How to Prepare for Divorce – Vancouver Family Lawyers
You don’t need to be a divorce lawyer in Vancouver to know that divorce is a tumultuous time in your life. Nobody takes pleasure in negotiating a divorce settlement. That said, it’s just one of those things that you need to get done.
Your distaste for divorce might tempt you to try and get everything over with quickly. But this is one of the biggest mistakes you could make. Divorce – like any other complex legal process – takes time, effort, and meticulous attention to detail. A good lawyer is essential, but they can only take you so far. You need to put the work in to get your affairs in order too.
At Guardian Law, our family lawyers have decades of experience working in divorce law. After talking with dozens of our clients, we’ve realized that there are a few things they should have known ahead of time to prepare them for their divorce. We’ll share our tips promptly.
Why You Need A Lawyer For Your Divorce
There’s absolutely no way around it – if you truly want your marriage to be over, you need to get a divorce. Separation agreements are only a half-measure.
As with any legal process, navigating divorce by yourself is extremely messy and time-consuming. Divorces can already be pretty long and drawn out, there’s no need to prolong the process further. Plus, lawyers can help you identify mistakes that you would have missed otherwise. As the saying goes, the person who attempts to defend themselves in court has a fool for a client.
14 Tips To Help You Prepare For Your Divorce
1. Don’t Go In Blind
You need to go into your divorce with an open mind. By this, we mean that you need be willing to consider every potential path. That might even include a bit of backtracking if you took a harsher stance in the past. Some clients start their divorce thinking they’ll need to fight it out in court, only to have an amicable settlement outside of it.
While a good lawyer will help guide you through the process of divorce, you should do some research to understand the technical details yourself. That way, you can feel confident that your lawyer is looking after your interests. Never give up your rights. You don’t want to lose out on anything you wanted because you were too overwhelmed and let your lawyer take care of everything.
2. Establish The Reason For Your Divorce
To divorce your spouse, you need to provide a cause, and of course, proof that you were married in the first place. Here are the three causes of marriage breakdown in Canada:
- Physical or mental cruelty
- At least one year of separation
You also need to ensure that you have arrangements in place to take care of your children if you have any. If you’re fortunate enough to have an uncontested divorce, then that means you’ve already agreed on spousal support and child support. On the other hand, if one party does decide to contest the divorce, then you’re going to need quite a bit of legal assistance to ensure you obtain the result that you want. Everything from parental support to property allocation could be in question.
3. Rectify Your Financials
Unfortunately, many couples take an unbalanced approach when it comes to their financial situation. One partner will manage all the household spending while the other stays away from the issue. While some couples find that this approach works for them during their marriage, it can all come untangled in the event of a divorce.
As a result, both parties should attempt to amass every piece of financial information they can find, including:
- Credit reports
- Credit card statements
- Mortgage payments
- Loan applications
- Bank statements
- Tax returns
- Retirement account statements
After finding all these documents, it’s time for you to do a little math. Start by listing out all of your assets and debts. Then, use receipts to map out roughly how much you spent every month while you lived together. Then, create a budget projection to help yourself understand how much you would spend while living by yourself (or with your children).
4. Look Over Your Credit History
Your credit report is probably one of the most important documents you can check over while preparing for your divorce. Ensure that your partner doesn’t owe you any outstanding debts. Order a copy of your credit score and then try to make sense of it based on the rest of your records. Look out for any ridiculously high credit card balances or bank accounts that you never opened. Ensure that you have a plan for paying off joint debt
Finally, you should take some measures to ensure your financial independence post-divorce. Go to the bank and open an account that is exclusively in your name and apply for a credit card for yourself. You want to quickly build up a good credit score as an individual. If you receive a car or a house in the settlement that still requires loan or mortgage payments, then paying these on time will help your credit score quite a bit. Also ensure that you close any joint credit card accounts as soon as possible because leaving these alone will hurt your credit card score even if you don’t use the cards at all.
5. Never Hide Any Money
If there is one piece of advice you could take from us during your divorce, it’s that you shouldn’t ever hide money from your former spouse. Courts always frown upon partners who attempt to hide their assets – it’s easier to get caught than you think. The court could appoint a forensic accountant to conduct a thorough review of this party’s financial situation. Moreover, the final settlement could become far less favourable to this party when it’s all said and done.
6. When To Look For Mediation
Whether your ex-spouse is being reasonable or not, you should consider mediation before taking your divorce to court. In many cases, you’ll be able to hear your ex out and reach an agreement far quicker than you might in a drawn-out court process. This will save you a lot of money in the long run. Moreover, mediation assumes a collaborative rather than a combative stance which can help you set divorce terms that you’ll both be able to agree with. After all, you’ll both have had to agree on a mediator to speak with in the first place.
Setting the tone with mediation can help your family heal following the divorce as well. We’ve seen enough divorce trials to know exactly how emotional and fatiguing they can be. You’ll have much more stability in your family if you can come to an amicable agreement outside of court.
7. How To Choose A Mediator:
When choosing a mediator, the most important thing is that both spouses trust the mediator and the process. You can get to know a mediator with an initial consultation wherein both spouses will have the opportunity to learn about the procedure.
Make sure that you hire a mediator that already has some experience in the field. For instance, we have a few professional mediators working for us at Guardian Law. We pride ourselves on offering transparent fees with flat hourly billing. Our priority is to give you impartial legal information throughout the process so that both you and your former spouse can reach an agreement quickly.
8. Don’t Move Out Of Your Matrimonial Home Right Away
Before we dive into this topic, we must emphasize that we highly recommend you move out of your matrimonial home if you are being abused. In fact, in cases of abuse, you could have your ex legally removed from the home by court order, thus giving you temporary possession of the home.
In other cases though, moving out of the home can do more harm than good. For instance, you might decide to move out one day thinking that the divorce would be resolved soon. Little did you know, the divorce ended up stretching well over a year. Meanwhile, you stopped making mortgage payments on the house. As a result, you probably won’t see the property division go in your favour. Not to mention, the act of leaving your matrimonial home could hurt your children and potentially affect your settlement with regards to child custody as well.
9. Demonstrate Maturity
It happens – we’ve seen divorces get ugly. One spouse tries to one-up the other and before you know it, you’ve got a bona fide feud on your hands. Remember, your behaviour during the divorce process has an enormous bearing on both the future of yourself and your children.
Separating parents will often say derogatory things about one another while they’re in the process of splitting up. Worse yet, they might say these things right in front of their children. Since children place a lot of faith in their parents, they might trust your initial bold pronouncements blindly. However, if the other parent continues to act like a role model and rises above the negative commentary, the child might eventually start to resent you for your over-the-top behaviour. After all, your child is a synthesis of both you and your ex-spouse. Criticizing one parent might begin to feel as though you’re criticizing them.
By taking a positive outlook on the divorce and being disciplined in your commentary, you will have an easier time reaching the settlement that you wanted. At the end of the day, your future and your children will be far better off.
10. Be A Model Spouse
If you want a court to look upon you favourably when it comes to child custody, then demonstrate responsibility as a spouse. If you go out drinking and partying or start openly dating other people, you won’t get a good verdict. Don’t put your position in jeopardy by engaging in activities that judges find questionable.
You want to portray the image of an exemplary parent. Continue spending quality time with your children and taking an interest in their future. Never stray too far from home and try to meet your children consistently. You should be there to support your children emotionally and physically as much as possible.
On the other hand, you can’t have the highest expectations of your ex. If they’re acting adversarial, don’t let them drag you down to their level. Focus on yourself. If you develop as a person and act like the reasonable one, you’ll be able to separate yourself from their behaviour.
11. Prepare Yourself Emotionally
Even in the case of an amicable divorce, the entire experience is usually one of upheaval. It’s pretty difficult to change course from the person you planned on spending forever with. You should avoid getting caught in negative behavioural spirals and ensure you practice self-care. You could start individually by journaling your thoughts and feelings during this process. You can also reach out to family and friends that will support you in your journey. They can help you rebuild your community and provide a positive environment for you to make decisions.
Of course, don’t be afraid to cut out the toxic people during this process too. Some people will have really strong opinions about the situation and could end up swaying your judgments in a way you don’t really want or need them to. Your divorce decisions should be yours and yours alone.
12. Seek Professional Help If Needed
No matter how strenuous the divorce is, you should never feel isolated. No matter whether your family and friends are supportive of you or not, you can still receive counselling for your separation to help you deal with your feelings.
A psychologist or counsellor will likely provide the most constructive pathway to healing from the trauma of your divorce. They will give you all sorts of tactics to help you control your emotions. As a result, you’ll become a much better decision-maker when you’re negotiating the terms of your divorce. Cool heads must prevail throughout any family law case.
Professional help isn’t limited to the realm of psychology, you could also search for a financial advisor to assist you during this process. They’ll help you map out your financial status after your divorce is settled as you’ll need to disentangle yourselves from any joint investments and debts.
13. Take Notes And Keep Meticulous Records
If you see something or hear something that you think might factor into your divorce case, you should keep a record of it. Things might seem like they’re on the up and up on the surface, but your ex could be covering their tracks behind your back. Therefore, you should note down any important conversations and events from this moment forward. Otherwise, your spouse might try to spin some story during the proceedings, and you’ll have no defence to offer. Evidence is key in family law.
14. Hire A Divorce Lawyer
Your final step is to hire a competent family lawyer to help you navigate the trials and tribulations of your divorce. Something that seems unbearably complex to the layperson can often become quick and painless with divorce lawyers that know what they’re doing.
Hiring a divorce lawyer requires you to conduct a fair amount of in-depth research. Find a lawyer who specializes in family law. You can search for Vancouver family lawyers on the internet to identify a law firm that suits your needs. Look for a lawyer that takes the time and effort to explain your rights and your options at every step of the process. It’s almost certain that you won’t understand the intricacies of family law when you first meet them. However, if your divorce lawyer does a good job of explaining the complexities of your case in simple terms, then you can believe that they are well-versed in family law.
Generally, speaking you should hire a lawyer that comports themselves professionally, but also isn’t afraid to show a little bit of emotion and compassion while they’re dealing with your case. While they’re in court, they should be aggressive and persistent. Your hearings will determine a large part of your future, so you want to be confident that they won’t leave anything on the table.
Common Misconceptions About Divorces
There are quite a few aspects of family law disputes that people seem to get wrong. Since the issue of divorce is such a hotly contested topic, it stands to reason that quite a few myths will spread. Some of these myths are based on American laws or laws in other jurisdictions which have no relevance to British Columbia. Others are simply untrue no matter where you go.
Let’s clear up some of these falsehoods.
My Ex-spouse’s Cheating Will Cause The Court To Side With Me
A long time ago, determining who was at fault was a typical component of a divorce case. Nowadays, the court doesn’t look at this. Laura Paris, who works for Shulman Law Firm in Toronto, mentions that “there is no sympathy from the courts as to why a relationship broke down”. This forms the basis of no-fault divorce. Marital fidelity simply doesn’t factor into things like child custody and how property is apportioned after the fact. This is true all across Canada.
My Spouse Must Agree To The Divorce For It To Go Through
Perhaps this misconception came from the movies, we’re not sure. All we know is that it only takes one partner to initiate a divorce. Once you serve your divorce papers, the ball is already rolling, your spouse doesn’t need to respond for the proceedings to begin.
We mentioned the three grounds for divorce earlier. As long as one of those grounds is satisfied, you may file an application to the court to resolve your contested divorce. Of course, you might need to be separated for at least one year, but after that time, the court should grant you the divorce. Fortunately, the courts won’t force you to stay in your marriage.
Common-Law Divorces Obviate The Need For Remunerations
If you’re in a common law relationship and not a marriage, then a different set of laws applies to you. In British Columbia, you need to live together in a marriage-like relationship for at least 2 years for you to be considered common-law partners in the court of law.
However, once your relationship attains common-law status, a break-up would imply that assets need to be split up and that one party might need to provide spousal support as well. The legislation isn’t identical to that of married couples, but there is still a type of divorce process that you’ll need to participate in. The court will apply the law based on what they feel is necessary. It’s not clear exactly how they will do this each time though.
Note that the Divorce Act is enacted by the federal government and not provincial ones. That means that common law marriages have a different set of laws regarding divorce and property separation depending on the province. Hiring a Vancouver divorce lawyer will go a long way to helping you navigate the specific conditions for common law divorce in B.C.
Hire Guardian Law – The Best Divorce Lawyers In Vancouver
The best settlement is always a win-win. No matter how difficult your partner is and how painful it is to separate, we want to reach an agreement that works for everyone. But especially you.
Our family law firm specializes in the following areas:
- Marriage Agreements
- Separation Agreements
- Cohabitation Agreements
- Spousal Support
- Division Of Property & Debts
- Custody & Guardianship
- Child Support
Whether you need us to draw up your separation agreement or help with divorce mediation, we’ve got family lawyers with years of experience delivering favourable results for clients like you. Contact us to book an appointment today.