The decision to separate may be the hardest you ever make. Once you tell your spouse you want to separate or once your spouse breaks the news to you, it’s confusing to decide what to do, what NOT to do, how to prepare, and the implications of your doing or not doing certain things. I’ve compiled a step-by-step list of how you should start preparing to deal with your separation and divorce
1. Go to the bank to start compiling your financial disclosure. You will need a list of all of your assets and debts, as well as the values of each, for 3 separate dates: Your date of marriage, date of separation, and current date.
2. If you don’t know where they are or have misplaced them, contact the CRA to request copies of your last three (3) years of Notices of Assessments and Reassessments, if any. You will need these if you go to Court, if you participate in Mediation or Arbitration, and also if you want to do a Separation Agreement. So it’s better to be prepared and have them ready to go, as it could take the CRA some time to get them out to you.
3. Similarly, have your last three (3) years of Income Tax Returns ready. If you don’t have them on hand, contact your accountant to get a copy.
4. Things may start to get heated at home as tensions and anxieties rise. Don’t scream or yell in front of your children, and definitely, do not ask them questions like who they want to live with. In other words, do not under any circumstances involve your children in your separation and divorce, and be very vigilant not to expose them to any adult conflict. This is not in their best interest.
5. Don’t turn to social media to vent about your ex or post pictures of you out and about to get your spouse jealous. The world of social media is dangerous and can be used against you in negotiations and also in Court. Be very careful of what you post and if in doubt about whether to publish that picture or angry status update, press delete instead of enter.
6. Keep the status quo at home as is until you speak to your lawyer and get advice on what to do (and perhaps more importantly, what not to do). You stopping paying expenses at home or for the family can put your spouse and children in financial hardship, and can create unnecessary issues about post-separation date adjustments. This may end up costing you more in legal fees to calculate than the amount of the expense in the first place. Not to mention the degree of hostility it may create if either spouse was put into a situation of hardship that could have been avoided.
7. If you have extended health benefits available from work on which your spouse and children are already listed as beneficiaries, especially if the coverage is being paid for by your employer, do not remove them.
8. Start thinking about the parenting arrangement you want for your children and what access timings are best for your children and you and your spouse. Also start thinking about whether you want to buy out your spouse’s interest in the family home, find another property to purchase or rent, or whether you want to sell the Home.
However, before negotiating with your spouse or providing settlement proposals, speak to a lawyer to make sure you understand your rights, obligations, as well as the potential benefits and consequences of your decisions. Agreeing to something and then changing your mind can put a sour taste in your spouse’s mouth and can damage what could have otherwise been a cooperative separation process.
9. Before taking any significant steps such as moving out with or without the children, stopping payment of your share of the expenses, listing the Matrimonial Home for sale, or clearing out bank accounts, etc., make an appointment to speak to a lawyer. While you may think some of these actions are protecting you, the reality is that they can be very harmful to you without you even knowing it. You want to be sure that you act in a way that protects your rights and is best for you and your family going forward.
10. Finally, stay calm, cool and collected. You are starting a new chapter in your life and your children are transitioning from one home to two. Do your best at making the transition as seamless as possible and staying on good terms with your ex. It will help in the long run.