What do I need to do when I separate?
By Amanda Marsden, Calgary family lawyer
Deciding to separate from a spouse or partner is a difficult decision and one that people should not take lightly. Once the decision is made, our clients often do not know what to do next. The following are some things to consider if you have decided to separate from your partner.
One of the first steps in a separation or divorce is usually for one party to move out of the joint family residence. But who leaves and who stays? If the parties can agree on who stays in the family home, this will avoid the cost and hassle of litigation or mediation of this issue. If the parties do not agree as to who is going to move out of the family home after separation there may need to be an application or mediation to settle this issue. However, it is important to remember that just because someone has to move out does not mean that the other party keeps the home. Moving out of the joint family residence is simply a step in the divorce process, and does not “settle” the division of property issues associated with that residence.
Another major decision which needs to be addressed upon deciding to separate from your spouse is how the bills going to be paid. Every family is different and it is difficult to describe all the possible ways in which financial responsibilities are addressed early in a separation. For many people, a financial untangling requires the assistance of a family lawyer or accountant and so they choose to keep all financial arrangements the same until they can get professional advice as to the different possibilities. Paying a bill after separation that benefits both parties can be adjusted later so that the person paying the bill gets reimbursed for half. Also, it is important that all bills get paid in order to maintain the credit rating for each party. Deciding to continue putting your pay cheques into a joint account and paying the bills out of that same account is another option but it is likely that one party will still be paying more. Regardless of how you arrange payment of bills and expenses after separation, it is important to keep a record of which expenses you pay after the separation, so that if an accounting is required, you have the necessary documentation.
The next, and most important issue to arrange after separation is how to make sure each party maintains a healthy relationship with any Children of the relationship. Research indicates that Children benefit from having strong bonds with each of their parents and one of the easiest ways to maintain these bonds is to ensure that the Children are spending quality time with both parents after separation. Whether you move out of the home or not, both parties cooperating to make sure each of them is spending quality time with the Children is an excellent way to make sure that the Children thrive in their new family situation.
In order to formally end a relationship, married couples will require the assistance of the divorce court in order to get a divorce granted, but before that occurs the issues of property, support and parenting will need to be settled. Common law couples, those who are adult interdependent partners under the Adult Interdependent Relationship Act, do not need a divorce, but they will need to be separated for one year or enter into a separation agreement.
If you are considering separation from your spouse, the Calgary family lawyers at Crossroads Law can help you make your initial plans and reach a fair settlement.