Denial can play a big role in not recognizing the telltale signs of a troubled marriage and cause some people to be unprepared for a separation or divorce. The preparations you make in anticipation of separating from your spouse or ending the marriage through a divorce are as important as were the preparations and planning that went into your wedding. Here are five steps to take to protect your legal rights during an emotionally unsettling time.
Know what you want before moving forward
If there is uncertainty about the decision to separate or end the marriage, resolve it before one of you leaves the house or divorce proceedings begin. Seek professional counseling to make certain of your commitment to the decisions about your marriage. Reconciliation after a separation or a divorce could be difficult or impossible to achieve.
Gather documents and information about finances and assets
This is a stressful time, so it pays to take some time to make a list of the assets and debts you and your spouse acquired during your marriage that would be divided between you and your spouse as part of a separation and divorce. Make a separate list of the debts and assets that each of you brought into the marriage or received during the marriage through gifts or inheritances from third parties that might not be subject to a division of property.
Your lists should include the date of acquisition of the asset or debt, its value when first acquired and an estimate of its current value. The lists should take into account the following:
- Real property
- Retirement accounts
- Bank accounts and brokerage accounts
- Household contents
- Valuable items, including works of art and antiques
- Mortgages and loans
- Credit cards
Gather deeds, banks statements and other documentation for all of the assets and debts on the lists you prepared. You should also make copies income tax returns along with paystubs or earnings records for both you and your spouse. Locating these records now before they are removed by your spouse will help your lawyer protect your rights.
Create an emergency fund
Divorce or separation can be expensive. Apart from the cost of retaining a lawyer to represent you, you will need money to pay for food, housing and other expenses that you previously shared with your spouse. Start putting money aside as soon as you realize you might be getting a divorce or separating from your spouse.
Make your relationship with your children a priority
Do not involve your children in your marital problems, and refrain from making negative comments about your spouse in front of them. Keep their lives as normal as possible by sticking to the same routines as far as school and after school activities.
If the children will not be living with you, stay involved in their lives with regular visitation and telephone contact. Courts take into consideration the relationship each parent has with their children when deciding custody and parenting issues.
Speak with a lawyer with family law experience
An important step in preparing for a separation or divorce is to know your rights and understand the process in Ontario for each. Speaking with a lawyer with experience in family law before splitting with your spouse will provide a wealth of guidance and legal advice to prevent you from making mistakes and help to protect your finances and parenting rights for the future.