Immediately following a separation, it is normal to feel paralyzed as to what your next steps should be. As obvious as it may seem, the first step following a separation is determining that the relationship/marriage is actually done, and there is absolutely no chance of reconciliation.
Once you and your partner have determined that you are separated for good, you can turn your attention to:
- Dividing your property;
- Determining a parenting plan (if applicable); and
- Addressing other potential issues such as child support and spousal support.
Property and Support Issues
As a proactive step, it is helpful to put together a list of any assets and debts that you and your former spouse hold together or separately, as these are all items that will potentially be up for division as family property. You and your spouse will also be required to exchange income information, so it is prudent to obtain copies of your last 3 years’ Income Tax Returns and Notice of Assessment in anticipation of this. Having this information organized ahead of time will help to expedite the process when it comes to meeting with a lawyer and getting the matter to a resolution.
Also, start putting your mind to what your vision is going to be for the future. For example, if there is a matrimonial home, are you wanting to buy out your former spouse’s entitlement to the matrimonial home? Are you wanting to sell the matrimonial home? These are just some of the questions that you will be considering when moving forward in the separation process.
To the extent possible, the path of least resistance is always to work with your former spouse to come up with a parenting plan that you both can live with, and one that is in the best interests of the Children. Alternatively, if you and your former spouse are not on positive terms and cannot come to an agreement, it is helpful to know what you and your former spouse are proposing for parenting so that it can be communicated to your lawyer during the initial meeting.
Everyone’s separation experience is different, and the process that follows separation rarely happens in the way you had hoped or planned. At a minimum, taking the above steps following a separation, and prior to meeting with a lawyer, will ensure that you are on the right track.
Written by Suzanne Fleming
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