With the way the media covers high-profile divorce cases, you would think all cases are toxic and contentious. And people take pleasure in learning every gory detail. Just look at the way people talk about Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.

I’m here to tell you that divorce doesn’t need to be a dramatic soap opera. In fact, most divorces that I’ve seen are quite peaceful, even if the separating couple has their differences.

The fact is, divorce is a legal process, not an emotional one. Handling your emotions is important, but that needs to happen outside of court.

The key to a healthy divorce lies in setting realistic expectations with your lawyer and communicating effectively with your ex-spouse, children, and everyone else involved. After several years of working as a family law attorney at Guardian Law, I’ve learned a lot. Allow me to share some of my best tips for a healthy divorce with you.

What Does A Family Law Attorney Do?

First of all, family law attorneys are divorce experts, but unlike divorce lawyers, we can also handle many other family law matters. Here is the range of family law advice and services you can expect from one of us:

  • Assistance in negotiating and drafting separation agreements and producing other critical documents.
  • Representation in court proceedings, including but not limited to divorce. For instance, we also help with property division and custody disputes.
  • Legal advice in the case of domestic violence or abuse.
  • Providing advice on your financial situation following a divorce, covering spousal support, property division, and more.
  • Mediating disputes outside of court which are often the first step before you embark on full divorce proceedings.

Basically, the advantage that a family law attorney poses over a divorce lawyer is that we are a lot more versatile. Any divorce will invariably require you to do more than dissolve the marriage itself. Determining who gets what, who owes what, and who gets custody of whom expands well beyond the capacity of a single divorce lawyer.

When It’s Time To Consider A Divorce

One thing we should emphasize is that divorce is not actually always the right decision. In Canada, you usually need to stay separated for a year first before you can officially divorce anyways. But keep in mind that a divorce involving official court proceedings is a last resort. You should have exhausted all other options first. As family law attorneys, we can help recommend the first course of action to take before getting officially divorced.

Oftentimes, we suggest that the two divorcing parties go to mediation first to resolve their family law matter. Not only is an uncontested divorce far more cost-effective and efficient, but it’s also a lot less confrontational than a court proceeding. Mediation is intended to be a collaborative process. This should be the default scenario. Only when you find there are certain aspects of your divorce that you and your ex cannot agree on, i.e., you have a contested divorce, can you think about taking the divorce to court.

My 7 Family Law Attorney Divorce Tips

When you’re at the start of the process, it’s easy to get caught up in your emotions and take bad advice from friends or family members. While your priority should be to see a family law attorney right away, here are some tips you should consider to prepare yourself for the process.

Have All Your Bases Covered

Divorces have a lot of moving parts. More than likely, you won’t have much experience with divorces, so it can be easy to overlook one facet or another in an attempt to save money on divorce costs, as well as your time and sometimes even your sanity.

It’s common for people getting divorced to hire a lawyer, but only to represent them through the divorce and custody dispute. When it comes to dividing assets, they’re somehow comfortable letting go of more than they need to. If you want to set yourself up for the best possible life after divorce, then you should try to at least get what a lawyer thinks you can reasonably obtain. It will probably be more profitable to hire a lawyer in the long run anyways.

Take care of your finances during divorce
Take care of your finances during divorce

It’s especially common to see clients, with the best of intentions, put their children first. So much so that they forget about any other aspect of their divorce agreement. They might do everything in their power to ensure that their child’s RESP stays intact, but think nothing of the joint RRSP they hold with their ex.

Just remember that you have a long future after your marriage. It includes things like retirement, potentially finding another spouse and having other children. You don’t want to sacrifice everything in the heat of the moment just to speed up the process.

Be Willing To Compromise

If everyone got the perfect outcome from their divorce, then it likely wouldn’t be such a maligned and controversial process. The truth is, there are some things that both you and your ex want, but can’t have. This assertion disappoints many of my clients, but it’s true. You must be willing to compromise with your ex-spouse for the good of everyone involved.

Part of being willing to compromise is being open to communication. This is why we recommend mediation before going through with the divorce proceedings. Taking a collaborative approach can ensure that things don’t escalate and that you even obtain the concessions you want from the other party.

Be As Impartial As Possible

Divorce is an extremely emotional period in your life, no doubt. But when you’re dealing with the legal and financial side of the divorce, you have to remain as calm and objective as possible. You shouldn’t worry about “winning” the case or “being right”, just ensure that your attorney understands your priorities, and do everything they tell you to when providing information and documentation.

Moreover, if your divorce ever does go to court, involving your emotions will surely do you a disservice there. Judges won’t particularly care about your feelings towards your spouse. Instead, they will do their best to interpret the facts they’re presented with. Using your emotions to distort those facts certainly won’t help your case.

Take Care Of Yourself

So, we’ve talked a lot about how you should be emotionless throughout the process. But that doesn’t mean you need to become a robot. Your emotions are valid. The important thing is that you find the appropriate channels to express them. You could talk to your friends and family members or with a professional therapist. This will give you an avenue to air out all your tensions and concerns. This isn’t a journey you need to take alone. It’s best not to bottle up your emotions either, even if you feel like you have nobody, many resources such as internet forums online can help talk you through your situation.

Of course, it’s also common for divorce to take a physical toll too. Make sure you keep up with your regular routines as best as possible. You shouldn’t have to skip meals or lose sleep because of this change. Aside from therapy, you could also find healthy outlets like physical activity or other hobbies that help you release stress.

Never Hide Your Finances

Unfortunately, many couples end up getting divorced because of financial disputes with their ex-spouses. In this case, you might try to slip a few assets past the goalie. For instance, you could try to hide some bank account that your spouse doesn’t even know about.

This kind of deceitfulness rarely pays off. In fact, should anyone during the process find out that you haven’t been transparent about your financial records, you could end up incurring more costs to yourself and also draw the process out longer. Certainly, with the knowledge that you attempted to hide things from the other party, any arbiter, such as a judge, will not take kindly to you. Moreover, the opposing lawyer might dig harder to see what else you’re hiding.

If it’s discovered that you hid assets after the fact, then this might render some past divorce agreements you made null and void. Thus, you’ll be thrown back into the divorce process anew, which is something nobody wants.

Keep Your Children Away From The Process

Look, a lot of your divorce is going to be about your children. We get that. Child custody and child support are important topics.

But actually involving your children in the process, telling them about your decisions, telling them what you think about your ex-spouse’s lawyer, and so on, is a horrible idea.

Your stress levels might be high, but you must not pass that stress on to your children. They’re not developed enough to understand the full gravity of the situation. From their point of view, they might feel like they’ve done something to cause the divorce, and showing enormous sensitivity can make it difficult for your child to open up to you about their own feelings. You still need to be a parent to them. Leave the counselling to your family or your therapist.

children aren't equipped to handle divorce
Children are not equipped to handle divorce

Soon after one partner decides to initiate divorce, you and your ex-partner should sit down with your child or children to discuss what you’re doing and your plans for the future. You don’t need to explain why it’s happening, just reassure them that everything will be taken care of.

Above All, Consult A Family Law Firm

You should never walk into a courtroom representing yourself. In fact, the moment you or your ex-partner initiates the divorce, you want to contact a lawyer first before doing anything else.

To prepare for family law disputes like yours, family lawyers spend several years studying the law and have already represented dozens of clients. The chances that you’re going to be able to match up with them in court are slim. Not to mention, the mental toll that this process will take on you.

Should you make a single error, this could severely damage your chances of obtaining the settlement you want. Judges will frown upon an unrepresented party, and there are lots of legal filings to make. Should you commit an error in these filings, the process will last even longer and you could stand to lose a lot of money too.

Do you really think you’ll learn the ins and outs of the federal child support guidelines in a few months all while juggling the rest of your divorce and a full-time job? Unlikely.

You’re better off looking for a family lawyer from Guardian Law or another reputable law firm to help you sort your case out. I haven’t seen a case where an unrepresented party wasn’t thoroughly unprepared when they arrived in court. The odds of going it alone are not in your favour. So keep the above in mind when you’re considering a divorce.