Article written by Rosemary Bocska
If you are part of a struggling couple who has tried everything, the prospect of heading straight for divorce might seem like a chance for a fresh start. But what’s often overlooked is that the separation period is equally important. It can set the stage for your eventual lives apart.
This article will help ensure you and your Ex are making the most of your separation process.
Attaining Divorce Eligibility:
Importantly, in most cases a one-year period of separation is what legally entitles you and your Ex to get a divorce in Canada. Under the Divorce Act you must establish that there has been a breakdown of your relationship, and one indicator is that you and your Ex have been living “separate and apart” for a full year.
Separation Transition Period:
Even aside from the divorce eligibility aspect, the formal separation period is an important transition stage, both emotionally and practically. It can ease you into the divorce process. It can help you prepare for the future and shed light on your upcoming needs. Here are some things you might want to focus on during this period:
1) Financial Affairs:
- Use the separation period to start settling out your finances. Get a good grasp on your assets, debts and other liabilities, as well as your living costs, investments, and future income potential. This exercise will be necessary when it comes time to talk about spousal and child support, too.
- Make incremental changes towards separating your financial affairs. Start assembling and copying documents for income taxes, getting new health insurance, applying for credit cards, etc.
- Start thinking about the costs and practical details involved with setting up separate households. This will help solidify your future cashflow needs.
- If you have children together, give some thought to any new expenses that may crop up from shared parenting time. These can include extra transportation costs, or having to buy duplicate items to comfortably set separate homes for your kids.
- Enjoy the financial benefits of being separated, but still married. For example you can still file your taxes jointly. And if the beneficiary designations have not yet been changed, you can still take advantage of each other’s employer-provided medical benefits and health insurance coverage.
2) Use your Separation to Prepare the Kids:
- Use the separation period to help your children transition and adjust to the new family reality. Nothing can completely insulate them from the emotional and practical turmoil, but a gradual process makes it a bit easier. They’ll have a little buffer period to get used to the many changes.
- Concentrate on easing the entire family into any new parenting time arrangements, and making practical adjustments as needed. Temporary parenting time plans may look good on paper, but could end up being unworkable. Separation is a time when you can both agree to tinker, and then incorporate the optimal plan into a more final agreement, and eventually your divorce order.
3) Getting Ready to Negotiate:
- Especially in the early days, the separation period can be a “cooling off” period, that allows some of the acrimony between you and your Ex to dissipate. This paves the way for smoother negotiating on the many legal issues that your upcoming divorce will entail.
- The time apart also gives you both distance and perspective. You can focus on solidifying your list of priorities, and keep these in mind when it’s time to start negotiating. Get clear on those items and issues that are at the top of your list.
4) Personal Adjustments:
- The separation period is a time for introspection. Examine and process your feelings around the upcoming divorce. It gives you time to make sure you are not making a hasty mistake.
- Use the distance to get perspective on the bigger-picture relationship. Get clear on whether there’s any possibility of reconciliation. You may even use some of the time to get therapy – whether for you alone, or as a couple.
- Adjust to the reality of not seeing your children as often, and of having to share structured parenting time with your Ex. Think about how best to prepare them for the upcoming changes.
- Use the time as a chance to get comfortable with living separate and apart – a sort of “trial run” of what being divorced will feel like.
- Think about your future. Get clear on what you want your new, post-divorce lifestyle to look like.
Some Helpful Separation Tips:
Finally, we offer the following practical pointers to keep in mind:
- Even though you are separated, stay in touch with your Ex to a reasonable extent, especially around the kids’ care.
- Agree to a timeline for your separation. As mentioned, in Canada the minimum separation period is typically one year, but there is nothing to say that a longer pre-divorce period might not work better for you.
- Don’t sabotage your mutual finances. This only sets the stage for retaliation and increased acrimony.
- You should avoid speaking ill of your Ex to your children. This only puts them needlessly in the middle of your dispute.
- Don’t forget to set ground rules and establish boundaries for each other. For example, your Ex should not feel welcome to freely come and go at your new home (unless you are okay with it).
- Discuss more delicate issues, like how soon to introduce any new romantic partners to your children. Also, avoid rushing into new romantic relationships. Try to see the separation period as a chance to regroup and reflect.
- Don’t have sex with your Ex while separated. It can only confuse things, and make the path forward less clear.
Get Help from a Family Lawyer:
Finally, one of the most important tips to help ease the journey from separation into divorce, is to enlist the early help of an experienced Family Lawyer. Feel free to contact our offices at 1-888-978-1178 and we would be happy to assist.