You have decided to separate – now what?

Deciding to separate is difficult

Deciding to separate is likely one of the most difficult decisions you will make. There is so much uncertainty wrapped up in the decision: should we keep working on the relationship, should we stay together for the kids or is it time to separate? There are no clear answers to these questions, which makes the final decision all the more challenging. If you are on the receiving end of the break-up – there are also uncertainties: could I have done something differently? Is there a way to save the relationship? What am I going to do now?

Three things I say to every client

What do you say to someone potentially going through the most difficult time in their lives?  I think Winston Churchill’s quote is apt: If you’re going through hell, keep going.

More than that though,  I give the following advice:

  1. Get your team together: you will need one solid friend/family member, someone who is not interested in the drama of your life, but rather to be a solid sounding board and voice of reason and compassion. You don’t need an army or even a group of friends – one or two will do. I think everyone should go to at least one counselling session and if you and your spouse can do separation counselling so much the better. There are a lot of emotions that need to be processed and a professional trained specifically in counselling people/couples through separation and divorce can be a game-changer. If not for yourself, then go to counselling for your kids (who need you to be emotionally present) or go for your next partner (who needs your baggage to be processed). You may also need a financial planner, advisor or accountant if you require some education or assistance with tax planning, corporate re-structuring, budgeting or education. You may need a child specialist to talk to your kids – they may appreciate having a neutral professional to discuss how the changes are impacting them. Your lawyer will be able to direct you to what types of professionals are available to support you through your separation.
  2. Get your self-help on: cue up Brené  Brown or Esther Perel or whoever you follow – it is time to look inside and decide how can you deal with the past in a healthy way and learn from the situation as it unfolds. This work is personal and important! You need to make sure you are sleeping, exercising and eating right. The next few years of your life are going to be difficult, so you want to be at your best – even if that looks like your worst. You could finally start meditating or get back to yoga. Whatever it is – invest time in yourself.
  3. Get ready to work: reaching a final resolution in your family law matter is a major undertaking. You are going to re-define your family in every possible way – parenting schedules, child/spousal support and dividing all your assets and debts. Your lawyer is going to roll up their sleeves to help you get there and you need to do the same. You (and your spouse) will be providing all the information and documents your lawyer(s) require to help you with a resolution. This means many hours need to be put into the task, which is why point one and two are so important.

At the end of the day, you will get through this difficult time in your life and hopefully you will find new meaning and direction. I have had hundreds or maybe even thousands of cases at this point in my career and they have all at one point or another come to an end….and almost everyone is happier at the end of it.

Have questions about family law? Please contact us!

About Leisha Murphy

Partner/Mediator – Vancouver

After being a family lawyer for over 13 years, coupled with my own personal experience with divorce, I have come to understand the difficult transition that comes with the end of a relationship. This experience has put me in the unique position of being able to provide clients with a clear picture of what is to come and how to plan for it. As well as provide clients with guidance and education on how to deal with the day-to-day realities of a separation.