The period immediately following a separation is among the most stressful a person will go through in their life.
With so many things to think about and so many emotions flying around, it’s easy for some important considerations to fall through the cracks.
As a family lawyer who has helped many clients through the process of separation and divorce, I have a unique perspective on the missteps that can leave people vulnerable from a legal standpoint. Below I’m highlighting some of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make after their marriage ends so that you can avoid them if you’re ever in the same situation.
As long as it’s safe for you and your children to do so, we generally suggest that people stay in place in the matrimonial home, even after deciding to separate from their spouse.
Parents who walk away from the family home without a good reason risk sending the message that they are not the primary parent or even equally responsible for their children.
In addition, the decision to move out can prove financially costly. I have seen plenty of cases where one party enters into a lease agreement for another property, only to discover that they are still responsible for a large chunk of the expenses associated with the matrimonial home, even though they’re no longer living there.
There’s no doubt it can be uncomfortable to live separately from a partner under the same roof. If it becomes unmanageable, a lawyer can help you negotiate an interim agreement dealing with expenses and parenting arrangements so that your rights are protected if you decide to move out.
It’s easy to understand why people lash out at a former spouse online, especially if the separation was not an amicable one – social media sites like Twitter and Facebook make it easier than ever to get your thoughts out to the world instantly.
However, this is not the best venue to express your feelings about your ex. Increasingly, we are seeing social media posts used in court to try and discredit one party. It’s important to remember that posting anything negative about your former partner can end up hurting you and your children.
The intricacies of family law are daunting enough for lawyers who don’t specialize in this area, let alone the average person who has no experience with the legal system.
Many recently separated clients come to me full of regret after jumping into decisions or entering agreements without the benefit of proper legal advice. In some cases, sadly, there is no fix. In others, remedying an unfair agreement is a time-consuming and costly affair.
Spouses who consult a lawyer as soon as they are considering separation put themselves in the best position to protect their rights and understand their obligations.
The old proverb about a little bit of knowledge being a dangerous thing is an apt one for people going through a separation. Well-meaning friends and family will often be happy to share their thoughts about your situation but their advice is based mostly on their own experience with divorce. However, every separation is unique, and what is right for one person will not necessarily be right for you. A family law lawyer can help you tailor your approach based on your individual circumstances and aims, explaining the pros and cons of all options before moving forward.
For example, one family might choose collaborative family law where they have access to a team of professionals who can help them settle their issues, but another may feel more comfortable in mediation where it’s just the couple and the mediator. For others, going to court may be the only way to protect themselves, their property and their children.
There’s no right time to start dating following the end of a relationship — it all depends on your situation. However, those with kids definitely have to tread more carefully.
It’s easy to forget that children experience the trauma of separation differently from their parents. Just because mom or dad is ready to move on romantically doesn’t mean the littles are prepared to welcome their parent’s new partner into their life.
Even at the best of times, not many people are excited to update their estate plans. After a separation, it may feel like other priorities are more pressing, but if your current will states that all of your belongings pass to your spouse, rather than your children, you may want to change it.
Outside of their wills, newly separated spouses should also check whether the designated beneficiaries on their pension funds and life insurance policies still make sense. In addition, if they have powers of attorney for property and personal care, they may have to make updates to ensure it’s not their former spouse who is entrusted with important decisions should they fall seriously ill.
If you’re facing a separation or divorce and would like to discuss your options, give me a call.