Considering Separation? Know Your Options
Considering separation? It's important to know your options when it comes to the separation process. Here are some things to consider.
Divorce is ranked the 2nd most stressful event in a person’s life. People describe those early days of separation as a roller coaster of emotions. Lack of sleep, brain fog and feelings of sadness, anger, fear of the future can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Many times, there are so many good-intentioned advice givers that the anxiety of ‘what’s my next step’ is compounded. The internet can also be filled with so much false or misleading information. People simply don’t know where to turn.
Fortunately, now more than ever, there are options available to help with your separation. Understanding these options will help you and your spouse make the right choice for your situation. The separation agreement is the legal document that describes the decisions a couple has made regarding 2 key areas – the finances and the children. While the agreement itself is the legal document, the bulk of the work involves coming to consensus on everything that needs to be discussed and decided upon.
Old School: Litigation – Going to Court
The process of just getting to court can be long and very expensive. While court is most certainly the recommended option for certain situations (if there are cases of violence, safety concerns, or if one person is not willing to work through the separation process), it’s certainly not easy. Our courts are backlogged and it can take months to resolve outstanding issues. Courts should really be a last resort unless safety is a concern. The courts have now introduced a mandatory information session for applicants so that they can explore other options before going to court.
Better: Collaborative Law
The collaborative law process takes the approach that the couple is committing to not going to court as they work through the separation decisions. Each spouse retains a family lawyer and negotiations then go back and forth, sometimes in 4 way meetings, in order to achieve settlement on all the issues. This is definitely better than court as it can be less time consuming. However, collaborative law can still be very expensive as you add up the cost of two lawyers to discuss things like driving schedules for children’s activities. And should the couple come to an impasse – both lawyers are obligated to resign the case, and the couple starts over with new lawyers. Only this time, with emotions now running at an all time high, the couple may be ‘lawyering up’ for a lengthy court battle.
New School: Divorce Mediation
More and more people are turning to this new alternative as way to maintain more voice and explore creative solutions regarding their separation. A good divorce mediator is trained in all aspects of divorce and acts as a guide, facilitator, even a coach to provide the parties with support and a helping hand along the way. Couples move through the step-by-step process in a more timely manner, allowing them to make informed decisions, and as a result, are usually able to remain more amicable. This approach – one mediator who hears and understands both sides of all the parenting, financial and emotional issues - is quickly becoming the ‘go to’ way for divorcing with grace and dignity. Couples who have used this approach say it’s less stressful, less damaging to the relationship and, by keeping the emotions out of the decision-making, it results in a fairer outcome. Why is that important? Well let’s remember – if there are children involved, you have a lifetime of co-parenting ahead of you.
Most divorce mediators will still recommend that clients retain lawyers for the final part of the separation (generally for writing the actual legal agreement and to provide independent legal advice). When it’s all said and done, couples using divorce mediation have the peace of mind that their decisions and their plan will stand the test of time.
What about doing it yourself? For some couples, that’s another option worth exploring. And I’ll cover off the pros and cons of that approach in a future article. So if you, or someone you know is facing the prospect of divorce, know that you now have more options than ever before.