Separating is difficult. Often times, incomes need to stretch by covering two households and continuing to pay down joint debt obligations every month. Here are a few tips on how to separate and save money:
a) The Act of Separating
In Canada, you do not need any legal documentation to separate. You do need to communicate about ending the relationship even if you continue to live in the same residence. Note this does not require that the other party accept you want to end the relationship or marriage. So, do not obtain legal advice, only, about whether you are considered “legally separated”.
If you are staying in the same residence, it is important that the end of the relationship is clear in communication and in behavior. For example, you have told friends and family that you have ended the relationship; you have moved out of the joint bedroom; had no physical intimacy with your soon to be ex-spouse or ex-partner; you explained to the children that you are separating; you changed bank accounts so it is no longer joint and other behavior that confirms the relationship has ended.
b) Take the Parenting After Separation Course
This is a free six (6) hour course for parents that will explain the psychological aspects of divorce and separation as well as provide basic family law concepts and encourage using settlement options that do not involve Court. This course is also available online. Visit http://pas.albertacourts.ab.ca/ for more information.
This course is mandatory for anyone who has lived together and have children 16 years of age or younger. You can also be Court Ordered to attend. The Court will require the original course completion certificate before you are allowed to file Court documents in the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta.
There are a lot of useful parenting plan samples and child support calculations examples covered by this course. You can use the parenting plan samples to develop a temporary arrangement with your soon to be ex-spouse or ex-partner. If you find the temporary arrangement works, then take it to a lawyer and see if a legally binding document can be created such as a separation agreement or a Consent Court Order. You save money by negotiating and settling some issues before seeing or involving a lawyer.
c) Mediation is an Option
In Alberta, we have a mediation program aimed at assisting parents to reach a parenting plan. This mediation program is free if one parent earns less than $40,000.00 a year or if the parties have an Emergency Protection Order between them. The goal is to reduce conflict and help parents gain perspective on parenting arrangements. This is an effective way to resolve conflict.
You may read more about this mediation program by visiting https://justice.alberta.ca/programs_services/families/Pages/family_mediation.aspx and if you do not qualify for this mediation program then ask for a referral to another community resource.
d) Voluntarily Exchange Financial Disclosure
If you need to deal with child support or spousal/partner support then you need to exchange financial information. The financial information needed are income tax returns, notices of assessment, recent pay stubs, corporate financial statements (if applicable), WCB or E.I. payment statements (if applicable) and other documents which can be used to verify gross income.
If you need to divide property, you will need to exchange information to show the value of the assets or debts you are dividing. It is important to receive legal advice before entering into discussions about property or debt division. When in doubt, our office would be happy to assist. Just book a consultation by calling (780) 761-1070 or emailing to email@example.com. Please note there is a fee for this consultation.
e) Seek Legal Advice Early
Just meet with a lawyer for an hour long consultation. Bring all documents you want the lawyer to review and write down the questions you want answered. Some mistakes are costly to make. Getting legal advice early in the separation will ensure you are on the right track in your settlement discussions.
Author: Ms. Ning Ramos, Barrister and Solicitor
Phone: (780) 761-1070 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org