1. Be Confident With Your Decision

If it is safe, attempt couple’s counselling to ensure you have given your relationship your “all;” this will ensure you are confident with your decision to walk away, if that is ultimately what you decide.
If it is safe, attempt reconciliation to ensure you are satisfied that divorce is necessary.
Lawyers have an ethical obligation to exhaust all avenues prior to advancing litigation, so your lawyer should ask if you have attempted reconciliation, and if you are convinced you want to proceed with your divorce.
Avoid making decisions while grieving. While it can be tempting to proceed with filing for divorce during marital discord, it is important you do not make decisions while emotional, as you can do yourself a huge disservice.


  1. Do not leave your residence if your safety is not compromised

You should always consult with a lawyer before deciding to leave the former family home. People often do not realize that if they leave the former family home, they may have prejudiced their parenting or property rights. If you or your former partner decide to leave the family home, make an agreement governing parenting or property, deduce it to writing, and have both parties sign it. If you or your former partner decide to vacate the family home, make an inventory of all household assets that have been taken to avoid any future disputes or dissipation of asset claims.


  1. Speak with a Realtor & Mortgage Broker to Determine your Options

It is important to gain a realistic understanding of the value of your assets, and the financial capacity of each party to acquire new assets and debts. I encourage all clients to speak with an independent mortgage broker and realtor to assess the value of the former family home, determine if re-financing or a spousal buyout is an option, or if a new purchase is a viable alternative.


  1. Gather Necessary Documents & Get Organized

Your lawyer is going to require your financial particulars, among other documents, to assist with advancing a claim for a separation or divorce. It is important to locate the following documents while contemplating separation: original Marriage Certificate, Recent Mortgage Statement, Recent Credit Card/Line of Credit Statements, and Statements for all other assets/debts.  Most lawyers request a summary or chronology of the relationship to assist with drafting court documents. If you are confident about separation, start preparing a timeline of your relationship with the following pertinent information included – date of cohabitation, date of marriage, and the date of separation.


  1. Inventory Household Assets & Debts

Your lawyer is going to request a list of all your property which includes your debts. It is important to note the date in which these assets were acquired, as some property may not be subject to division if it existed prior to the relationship.


  1. Make Arrangements to See the Children as Much as Possible

The Courts value status quo while considering parenting applications. If you decide to leave the former family home or decide to stay in the former family home, it is important that you come to an agreement with your former partner on parenting and access.


  1. Update Your Will & Other Instruments Designating Your Spouse as a Beneficiary

You need to be cognizant of who would benefit from your death. It is important to make a list of all instruments which designate your former spouse as a beneficiary (i.e. will, life insurance policies, RRSPs, etc.). Separating from your former spouse could take several months or years to finalize, and if something were to happen to you during this time, it is possible that your former spouse could benefit.


  1. Protect Finances & Credit

If you are separating from your spouse, you may need to purchase a new home for you or your children, so it is important to protect your credit rating. It is recommended you consider closing joint credit cards, lines of credit, or freezing these credit facilities to ensure your credit rating is not impacted by your separation. Your lawyer will request current statements for all outstanding debts, so it is important you have a good understanding of what debts are outstanding, and when these debts were acquired.


  1. Develop an Emotional Support Network

Separating from your former partner is not a decision that should be taken lightly. It is recommended you reach out to your family and friends, advise them of your intentions, and ask them for emotional support during this difficult time. I also encourage plenty of clients to participate in counselling of some kind, to ensure they have the professional help they need during their separation.


  1. Research Family Lawyers in Your Area to Determine Compatibility

While going through any separation, it makes a difference if your values and interests align with that of your lawyer’s. I encourage all clients to research lawyers in their area to determine compatibility. To assist in their search, ask friends for referrals, and read lawyer reviews online. It also may be worth contacting Legal Aid to see if you qualify for legal services via a Legal Aid retainer. It is possible to retain the lawyer of your choice via Legal Aid. At Macphail Harding, we take pride in doing Legal Aid work to assist those who are low income.





The above is intended to be a guide to assist people who are contemplating separating from their former partner. It is not meant to be comprehensive legal advice, as each situation is unique and fact dependent. If you or someone you know is looking for a consultation in relation to a family dispute, please feel free to contact Christina Matthews by phone (403) 230-4617 ext. 232, or by e-mail: cmatthews@macphailharding.com