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So you’ve decided to separate from your spouse

By Steven Benmor

In the process of divorce, there are things you just cannot do that your family lawyer can. The first and the most important duty of a family lawyer is to plan the fastest, smoothest and least costly divorce process and then follow the steps needed to get to its conclusion. Divorce is personal, stressful and aggravating. Your family lawyer is your trusted advisor, your planner, your facilitator and your gateway to the next chapter of your life.

The following are the top 10 ways your family lawyer can help you:

1) Anticipation of cost to divorce

Nobody plans for the cost of their divorce. This is an expense that you never anticipated, yet need to incur. There are immediate expenses that divorce will trigger such as legal fees, counselling fees, new housing costs, moving costs and more. Your family lawyer has helped hundreds of other spouses manage the transition through budgeting. Allow him to educate and guide you through the process.

2) Anticipation of legal issues

Divorce is not just the end of a marriage, but it is the beginning of a legal case that has complex issues that need to be solved. The issues of property division, matrimonial home, child support, spousal support and parenting all contain very important legal considerations. Your family lawyer will need to explain to you your various options and then follow your instructions to achieve your objectives.

3) Protecting child custody and visitation rights

When a family goes from living in one home to living in two homes, this fundamentally changes the rights of the parents to their children. Legal terms such as ‘custody’ and ‘access’ become critical. The act of divorce suddenly creates a division between the two parents regarding parental rights. Your family lawyer is familiar with custody laws and can explain to you what your options are to ensure that your rights as a parent are protected and, therefore, that your children’s best interests are preserved. 

4) Advising on child support and spousal support

One of the questions that cause spouses the greatest level of stress is the fear of their future financial situation. Will you be able to afford living the same lifestyle you lived before? Will you be able to live in the same area as before? Will your children be able to go to the same school and engage in the same activities as before? These are all questions that deal directly with child support and spousal support. Your family lawyer will be able to analyze your situation and provide you with clear and concise legal advice so that you can anticipate your future financial situation.

5) Negotiating with the other family lawyer

Every family is different and every divorce is different. There is no such thing as a standard divorce. The issues of property division, support and parenting all need to be negotiated. It is unrealistic to expect the two spouses who just ended their relationship to be able to objectively negotiate a settlement. It is absolutely critical to have a skilled negotiator achieve the most favourable outcome for you. The only person who can do this is your family lawyer.  

6) Investigating hidden assets

There are many cases where a spouse will decide to cheat the other spouse of their right to support or property division by withholding information about their income or assets. Some will choose to not disclose bank accounts, investment accounts, property owned with others or cash. In these situations, it is necessary for there to be an investigation into the missing financial information so that there can be a complete, accurate and honest accounting of all of the income earned and property owned by the family. Your family lawyer has the know-how to do so. 

7) Damage control

In some cases, a spouse may have said or done something that may be prejudicial. This can be infidelity, theft, accidental disclosure of a letter or document or a post on social media. Whatever the mistake was, it needs to be corrected and the damage needs to be contained. Your family lawyer can identify the various options available to reverse the damage and protect you.

8) Safety

Abuse takes place in many forms including verbal abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse and financial abuse. No relationship is more vulnerable to abuse than a marital relationship. No one ever really knows what goes on behind closed doors. It is in the family home that we all expect the highest level of safety and security. However, often times abuse may occur and go on for many years without anyone knowing. At the time of separation, there needs to be an honest and open conversation with your family lawyer about what happened and what needs to happen to ensure that you are mentally and physically safe. Your family lawyer has helped many other spouses escape abusive relationships and is aware of all of the tools and resources available.

9) Advocate. You cannot advocate for yourself.

When you separate and end a relationship, the spouses are usually vulnerable, weak and compromised. This is normal. It is at this time that you need a person to be able to speak for you, articulate your needs and pursue your remedies. Your family lawyer is the one professional who can be most effective for you at the most critical time in your life.  

10) Legal protection

Whatever the outcome is of your divorce, in the end, you need to be protected with the necessary legal documents such as a separation agreement, court order or divorce order. Without ensuring that the language, provisions, terms, conditions, responsibilities and commitments are properly set out in the legal documents, you remain vulnerable. Your family lawyer will ensure that you exit your divorce with the required level of legal protection you need to begin the next chapter of your life, safely and confidently.

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