As we turn the clocks ahead and the first day of spring fast approaches, in Family Law we know that there will soon be an influx of new clients. It is a strange phenomenon that spring cleaning, throwing out old items, washing all the walls and cleaning rugs, includes “sweeping out the spouse”. Just as you prepare for the spring cleaning by getting all your supplies in order, it is necessary to also prepare for divorce.
When meeting with clients to discuss the possibility of divorce, lawyers have a duty, under section 9 of the Divorce Act, to discuss the possibility of reconciliation and to inform the spouse of marriage counseling or mediators or facilitators who might assist. They also have a duty to discuss alternatives to Court including negotiations, mediation and arbitration.
So it is a twofold question. Firstly, is this something you really want to do? Secondly, if so, are you prepared?
As to the first question, we live in such a disposable society, and a society that insists we all need to be happy all the time that often people simply decide to get divorced because it is too hard to stay together. Couples should first explore all the avenues to see if the marriage can be saved and if they want to save it.
Before taking that final step of divorce, you need to ask yourself certain things. Do I still love my spouse and what does that mean? Where do I see myself in 5 years, 10 years? Do I see my spouse in that picture? Am I so caught up in my work/career that I am not available to my spouse and family and why is that? Affairs are often blamed for divorces however they are only a symptom of a marriage in trouble, they are not usually the cause. What is actually going wrong in the marriage – are we fighting about money, extended family, division of responsibilities. Can these be worked out?
Once you have done some soul searching as to the cause of your discontent what can you do about it? Firstly you should find a time to discuss the problems in the relationship in a non-confrontational manner with your spouse and make a plan. You can suggest that the two of you seek out marriage counseling, speak to your church leader, or doctor to see if they can help you sort through your problems or recommend someone that can. It may be that you are dealing with emotional issues either from your childhood or past relationships that will need to be sorted out as well through individual counseling. Ask yourself if it is worth it to you to explore these in order to save the marriage. You have to be willing to make the effort.
A divorce is one of the most crucial decisions you will make in your lifetime, particularly if there are children involved. Although it is not wise to stay in a bad marriage just for the sake of the children, you also need to be sure that divorce is the only answer before you make that move. Remember the grass is not always greener on the other side. You need to consider how your life will change in terms of your lifestyle, finances and emotionally what the affect will be.
It is an interesting statistic that most second marriages do not last. This is largely said to be because individuals have not dealt with the emotional issues or learned from the mistakes of the first marriage but simply repeated the pattern. In addition, there are often children from one or both of the partners to add to the mix.
Once you and your partner have explored the different issues and determined that divorce is the best answer, the second part comes into effect. You will need to prepare yourself. You can do this by:
- Getting some counseling in advance to help you work through your own issues
- See a lawyer to determine your rights
- Discuss financial matters with your financial advisor so that you have a good picture of the family finances
Although you will be sad at the marriage ending hopefully having explored all the avenues and still determined this is the best path, both of you can work through an amicable divorce, knowing that this is the best process for both of you. In those instances parties can often work through a collaborative divorce or mediation process rather than through the courts.
So remember although there can be an old piece of furniture that seems worthless now, a good coat of paint and new hardware can often repair the item, repurpose it and make it into something beautiful. The same applies to relationships. Don’t be too quick to “sweep out the spouse”.