5 mistakes to avoid during a separation or divorce
With studies showing that divorce rates spike after summer, a leading Toronto family law cautions newly-separated couples against making rash decisions.
“The biggest problem people face when separating is that they act quickly, which can unknowingly create more problems down the road if they take the wrong steps,” says Barry Nussbaum, senior lawyer at Nussbaum Law. “Going through a divorce is difficult enough – the last thing you need is to do something wrong now that you’ll regret later.”
Experts speculate that separations peak this time of year because couples are waiting for school and work to resume, and are hesitant to disrupt family summer vacations. According to Nussbaum, there are five key mistakes to avoid when going through a separation:
1 Leaving the matrimonial home
You may be anxious to move out, or even think it’s a good idea to keep relations harmonious, but it’s better to stay put (move into another room) until you have a separation agreement or court order in place, particularly if you are expecting to make a claim for joint custody. “Leaving puts your position in jeopardy since the courts usually strive to maintain a status quo,” Nussbaum says, meaning that if you leave and you are only seeing your children on weekends and the children are doing well, courts will be reluctant to change this arrangement as it relates to parenting time and custody.
2 Allowing emotions to get in the way
As hard as it is, you need to put hurt, anger and other negative emotions aside, especially when children are involved. Acting out of spite by refusing visitation, tossing your partner’s belongings, or intentionally preventing your children from bonding with your spouse’s new partner will only reflect poorly on you in front of a judge. Nussbaum advises stepping back from the situation and thinking about how your actions will affect your case long term, recognizing that courts actually encourage people to find new partners and expect everyone to get along.
3 Going on a spending spree or depleting assets
Selling your spouse’s belongings or emptying bank accounts so you can go on a personal shopping spree is never a good idea, whether before, during or after separating. In fact, you will often end up owing half of it back, Nussbaum says. “You may think those new purchases are safe because they’re your personal belongings, but the court may see your actions as suspicious and decide you acted unreasonably.” You will likely be ordered to make an equalization payment at a later date.
4 Venting on social media
Tempting as it may be, avoid airing any personal thoughts about your separation online. Name calling, posting damaging statements or even texting hurtful comments to your spouse can be “a nail in the coffin in obtaining joint custody,” Nussbaum says. “The court is a creature of the ‘paper’ trail, and once it’s out there, you won’t be able to get it back, which could negatively impact your case.”
5 Failing to get spousal consent before planning a vacation with the kids
If you plan to take your children on vacation during a separation, you need to seek your spouse’s consent well in advance. If you don’t, and your spouse refuses to give permission at the last minute, you won’t be able to take the matter to court because it doesn’t qualify as a legal test of “urgency.”
“Most importantly, whether you’re thinking about separating or newly separated, the first step is to seek legal advice from an experienced lawyer who specializes in family law and will have the latest information from the courts at their fingertips,” Nussbaum says. “This isn’t the time to be hasty or do what comes naturally. You need to think and strategize before you act.”
For more tips, visit nussbaumlaw.ca