How Do I Prepare for Separation?
It may seem a bit morbid and ghoulish to "prepare" for your separation, but a little bit of planning on your part can help you avoid problems down the road. These tips are intended to help ensure that you know exactly who has what, who owes what, and to whom the debts are owed.
Family property, family debts and excluded property
Take a careful, but not too obvious, tally of what each of you owns. This might be difficult if you and your spouse keep separate bank accounts and maintain your own investments, but make your best efforts. A list of your spouse's RRSPs, stocks, investments, bonds, GICs, cars, motorcycles, boats, ATVs, insurance policies, properties, and bank accounts may prove to be extremely useful.
One less obvious tip is to keep a record of the names of the financial institutions that are sending your spouse mail. You don't even need to open the envelope, just record the name and address. If your family has a safety deposit box, you should go to it and make a list of the contents. Make a list of the more valuable items in the family home.
Next, you should make your best efforts to find out what property you owned and what debts you were responsible for when you and your spouse began to live together or got married, whichever was earlier. The online statements most banks provide don't go back more than two or three years, so you may have to dig into your paper files or think about ordering old statements from your banks and other financial institutions.
While you are preparing this tally, do not ever open any mail or other correspondence that belongs to your spouse unless you have their permission to do so. Recording the addresses and information on the outside of any envelope they receive is fine, as anybody can see that. But intruding on your spouse's privacy is not a good idea, even if you are thinking of separating.
Once you've decided that you're going to separate, stop involving yourself in shared debts. Don't sign any new credit card or loan applications, and especially don't sign any blank documents!
Keep track of the money and property coming into the household. Make sure you know who bought it, why it was bought, and with what money it was bought! If you have recently or are about to receive a personal gift, like an inheritance, keep it separate from the family finances.
If you know you are going to separate, open a new bank account, in your own name, at a new bank, preferably a different one than your family uses. It's also a good idea for you to arrange for your personal mail to be sent elsewhere, like to a friend or a post-office box. You can file a notice of change of address with the post office and they will automatically redirect your mail for you. Finally, no matter how stressful your home situation is, don't quit work. You will, in all likelihood, need the income in the near future.
One word: don't ― at least not just yet. Your situation may be difficult, perhaps even intolerable, but don't leave the family home until you've seen a lawyer, especially if you have children. You might find that living on your own is unmanageable; once you've left the family home it can be very difficult to get back in. Remember that you can be separated from your spouse and still live in the same home.
See a lawyer
Even before you've separated, it's usually a good idea to talk to a lawyer to get an idea of what your rights and duties are. Many lawyers will offer an initial interview at a flat or a lower rate. Use this opportunity to get the lawyer's opinion of your situation and an idea of what your options are.
Saving money for a lawyer
If you're worried about your spouse noticing from your credit card or bank statements that you've seen a lawyer, there's an easy way to save up enough for a small retainer fee or the cost of an initial interview with a lawyer. Each time you take out money to buy groceries or clothing, keep a small amount aside, in cash, and save it in a place your spouse won't easily find. If a store lets you take extra cash when you pay with your debit card, take out an amount that won't raise suspicion each time you go to that store. Many grocery stores and most provincial liquor stores will let you take extra cash out when you buy things.
It may take a while to save up enough money this way, but at least your spouse is less likely to find out.
For more information
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Vanessa Van Sickle, June 13, 2019.|
|JP Boyd on Family Law © John-Paul Boyd and Courthouse Libraries BC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.|
Normally referred to as the "Supreme Court of British Columbia," this court hears most court proceedings in this province. The Supreme Court is a court of inherent jurisdiction and is subject to no limits on the sorts of claims it can hear or on the sorts of orders it can make. Decisions of the Provincial Court are appealed to the Supreme Court; decisions of the Supreme Court are appealed to the Court of Appeal. See "Court of Appeal," "jurisdiction," "Provincial Court," and "Supreme Court of Canada."
A court established and staffed by the provincial government, which includes Small Claims Court, Youth Court, and Family Court. The Provincial Court is the lowest level of court in British Columbia and is restricted in the sorts of matters it can deal with. It is, however, the most accessible of the two trial courts and no fees are charged to begin or defend a family court proceeding. The Family Court of the Provincial Court cannot deal with the division of family property or matters under the Divorce Act. See "judge" and "jurisdiction."
In family law, the decision of one or both parties to terminate a married or unmarried relationship; the act of one person leaving the family home to live somewhere else with the intention of terminating the relationship. There is no such thing as a "legal separation." In general, one separates by simply moving out; however, it is possible to be separated but still live under the same roof. See "divorce, grounds of."
Something which can be owned. See "chattels" and "real property."
A term under the Family Law Act referring to property acquired by a spouse prior to the commencement of the spouses' relationship and certain property acquired by a spouse during the relationship, including gifts, inheritances, court awards, and insurance proceedings. A spouse is presumed to be entitled to keep their excluded property without having to share it with the other spouse. See "family property," "gift," and "inheritance."
Under the Divorce Act, either of two people who are married to one another, whether of the same or opposite genders. Under the Family Law Act, married spouses, unmarried parties who have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years, and, for all purposes of the act other than the division of property or debt, unmarried parties who have lived together for less than two years but have had a child together. See "marriage" and "marriage-like relationship."
In family law, the dwelling occupied by a family as their primary residence. See "family property" and "real property."
A voluntary transfer of property from one person to another, without expectation of payment or reward. Gifts to one spouse do not usually qualify as family property, and are excluded from the pool of property to be divided. See "donee," "donor," "excluded property," and "family property."
Real property or personal property received as a result of the provisions of a will or the Wills, Estates and Succession Act. Inheritances do not usually qualify as family property subject to division between spouses. See "family property," "real property," and "will."
A person licensed to practice law in a particular jurisdiction. See "barrister and solicitor."
The act of hiring of lawyer; the money paid to a lawyer to secure their services; the terms and extent of a lawyer's services on behalf of a client.