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The decision to separate & divorce is probably one of the most difficult a person will ever have to make.  It is a combination of contradictions and emotions.  In order to best proceed in this difficult time, it is advisable to have as much in order as possible prior to having the initial, serious conversation with your spouse.

Children – If there are children involved, their well-being should be your first and foremost concern.  Speak to them frankly but clearly and most importantly listen to their concerns.  They do not need to know all the details of your separation and subsequent divorce. It is important that you do not bad mouth your former spouse, but do not protect him or her either.

Financials – One of the most unpleasant and chaotic parts of obtaining a separation & divorce will be settling your finances.  Gather as much documentation as possible, including bank statements, credit card bills, tax returns for at least the last three years, mortgage information including your property taxes, and statements for your RRSPs and/or pensions, etc.

Credit Report – It may be necessary for you to re-establish your own credit history separate from your spouse. A good way to do this is to open a bank account solely in your name and to obtain your own credit cards.

Know your Rights – Be sure to understand your rights and responsibilities.  A good family law lawyer will be able to advise you and promote your interests. The status of your estate plan, your Will and Powers of Attorney, if any, should be reviewed. The absence of these documents could make matters much more complicated. Real estate title interests will need to be examined and discussed.

Mediation – If you are considering using a mediation service, start by deciding what you would like to accomplish and a prioritized list of issues to resolve.

Counseling – Family and friends may not be enough support.  You may want to consider counseling or a support group to help you through this difficult time.  Make your selection carefully.  They should offer constructive criticism but not add to the difficulty of your divorce.

Keep Good Records – It never hurts to keep things in writing and in order.