Getting separated? Tips on how to handle a separation (PART 1)

Part of The Family Law Coach Series: Keeping Family Court, Separation, and Divorce Costs Low

It’s one thing to know you’d like to be out of your marriage or common-law relationship, but it’s another thing to figure out what you should do about it. For some people, it’s pretty easy. Both parties are civil and cooperative, and each wants to get to a fair and reasonable settlement. But for others, it may not be so simple. Here are some things you should consider if you’re thinking about separating.

1. Will getting out of the relationship be better than staying in?

Before anything else you first need to get your answer to this question: Will getting out of the relationship be better for you, and the kids (if any), than staying in?

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being YES and 5 being NO, everyone will have a different answer.

Our suggestion is to stop thinking about how unhappy your relationship is, and to visualize what life would be like after it’s over. Especially if there are children. There will be many tough questions and conversations that may arise regarding money, living situations, children, and the relationship. It’s important to reflect on what it is that you want and to sort out your financial and living situation as early as possible. 

For many, life after separation will be tough. But as crummy as it may be, it may still be the better choice than sticking with what you’ve got. It may be better for you – and the kids to get out of a toxic relationship before there’s even more damage to you or them.

2. Invest in yourself and get some proper legal advice.

You’ve never separated before. But an experienced family law lawyer has helped lots of people who have. Hiring a lawyer to get preliminary advice about your rights and obligations, what you can expect, and how things usually work will be of great value to you in figuring out what to do.

 Many people don’t know what they’re entitled to, or what their obligations will be, and end up with unfair agreements because they decided not to get legal advice. People often overlook the value of pensions or survivor benefits or don’t realize that they may have an interest in a home or business even if they’re not the listed owner. There’s often confusion about how much support payments are expected, especially if you’re sharing the kids.

Taking steps without the proper knowledge, or not knowing what questions to ask can have quite terrible results, so invest in yourself, you’re worth it. Take the necessary precautions, like seeking legal advice that will be helpful to you before you leave or send out the other person.

Check out our blog: How much is too much to spend for a divorce lawyer?

3. Make copies of documentation you’ll need

If you’re going to separate and you anticipate that the other side won’t be as cooperative as you’d like, start gathering up the financial information you’ll want. Ensure to make copies of documents that you won’t be taking.  

Before the other side realizes what’s about to happen, make sure you get a copy of all important documents. Anything you think your lawyer might want. If you already have a lawyer in mind, ask them what you should have copies of. Even if you don’t have a lawyer, you’ve hopefully had a consultation with one and discussed what information you should retrieve. This may involve taking something from the house to copy and then returning it, so be sure to remember where it was kept. Also, be sure to keep your copies stored somewhere safe.

Documents you’ll want to make copies of are:

  • Bank statements
  •  Credit card statements
  • Pension statements
  •  Records of the house purchase (including letters from the lawyer) or the lease
  •  Citizenship papers
  •  Health and life insurance documents
  •  Passwords
  •  Vehicle ownership or leasing documents
  •  Passports
  •  Health cards
  •  School records
  •  Employment contracts
  •  Business records
  •  Income tax returns and Notices of Assessment
  • Medical records for you and the kids
  •  Etc.

 4. Protect your privacy

Once you’re separated, be prepared to make a variety of changes. You need to be ready to do this as soon as possible. Get started as soon as possible gathering the information you need to do.

  • Change the passwords to your phone, tablet, and computer. Even if you think your Ex doesn’t know these, it’s best to change them.
  • If you have a joint phone plan, get your own phone number – because then your Ex can see whomever you call.
  • Change your credit card account into your own name and get off any joint account. Because this may be difficult to do once you’re separated, it’s a good idea to try to do this before you leave.
  • Change your bank account into your own name and get off any joint accounts.
  •  Get a new email address
  •  Check all of your social media and change your accounts to private