Here is a tongue in cheek review of the top ten ways to make sure your separation is destructive and expensive. All of these can be avoided.
1. Threaten your spouse. With anything – violence, taking the kids away, cutting your spouse off from the finances, selling assets, going to court. The natural response to a threat is to take steps to counter or avoid the threat – calling the police, going to court, cleaning out a bank account, etc. This can lead to a downward spiral of steps and decisions that will increase the overall cost to your separation, both financially and emotionally.
2. Cut your spouse off from the finances. What happens when you change how the family finances work? Panic, see below. This is the best way to ensure your spouse ‘goes to Court’. Consider: if your paycheque is changed from a deposit into the joint account (where the mortgage and groceries are paid) to your own bank account, what is stopping your spouse from going to Court and getting an Order for child and spousal support?
3. Focus on your needs, and call them the needs of your children. The only legal test for custody and parenting disputes is the best interests of your children. Focusing on your needs and framing as the needs of your children will only place the children in the middle of your dispute. They do not belong there. Keep your own needs separate from your children.
4. Refuse to accept that things are changing. One of many unfortunate consequences of separation is the reduction in the standards of living for both spouses, and the children. Add on the emotional toll of separation, the effect of separation on children, and the dilution of family resources into two households, most families experience significant change upon separation. Be open to looking at the change and addressing it, rather than avoiding it or demanding that it only affect your spouse.
5. Go to court, right away (also known as “Sue ‘Em”). Court is the process of last resort – when two spouses cannot reach an agreement. Unfortunately, it is often the first step considered when people separate, for a variety of reasons. When in Court, you are bound by the Rules of Court, the Court schedules, the filing requirements and fees, and ultimately the decision by a judge. There are other ways of resolving disputes that keeps the control in your hands, and ultimately your money in your own household.
6. Refuse to compromise. Principles can be expensive, and rarely do they coincide with the state of our laws for families on separation. Knowing when to compromise can save you time, money, and stress.
7. Panic. You will need to make several very important decisions that will affect your legal rights, your finances, your children, and your future. These decisions should be made after receiving sufficient information and advice, and with a clear head. Snap decisions made from an emotional response are often regretted when the panic fades. How do you deal with panic? Knowledge; see below.
8. Don’t get legal advice early. How do you know if you are getting a good deal? Legal advice is more than just the reading of the law; it is a professional opinion on your rights and entitlements, and in some cases a prediction of what you may expect if you had to go into Court. Without this knowledge, you cannot know for sure if the agreement you have reached with your spouse is a good deal.
9. Don’t get legal advice at all. The basis of a binding agreement is that both sides have sufficient information and knowledge to make an informed decision. When the topic is separation, this means getting legal advice on the issues of custody and parenting of children, child support, spousal support, and the division of property. Without legal advice, any agreement reached may be subject to variation or being overturned by a Court.
10. Take and act on the advice from family and friends. A lot of the items in this list will be the advice received from friends and family members. The advice is well meaning, but the results are rarely helpful in reaching an amicable, respectful, and cost-effective resolution.
I can help you address all of these. Give me a call, or send me an email.