The stress and emotional turmoil associated with breaking up with your spouse can be overwhelming and lead to rushing to file for a divorce. There could be many good reasons for ending your marriage, including physical or mental abuse making it unsafe to continue the relationship, but rushing to file for divorce could be a mistake. You might read about how common divorce has become in Canada, but that is not a reason to rush to file for one. It is far better to take the time you need to create an exit strategy to prepare yourself for the divorce process and for life outside of your marriage.
Familiarize yourself with the law pertaining to divorce
Divorce is a court proceeding to terminate a marriage. If you are separated from your spouse and have a written separation agreement in place resolving child custody and parenting, support, asset sharing and other issues, you still must go through a divorce proceeding in order to end the marriage regardless of how long you and your spouse have lived separate and apart.
You must have grounds in order to file for a divorce, so now is a good time to take a look at your relationship with your spouse to determine if you have the ability to ask a court to end your marriage. In order to file for divorce in any province in Canada, you must prove the breakdown of your marriage based upon one of the following reasons:
- Adultery committed by your spouse
- You have been the victim of physical or mental cruelty by your spouse
- Living apart from your spouse for at least one year
A separation from your spouse for at least one year is grounds for divorce regardless of whether or not there is a separation agreement settling custody and financial issues between you.
Get your records and documents in order
The more documentation you have in your possession before filing for divorce the easier it will be to identify assets subject to being distributed as part of the settlement. It also makes it difficult for your spouse to hide assets for which you have statements and documentation to prove their existence. Some of the records and documents you should gather include the following:
- Bank and investment account statements
- Mortgage and title documents for the matrimonial home and other real property
- pension benefit records
- Statements and documents pertaining to other types of assets, including artworks, household furnishings, vehicles, jewelry and other items of personal property.
The process of ending a marriage includes distribution of the real and personal assets acquired by the parties, including any increase in the value during the marriage of property brought in to the marriage by one of the spouses. Documents and records allow your lawyer to identify those assets subject to distribution and those excluded from distribution.
Decide how and when to tell your spouse you want a divorce
Before telling your spouse that you want to end the marriage, you should seek the advice and guidance of a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer whose family law practice includes divorce and separation. The lawyer can help you decide how and when to let your spouse know about the divorce.
If your relationship with your spouse has been an abusive one, your lawyer might suggest asking an Ontario family court judge to make a restraining order. A restraining order protects you and your children from harm by setting terms, including preventing or limiting the ability of your spouse to contact you. Disobeying a restraining order is punishable as a criminal offense.
Consult an Ontario lawyer
A lawyer experienced in divorce and other family law matters is a valuable resource for advice and guidance. The lawyer can assist you in developing an exit plan to take some of the uncertainty out of the divorce process.