Divorce can be a difficult and emotional ordeal, but there are steps you can take to help make the process smoother and less stressful.
As I mentally browse through my former client files, I realize that many people separating from their spouses are confused about the legal process or simply don’t know what to expect.
Being well-informed is the key to empowering yourself during a divorce. In this post, I will explain the key aspects to be aware of that can make the divorce process more peaceful, fair and as drama-free as possible.
Your rights and responsibilities
You have rights as well as responsibilities and understanding them early on will help with the many decisions that follow separation.
I have seen people remain in abusive relationships because they didn’t know what they were entitled to. Understanding your legal rights may provide a level of confidence to help you end a bad relationship.
For example, people are sometimes surprised to learn that a spouse’s pension is considered an asset, and as such, is included in the equalization of net family property. Spousal support may also be an option, depending on the specifics of your situation.
Clarify your priorities
There are many things to consider when approaching divorce, and I always recommend clients ask themselves some clarifying questions at the outset:
- How will you support yourself post-separation?
- What are your family’s financial needs?
- Do you want to remain in the family home and is that option feasible from a financial standpoint?
- What parenting schedule will work best for your children?
No matter how you get there you’ll need to assemble all your paperwork. The more work you do yourself, the less you’ll have to pay someone else to do it. Being organized and prepared can go a long way to reducing unnecessary legal fees.
You’ll likely need to complete a financial statement and will have to gather all your financial documents. That usually includes putting your hands on the last three years of income tax returns, the last three years of notices of assessment as well as recent pay stubs. It’s also a good idea to make a list of joint credit cards and credit lines along with their balances.
For those who are married, supporting documentation for all assets and debts existing on the date of marriage and the date of separation can be useful.
Being organized will also help in negotiations.
While common law spouses do not have the same property rights as married couples, there are remedies available, for example, if one party has made contributions to the home the couple lived in.
Common-law spouses should speak to a family law lawyer to help clarify their rights and responsibilities and obtain advice about their case.
There is more than one path to divorce, and these days more couples are opting for family mediation to avoid the adversarial approach for which family courts are so well known.
Mediation is a voluntary process that tends to be a faster and more cost-effective way of dealing with issues ranging from parenting arrangements to spousal support and property division. Mediation can be done with or without lawyers and can be terminated at any time.
Arbitration is another option that involves each spouse telling their side of the story to a neutral party (the arbitrator) and asking the arbitrator to decide. If all else fails, there’s litigation.
Cultivate a support network
Divorce is a significant life change that is almost always accompanied by big emotions. Having a network of people who can support you can make a big difference in how you weather the experience.
An approach I’ve found useful is to treat divorce negotiations like a business transaction, but this can be difficult to achieve when you’re still processing the anger, sadness and fear that often comes with a split.
Working through the grief and loss aspects of a divorce with a counsellor or therapist can enable parties to make decisions that will set their families up for success going forward.
If you are going through a separation or divorce and would like legal advice on your situation, schedule a consultation with me. I would be happy to help.