Where Do You Stand?
The New Year often brings with it the chance for a fresh start; resolutions to do this or refrain from that. Unfortunately, for many couples and families, the start to the New Year brings with it chaos, heartache, and vulnerability regarding their future. Perhaps some just wanted to make it through the holidays, perhaps it was the holidays themselves, or perhaps you are tired of being the subject of abuse; this time of year brings with it great change for many, often leading to separation and divorce. At this point in time, it is vitally important to know where you stand, both individually and as a couple. Preparing oneself for separation and/or divorce seems counter-intuitive, but it is exactly what one needs to do. You need to know where you are actually standing so that you can take the right step forward.
Is It Really Over?
Over my years of practice, it is staggering to me how many couples come to me seeking a divorce prior to engaging in any form of couples counselling. Whilst it is important to know your rights should you decide to divorce, it is also worthwhile to try and save your relationship if at all possible. That being said, reconciliation may not be possible in some cases that involve physical violence, substance abuse, or other abhorrent behaviour. In those instances, it is most important to put your safety, and that of your children, first.
Put Together A Great Team
We’ve all heard of the old adage that “it takes a village….”, well, it applies to a divorce too. Surround yourself with a team that consists first and foremost of a good lawyer, one who truly has your best interests at heart, who will advocate staunchly for your rights, while simultaneously giving you the advice you need to hear. Your lawyer can put you in touch with other professionals as well; therapists, accountants, and financial planners, to name a few.
Your team should also include those friends and family who’ve “got your back”. You will need emotional support as much as you will need legal and financial guidance. Your children will need this support as well, in some cases even more than you. Lean on friends and family who are emotionally supportive, but also able to give you the occasional reality check.
Get Organised Financially
Identify, collect, and organise the financial information you and your lawyer will need during this process, such as tax returns, bank statements, pay stubs, and more. Think realistically about how you are going to support yourself (and potentially your children) on one wage, with perhaps the assistance of some child maintenance payments. Create pre and post divorce budgets. Speak to your lawyer about potentially opening your own bank account, putting a hold on credit cards, securing your interests in real property, obtaining your own insurance, and revising your estate plan, to name a few. As well, you may want to consider documenting your material possessions either by making a list or video tape.Most Importantly, Your Children
If possible, speak to your partner about how you both will approach the children regarding the impending separation, and what it means for them. A consistent, child focused, message from you both is vital. Remember, it is not the end of your family, but a type of reorganization of it. Of paramount importance is realising the important role of both parents to your children, and finding a way with you partner, despite the turmoil, to find common ground for their best interests. Create a parenting plan that is age appropriate, but be flexible if possible. Attend mediation if needed sooner rather than later to address these issues, and seek advice from your lawyer.Remember To Breathe
You will survive this, and hopefully, become a stronger person for having gone through it. Some days will be easier than others, and some days you’ll feel you simply cannot go on. Lean on your friends and family. Find a lawyer you have confidence in. But most of all, just breathe, and know the sun will rise again. As the great Marilyn Monroe once said; “Sometimes things fall apart so that better things can fall together.”