One bright, sunny day in July, while on vacation, I played a round of golf at a club I had never played at before – “Fox Meadows” near Charlottetown P.E.I. . I was thoroughly enjoying my round of golf, the weather, the scenery and my golfing companions. I was on the 3rd tee, which was slightly elevated. I hit my tee shot a fair distance ending up in the right side of the fairway about 20 feet from some tall grass that paralleled the fairway.
As I headed to my golf cart, I noticed out the corner of my eye, something move in the tall grass. I turned to look and to my amazement I saw a red fox coming out of the tall grass and make a bee-line directly towards my ball. Without a moment’s hesitation the fox picked up my ball and trotted straight back into the tall grass. Needless to say, I wasn’t about to go after my ball. I didn’t have a Rule Book with me so I wasn’t sure on how to score this unexpected event. I decided to ignore it and play my next shot from where I thought my ball had landed.
That was a story that I could take back home to tell family and friends – a kind of “what I did on vacation” story. But wait, there’s more! On the 8th hole, my approach shot to the green landed about 10 feet short but in the middle of the fairway. As I was driving up to my ball, wouldn’t you know it, another fox (or maybe the same one – they all look the same to me) came out of the long grass along the side of the fairway and was again making a bee-line towards my ball! This time I was a little better situated. I was about 30 yards from my ball when I spotted the fox. So I turned my golf cart and drove in a direction that put my cart between the ball and the fox. I wasn’t going to lose another ball! (my Scottish ancestry was coming out in me). The fox stopped in its tracks and backed off a bit (but not entirely). It waited for me to chip onto the green and then waited for me to putt out, then followed me to the next tee box. It as is if it was saying “you got me last time, but I‘m hanging around in case you and your ball get separated again”.
I have taken no small amount of pleasure regaling my golfing buddies with this story several times since my return from vacation.
This experience brought home to me the expression “always expect the unexpected”. This has also been my experience in the realm of working with couples who are going through a separation or a divorce. While the spouses may start out hoping for an amicable, straightforward and stress-free process, often this turns out not to be the case.
The separation process can be an emotional rollercoaster and sometimes spouses are not on the same ride at the same time. The emotional journey can take you through periods of denial, anger, rage, guilt or jealousy, and remorse until you get to an emotional place where you can deal with the issues more rationally.
It is wise to be aware that what may start out as an “amicable separation” may end up somewhere very different, with threats and false accusations being made by one spouse against the other, or even against other members of the spouse’s family.
It is for this reason I strongly suggest to family law clients that they remain polite to their estranged partner but also make their best efforts to document or substantiate all events that transpire during the lifetime of the separation negotiations. For example, I will suggest to clients that they terminate their use of all “social media” to keep friends or family up to date on the events of their separation or any developments in their “love life”. You never know who may be reading the story of your life and the purpose for which they may be reading it.
It is also wise for separating spouses to keep track of the documents that can verify their assets and debts at the time of separation and any significant or out-of-the-ordinary spending that they may make in the weeks or months after the separation. Documenting this spending his will help recreate the spending patterns of the parties and help determine if one spouse should be compensating the other for taking on debts or expenses that should be shared by the parties.
If there are young children involved in the separation I often recommend that the parties keep a journal or some other form of note-keeping on significant events that occur with the children, or to create a chronology of the time each parent spends with the children and the types of activities or tasks that each parent performs with the children. There is a very handy internet-based software called Our Family Wizard that is excellent for this purpose. You may view a demonstration of how this works at www.ourfamilywizard.com.
My golfing experience has served to remind me, and I hope that it provides some insights for you, to “expect the unexpected” when you are venturing into new areas or experiences.