Separation is something that most individuals never planned on happening to them. This article offers some simple tips to help you take the first step on the road to resolving and recovering from your Separation.
1. Do not involve your children in the breakdown of the relationship. Children are often the ones who truly lose in separation and divorce. You have to remember that it was you and your spouse who have decided to separate and not the children. Even if you were not the one who decided you wanted to separate from your spouse, you are separating because the relationship you and your spouse had is no longer what both of you is looking for. This has nothing to do with your children. Your children are not there to emotionally support you through this process and should not take the place of your friends or family counsellors. They should never be asked to deliver messages or support cheques. These activities put them directly in the middle of the divorce and children, even teens, should never be directly involved in such adult matters.
2. Do talk to your children about how they feel. Children are smart and will know that the family is changing. When you and your spouse have decided to separate, you should have a conversation with them to reassure them that everything will be okay, however the conversation should not stray from how they are feeling. If you and your spouse decide on a primary residence and access schedule for the Child or children, then the Children should not be “questioned” or pressured by either parent to decide who they want to live with. Work with your spouse, your lawyers orcounsellors to determine what is in the best interests of the children and work with the children to implement those plans. You will have a more well-adjusted child as you work through your separation as a family. Remember that your Children are part of both of you, and so they should never hear negative feelings that you may have about the other parent.
3. Do seek counseling, even a few sessions, for yourself and for your children. Separation and divorce is extremely stressful and many professionals liken it to a death in the family. Seeking the help of a registered psychologist will help you work through those feelings of loss that often lead to bitterness and anger toward your former spouse. They will help your child with any feelings of guilt and loss they may be feeling. Your family doctor will be able to direct you to one of these professionals and often these resources are covered by health insurance when you are referred by a family physician.
4. Do consult with a lawyer. While many spouses try to tell the other that retaining lawyers creates animosity between them, it is actually often the opposite. There are reasons that your marriage is breaking down and an inability to communicate is often one of the key reasons. The right lawyer will give a necessary “buffer” between you are your spouse. A lawyer will also advise you as to your rights and obligations consistent with the law.
Finally, even if you and your spouse are able to agree as to the terms of spousal support, child support, and a division of assets , a lawyer will need to explain the agreement to you and be able to suggest clauses that should be included in the agreement based on recent caselaw to ensure the agreement is enforceable and adequately protects you. Without an enforceable agreement all your hard work together may be all for nothing down the road. Remember that lawyers are people too and finding the right “fit” with your lawyer is important. You should research your lawyer and find one that you feel will best suit your personality and goals.
5. Do seek out government resources to help you locate assistance in your community. There is a lot of help out there. Use this support to find the help you need to work through this difficult time. Courthouses where Family Law matters are dealt with have Family Law Information Centres (Often referred to as “FLIC” offices) that will help you determine what resources you need. In Ontario, a list of courthouses where these FLIC offices are located can be found at www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca.