8 Tips on How to Prepare for Divorce in Vancouver & Surrey, BC
“How did I get here?” may be the first thought crossing your mind when you make the decision to separate or divorce. This thought can come from a place of disappointment, shock, sadness or even failure. This thought also speaks volumes about your state of mind, and your state of mind can determine whether your divorce will be amicable or conflictual, short or long, costly or cost-efficient.
So when you are preparing your divorce, the most important thing is to manage your state of mind. To manage your state of mind and therefore manage your divorce properly, you need the right people around to guide you. Here are 8 tips from us family lawyers to help you navigate through the difficult process of divorce in BC:
1: Focus on Goals not Positions
When you focus on goals, you will have a much higher chance of settling your case because you are more likely to find common ground with your partner. When you focus on positions you often move yourself farther away from amicable settlements and reducing legal fees.
Let’s look at this example:
Goal Based Divorce
- I want to remain a good parent and protect my children;
- I want to have some financial security;
- I want to have a roof over my head;
- I want a fair outcome.
Position Based Divorce
- I want sole custody of the kids!
- I want $5000 a month or more!
- I am not living our home, he/she can move out, I am changing the locks!
- I want 50% of our assets!
Looking at these two examples, which person do you think will come to an amicable settlement and save his/her children from emotional harm?
What is interesting though, is that in both examples the person is trying to achieve the same result but the way he/she is going about it is wrong in one instance, and right in the other.
2: Financial Preparedness
The single best thing you can do to make sure you are financially secure and can survive a divorce is to:
- See a family lawyer as early as you can, even when you are just having thoughts about separation. A family lawyer can help you plan your separation and divorce in an amicable way, and give your strategy on how to deal with various situations that may arise at the time or after separation.
- Make sure you have at least 3 to 4 months worth of savings to help you last once you separate. Courts can be slow and it may take months to see a judge to get financial support from your spouse. Do not put your eggs in the ‘he/she will support me’ basket once you separate. Many things can go wrong. The primary person who can help you through separation, is you.
3: Gather Documents and Financial Records
We see numerous cases where at the time of separation, one spouse takes all the financial records or a spouse leaves the home without thinking of grabbing what he/she needs to prove finances or his/her case. Exchanging financial documents is a fundamental part of any family law matter. Tax documents and account statements will almost certainly be exchanged and one point during the divorce process. If your tax filings are not up to date, try to get them done as soon as possible. The following is a non-exhaustive list of documents to gather in order to prepare for your divorce:
- Your last three years of tax returns and Notices of Assessment.
- Bank, credit card, pension and all other statements around the time of separation and the time that you began living with your spouse.
- Copies of any loan agreements that you may have with institutions or family.
- Documents relating to custody or parenting time that may help or even hurt you.
4: Retain Message and Email History, Change your Passwords
Looking over messages with your former spouse may be a difficult thing to do, which is why many people delete them in order to ‘move on’.
However, emails and text messages are often an important source of evidence used in family law disputes. As you can imagine, people do not record interactions with their spouse during the relationship. Therefore, one of the only ways to prove something was said is often through text or email communications that were exchanged between the spouses or others. For example, a parent can say that the other parent has never taken the children to sports – a way to prove that this is not the case, would be to show text messages between the parents about taking the children to sports.
5: Have the Right Support Network as You Prepare for Divorce
One of the best things you can do before or during separation is reaching out to a professional to help you navigate through your emotions and guide you towards the right path. These professionals are mainly:
- Psychologists or counsellors;
- Family lawyers , tax lawyers or corporate lawyers depending on your situation;
Psychologists or counsellors are almost a must in any family law case. This is the case specially in families with children. To protect your children, you need to enroll in counselling to find the right tools to speak to them and help them through such difficult process.
We often recommend ‘separation counselling’ which happens when a couple separating see a psychologist or counsellor to help them separate in an amicable way. This type of counselling is not to make you get back together, it is to make sure you separate in a healthy way.
Aside from counselling, speaking to family and friends is a great way to destress and reveal your emotions. Use as much help as you can get.
6: Never Ask Friends of Family for Legal Advice
This is one of the biggest and most common mistakes people separating make. They want to know whether their position if fair so they go to an untrained, non-lawyer friend or family or someone who has been through a divorce and ask for their opinion. This is such a wrong thing to do and often causes more conflict not just with your spouse, but with you own lawyer who knows the law and knows what you should/shouldn’t do.
Going to an untrained person for legal help is like to going to a carpenter and asking them how to fix your heart problem. They don’t know! Aside from what they have heard or personally dealt with, they can’t possibly give you expert advice. It will make things worse, not better. Stay away from this type of ‘support’.
7: How you Deal with Your Spouse After Separation Can Make or Break Your Case
If you and your spouse can’t agree and have to go to court, then you can be almost be sure how you dealt with your ex will be at the front and center of the evidence in front of the judge. This is specially the case in custody or parenting time disputes. Being rude, unreasonable, uncooperative, etc regarding parenting time may result in losing custody or parenting time in extreme situations. It can even amount to what is called family violence under the Family Law Act.
Aside from the legal consequences of being rude or uncooperative, how you treat your ex after separation can also have a large impact on your children and your own mental health. You do not have to be friendly, loving or even say nice things. But you have to try to be cordial and respectful.
8: Find the Right Divorce Lawyer for You as You Prepare for Divorce
It is extremely important to have the right type of family lawyer on your side. If the family lawyer does not connect with you, thinks only about money or how to ‘win’ your case, you have made the wrong decision. Some things to keep in mind:
- Try to find a lawyer who focuses on family law as family law requires expertise;
- Make sure there is trust between you and your lawyer;
- Make sure you connect with the lawyer and see eye to eye.
- Even the best family lawyer out there may not be the right fit for you. It’s like dating, find the right, most qualified match.
Be sure to read both and best of luck with this challenging process. Welcome to a new chapter of life!
In the meantime, if you have any questions or need legal help, our award winning family lawyers are here to help. We focus exclusively on family law and collaborate together as a team to protect you and your loved ones. Call us at 604-974-9529 or get in touch.