You think your marriage is good. Or maybe your marriage has been going through a bit of a rough patch lately, but you believe you’re still solid as a couple. Then your spouse says those words you never expected:
“I want a divorce.”
If this announcement comes out of the blue, it can knock you around a bit. You want to stay married, not get divorced. What can you do?
Talk to Your Spouse
Before you can take any action, you need to understand how serious your spouse is about separating and that means talking. Although it will be hard—especially if you didn’t see the problems in your marriage—you should be as calm and civil as possible during this conversation. You want answers and playing the blame game or yelling won’t encourage your spouse to open up.
Find out has he already made plans to move out—even just to a hotel until he rents a place—or is he thinking about a separation in a few months? Ask how long she’s been feeling this way and try to determine if there are changes that could be made to fix the issues. It’s also important to figure out if your spouse is willing to work on what’s gone wrong between the two of you. It could be that he or she has lost the willingness to try anymore. If your spouse isn’t willing to help save your marriage, you may have to accept a separation.
When Separation Is the Only Option
Suppose the issues your spouse has with your marriage can’t be fixed. Or suppose your spouse isn’t willing to try marriage counselling and instead, has moved out. In Ontario, once two spouses have lived apart for a year either one can apply to the court to be divorced. That separation indicates to the court there is a breakdown in marriage. What are your options now?
Your first step is to get professional legal advice as soon as possible. It is essential to understand your rights and protect them. There could be other issues that need to be resolved quickly, such as if you have children, a lot of family debt, or the financial stability of your household depends on your spouse’s income. A legal professional can guide you through the decisions and agreements that need to be made immediately as well as those that can possibly wait and be discussed when emotions aren’t so acute.
When your spouse moves out of the family home, you may want to consider negotiating a separation agreement. This document is a legal contract between you and your spouse that spells out how you will deal with your joint property, any support payments, and your children. A lawyer specializing in family law can ensure your rights are looked. You can also get advice on whether mediation or a collaborative approach are appropriate options for you and your estranged spouse to work out your agreement.
If you have a separation agreement, both you and your estranged spouse are legally obligated to follow the terms of the contract. These terms will remain in place until the two of you renegotiate them or a judge changes them.
Get the Support You Deserve
If your spouse has decided to leave your marriage, you deserve the support and expert advice of a legal professional specializing in family law. Don’t wait to protect yourself hoping your spouse changes his or her mind.
Galbraith Family Law lawyers are trained in Collaborative Practice, and we have been named the top firm by the Barrie Examiner multiple times. Our legal insights have also been featured in the Globe and Mail, as well as Lawyers Weekly.
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