With statistics indicating that about half of all marriages will end in divorce, it is now as “normal” to separate as it is to stay together. The most natural way to separate is to do so peacefully and respectfully so that each spouse can retain the happy memories that once defined the relationship.
The legal part of a separation is simply a matter of ensuring that the decisions that separating spouses make in respect to parenting their children and dividing their property and income are accomplished in a manner that is fair and equitable as fairness and equity has been defined by the legislation and courts. There is no inherent legal dispute in a family separation.
The dispute only occurs when different versions of fairness that are still within the ballpark of what a court would find to be fair are adopted by each spouse. The heart of the dispute stems not from the spouses, but from the courts who have created a very large ballpark, making it extremely difficult (and extremely profitable) for litigation (court) lawyers to provide advice on anticipated outcomes. It is rare for two spouses to describe similar histories of their relationship resulting in the opinions of each lawyer, seeing only one spouse, being as different from each other as the stories that they have each heard. Further compounding this dysfunction in the court system is that judges are seldom chosen from the family bar, and when they are, they are almost always chosen from the pool of family litigators, who may not have developed much skill or motivation for settling out of court.
The good news is that there are now options other than court for arriving at your post separation decisions. In British Columbia we have new legislation, the Family Law Act, that not only acknowledges these alternatives to court, but encourages them so that the courts should only be used by the approximately 3% of families that are incapable of making decisions for themselves.
If you wish to work out your own decisions rather than have a judge impose their judgment on you, the two most important first decisions for you to make is who will be the professionals that you work with and what process will you use.
Any process out of court is voluntary, which means that neither you nor your lawyer can force your will on your spouse. Instead, you have to arrive at a decision that best works for both spouses and your children. Positioning, aggression, strategic planning and other games have no place outside of court and only serve to cost you time and money in a voluntary process because they work to drive you apart rather than bring you together. To be as efficient and cost effective as possible we will often work with divorce coaches and child specialists (both of whom are specialized family counsellors) allowing you to make the very best decisions for your children by using professionals who have training and experience in that area (unlike lawyers) at far less cost than lawyers. We also have a team of financial specialists who can do impartial cost of living and future wealth projections based on various settlement scenarios, or other financial specialists who can value assets, income and corporations to provide neutral information to assist in building fair agreements. And finally, we work with lawyers who are trained in mediation and collaboration process and use a team effort approach in a safe and respectful environment to reach an agreement that will be right for you.
Different processes are described in our MAIN SERVICES. Depending on your level of legal knowledge, ability to functionally communicate with one another and complexity of issues, different processes may be better suited to your situation.