lawyers: Our lawyers offer an initial consultation at the reduced rate of $190. He or she will meet with you for up to one hour to discuss your situation and give you advice particular to your own unique circumstances. He or she will share with you their knowledge of family law and their vast experience from working with hundreds of clients and families. You will learn about your rights and obligations, and your options. We will help give you direction and explain ways of resolving your legal issues without going to court. When you are ready, call (705) 727-4242 to make an appointment.