Based upon data collected through surveys of people splitting up, you probably know of someone who has gone through a divorce, separation or the end of a common-law relationship. In fact, it is estimated that five million of your fellow Canadians responding to the most recent census have experienced a split with their spouses through divorce or separation. If you are thinking about splitting with your spouse or partner, you might not be able to avoid the emotional roller coaster that accompanies a break up, but you can take steps to plan ahead to protect yourself from suffering financial harm or damaging the relationship you have with your children.
Make sure your relationship is over
Knowing the relationship is in fact over is one of the first steps you need to take when splitting up with your spouse. Counselling, either alone or with your spouse, can guide you through the emotional turmoil and help you determine if the relationship is really broken or if it can be saved.
Gather and protect important records and documents
The value of property owned when a couple splits up is divided equally between them when the marriage ends in divorce or separation. The increase in the value of any property owned individually by either you or your spouse is also taken into consideration for purposes of determining the total value of the contribution of each party to a marriage.
If some of the assets were owned by you prior to the marriage, it is essential that you retain and protect any records about those transactions to prove your ownership of them and their value at the time of the marriage. Financial records and important documents have a way of disappearing even in an otherwise friendly break up.
Unless remaining is unsafe, do not move out of your home
You and your spouse share equal rights in the marital home. Moving out could jeopardize your right to custody of your children if they have remained in the home with your spouse. If safety is an issue, your lawyer can request a restraining order to protect you against abusive behaviour from your spouse.
Speak with an experienced lawyer
Knowing your legal rights and responsibilities are essential. Your relationship with your spouse might be coming to an end, but decisions you make now could affect you in the future.
The laws pertaining to divorce, separation and ending a common-law relationship can be complex and intimidating. A consultation with a lawyer experienced in representing individuals in family law matters can help you develop a plan to ensure a favorable outcome that protects your future wellbeing and fosters your relationship with your children.
A consultation with a lawyer provides advice and guidance for planning an exit from your relationship consistent with the laws in Ontario. For example, judges take into consideration the best interests of your children when deciding custody and access to your children. Your relationship with the children leading up to the breakup is one of several factors courts look at, so it is essential to remain a part of their lives. If the children reside with you, taking steps to encourage the children to maintain their relationship with your spouse is looked upon as being in their best interest.
Proposed changes to the Divorce Act could affect your rights with regard to child custody, financial disclosure and other important issues in a divorce or separation. A consultation with a lawyer would help you understand the effect of the law and how to plan accordingly.