A separation is an extremely difficult time for most people. At Mincher Koeman was offer our clients guidance on how to ensure they navigate these troubling waters maintaining their dignity and decorum.
1. Get good legal advice as early as possible. Good legal advice means talking to a good family law lawyer. How you start out will have a dramatic impact on how issues are resolved. If you start off being disrespectful of the other’s interests and needs you are likely going to get the same in return.
Instead of being aggressive be appropriately assertive, which means respecting your own rights, needs and interests as well as those of the other person.
If your case is easy and both parties are reasonable you will not need a lot of legal work. Do not be afraid of getting legal advice early. Spending the time and money up front can often save you much more later. Good lawyers are problem solvers first and foremost. It is not a war. It is a restructuring of the relationship, the parenting and the finances.
Remember you are not paying your spouse and your spouse is not paying you. The marriage is paying both of you.
2. Do not make promises (or threats) without first having good legal advice.
Often people make promises that are not easily achievable in the legal system, they then feel compelled to live up to their promise and create problems as a result. Make your promise
“I do not know all the answers now, but I know I want to work cooperatively to ensure our children receive the best they can from the both of us,”
Ensure that whatever you ultimately agree upon works for you and at the same time works for your family. You may need some help getting there, but a good family law lawyer will want to work with you towards these goals.
3. Separate the legal from the non-legal.
Recognize that when dealing with a separation you first need to deal with the emotional issues and relationship issues in any separation as well as legal issues. As lawyers we can provide advice on where to go, and we can deal with some issues temporarily but access to a team of professionals is crucial.
While the emotional and relationship issues are important; they are not capable of resolution in the legal system. People who are most successful in solving their legal issues without drama are the ones who are the most successful separating the legal from the non-legal issues. Easier said than done, but imperative that it is your priority. Make use of the excellent courses and material available from Alberta Justice.
4. Your reasons for separating.
This may be important to you or your spouse but it is rarely relevant to the process of Separation. A court room is not the place to seek an apology or a public shaming or to seek revenge.
5. Parenting After Separation.
Attend now. You can attend the Parenting After Separation Course, the Parenting After Separation High Conflict Course and the Focus on Communication Course. These are excellent free courses. They do not teach you how to parent- but rather how to move towards a co-parenting regime which is child focused.
Parenting After Separation is mandatory for separating couples in Alberta. You can register by visiting AndreaLaRochelle.com click on workshops and you can register. You can also do the course on-line.
a. You cannot file any Parenting Application or file for Divorce without this course so please keep your certificate.
6. Easier said than done, but try to relax and not panic.
You will get through this with less pain, grief and negative consequences if you can force yourself to refuse to make decisions when you are angry, afraid, upset or otherwise not in a good frame of mind. Recognize your own headspace and timing needs. Defer decisions. A good lawyer will understand and assist. Ask your spouse to respect your need to defer decisions until you have the time and space (and advice) to make them.
7. Choose to do it right.
8. Operate out of rationality not fear, anger or spite. Good divorce lawyers lend clients their rational brain when clients are unable to access their own due to the stress of the circumstances. Too often people operate out of flight or fight (the instinctive animal brain) and then rationalize why that is rational. Please recognize this and allow your counsel to counsel you. A good lawyer provides advice and direction.
9. Give and seek early commitments on basic things from your spouse, including:
a. No unilateral actions, we will not change what we are doing with children, money, etc. until we both agree. We do not want either of us to have to panic or react to the other’s unilateral action. Agree early on to limit large amounts being withdrawn from matrimonial resources without both parties consent. Failing to make this commitment makes this too hard;
b. Respect each other’s need for time and space to deal with their own emotions and healing. If one of us does not want to talk about something we will respect that within reason and leave the discussions for another time;
c. Ensure that we each make the necessary family resources available to each of us in order to meet the needs of ourselves, the other and the children;
d. Attack problems; not each other. If one of us is unable to speak in a calm reasonable manner to the other we will withdraw from the conversation until we are both able to deal with it calmly or find a forum which will allow you both to hear each other in a respectful manner;
e. Agree to insulate our children from our disputes. Children are able to adapt to a separation. They WILL NOT adapt if the separation is acrimonious and they continue to witness this;
f. Make decisions about the children based on what is in their best interests and not based on the desires or wishes of either parent. Try to be honest about separating the two Do not place your children in a position where they are being forced to choose between their parents. Remember they are 50% of each of you;
g. Respect the other telling them you believe it is time for us to withdraw;
h. Recognize and operate on the basis this is not a war to be won but a restructuring of the relationship, a restructuring of the parenting and a restructuring of the finances. Both parties will have to make concessions at different points in the process to ensure that your family will continue;
i. Make the choices that work the best for each of you and for everyone in the family at the same time;
j. Make wise choices – do not just react and do or say the first instinctive thing. Choose with your heads not with your emotions;
k. Remember that lawyers are not therapists, psychologists or marriage counsellors. We recognize that our non-legal issues have to be resolved independent of the legal system. Ensure you seek the help of a counsellor immediately to provide a private arena to discuss your fears;
l. Recognize that you are responsible for your own healing and cannot expect the former spouse to help you;
m. Recognize that to heal effectively you have to give yourselves permission to heal. Freedom to heal comes from forgiving (forgiving does not mean forgetting) the other for any perceived wrong. You are not giving that gift to the other person but rather you are giving it to yourself- you are giving yourself the permission to move on;
n. Remember always that the way your marriage ended is not the story of your whole marriage, at some point you liked each other- try and remember the positive qualities of your partner both as a partner and a parent;
o. Remember a bad partner is not necessarily a bad parent, and remember that a bad partner has not necessarily always been a bad partner or parent;
p. Honor each other as the parents of your children rather than vilify each other as your “Ex” because your children deserve that even if neither of you do; and
q. Recognize you cannot change each other but you can change your actions and reactions going forward. Use that stress energy in positive ways; find something active to do so that it burns off instead of burning you up. Changing what you do will change how you feel.
10. Decide parenting on a child centered perspective and not based on what works for mom or for dad. Be honest about it. Try hard to be objective. The children’s time will be shared between you in some fashion. This is inevitable. Children need BOTH parents. They do not need to be a trophy to be won.
11. Recognize that your children are from both of you and need you both.
Most important for children is a relationship with both parents, peace and a home. Remember you are the experts on your children. You both love the child(ren) and even though you may have different approach to parenting, you both want your child(ren) to succeed. Get advice early from a parenting expert such as a child psychologist if disagreements occur and cannot be resolved. Parenting is often about sacrifice. To do the right thing for the children often means sacrificing one’s own needs, wants and interest. As parents, we are role models. Teach your children good conflict management skills through your actions.
12. Do not rely on advice from your friends, family and acquaintances.
Separations are all uniquely different and those differences can be critically important on determining the right answer for you.
13. Do it smart up front.
Pick a process for resolution with your eyes open as to all the process options and the merits of each of them taking into account YOUR circumstances. Mincher Koeman lawyers will provide guidance on the process suitable for you. The process is different for every couple and should be adapted to your needs. This is part of getting good legal advice. Too often good mediators and good lawyers hear “I wish I had come here first”.
At Mincher Koeman we will help you divorce with dignity. Call us at 403 910 3000