Considering a Separation? Here’s What to Keep in Mind
By Timothy Henderson | July 2, 2020 (Updated February 15, 2022)
Considering a legal separation can feel overwhelming, and you might wonder where to start. It’s important to meet with a family lawyer early, to understand your rights and responsibilities, and get an idea of what your next steps are. When you first contact Henderson Family Law, one of our trained law clerks will help you decide on the type of lawyer and level of experience required for your case, and then set up the initial consultation.
Once you’ve decided on the right lawyer for you, and you have agreed on a retainer, you will discuss the specifics of your case in more detail.
Step 1: Talk to a family lawyer
Getting legal advice before you make any changes is a smart idea. Moving out of the family home, for example, can affect your parenting rights to your children, as well as your ability to possess the family home, at least on a temporary basis. (One caveat: if domestic violence is a possibility, the safety of you and your children is more important. Have a safety plan in place, including a way to get out quickly if necessary. Many crisis housing facilities will assist in developing that plan, and you can contact them anonymously.) If you do move out of the family home without your children, it’s especially important to see a family lawyer as soon as possible to start dealing with your legal issues.
Step 2: Be organized
It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your family’s financial situation. Your lawyer will be able to give you more details about the kinds of documents you will need. It varies in every situation, but common documents include the last three years of income tax returns and notices of assessment. Once your date of separation has been determined, your lawyer will ask for supporting documents about your finances as of that date, such as bank account statements, your most recent pension statement, assets and liabilities, investments, debts, mortgages, lines of credit, and loans and credit card statements. If you have been separated from the other party before, your lawyer may ask you for a copy of any prior separation agreement or court order. Again, your lawyer will tell you exactly what’s needed.
You don’t necessarily need to bring these documents to the initial consultation. However, now is the time to get organized, because the more organized you are, the more likely you will be able to provide your lawyer with the right documents at the right time, helping to save both time and money. Figure out what basic filing system will work for you.
Step 3: Consider family matters
Before your first appointment, give some thought to other practical considerations. For example, if you have children, what type of parenting arrangement do you think will work? What schedule makes sense for you and the children? What do you think is the best way to communicate with the other party?
If you are already living apart and you are sharing time with your children, keep a journal of the days they are with you and the days they are with the other parent, so you have a record. If there are concerns about the other parent, it’s wise to keep notes about dates and events that raise red flags for you—for example, the other parent missed scheduled parenting time without explanation, you were verbally abused in front of the children, you suspect the influence of alcohol or drugs when your children were with that parent, or a sick child did not get proper medical attention when they were with the other parent.
Planning a separation can be daunting, but the family lawyers at Henderson Family Law can help you assess your next move. Please contact us to set up a consultation.
This content is provided as a general informational source by Henderson Family Law, and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, or establish a lawyer-client relationship. Every situation is complex and fact-specific, and appropriate advice will vary accordingly. Do not rely on this information for legal decision-making under any circumstances. Please consult with us and obtain proper advice and strategy concerning the specifics of your particular situation.