I do ... Now I Don't

People leave relationships for many many reasons.  (41% are the last statistics in Canada at the time of this writing)  There is no judge or jury deciding whether it’s a good enough reason or not.  Only you can decide if you’re leaving; or tackle the demon of why your significant other left you. If the reason was sufficient to end what started out to be a life of promise; a future walking hand in hand grey haired and wrinkled., and when the twinkle has gone out of your eyes and there is no more warmth in the companionship and you’ve made a decision to leave, a whole new world opens up !

In exploring them, I`ve come up with the dirty laundry list :

How the heck do you do this?  What I mean is, how do you tell your partner it’s over?

  1. Now I checked the search engines for “50 ways to leave….”  Nothing.
  2. Entered “how do I tell my spouse I’m going/leaving/out of here/bye bye”… Nothing
  3. I talked to very close friends… Nothing
  4. Family… Nothing

But the truth is:  If you’ve been unhappy for some time, you can’t disguise this and your partner is not happy either!

So, quite simply, tell your partner that you realize that neither one of you are happy and its time you both ended a relationship in which you can’t see a repair and then both of you can move on with your lives.  Sounds pretty easy.  And it is but…

The emotional impact on you both is great.  Don’t assume if your partner has told you he/she is leaving that he/she are okay.  Neither partner walks out of a commitment without some damage.  If you’re leaving it’s also a head game waiting to happen.  You will second guess yourself perhaps; or not.  You will worry about the outcome, both emotionally and financially and then…

You realize you have decisions to make on which of you will be moving?   Does property have to be stored?  Where are you or your partner going?  How do you handle the finances in the meantime?  So now you’re exhausted mentally.  Can you both orchestrate and manage this separation peacefully and with mutual respect?  What are the next steps?  It’s not for the faint of heart because then…

Your friends and your partner’s friends all have an opinion and depending on how their marriage is going, or how their breakup went, it can be slanted between “she gets nothing to He’ll pay big!”  What a pity that these conversations with well-meaning friends can actually have you go from “can we do this nicely and with respect” to “better get a lawyer and we’ll see who wins”.

A report last year from the Canadian Bar Association describes the state of access to justice in Canada as “abysmal – and getting worse.” The bar association estimates that, two decades ago, at least 95 percent of people appearing in court were represented by a lawyer. Today, “anywhere from 10 to 80 percent of litigants are unrepresented, depending on the nature of the claim and the level of court.” One study estimates that half of all family law litigants have no lawyer. Cases are becoming longer and more expensive, yet the number of people who qualify for legal aid is falling.

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Beverley McLachlin notes that judges have long tried to call attention to the problem. Last year, Ontario Superior Court Justice D.M. Brown said that the country's courts were becoming “only open to the rich.”

And now you get into the nitty-gritty of the matter and have to work out financially how each one of you will a) split the assets and b) survive tomorrow.  Where do you start?  Have you thought about pensions, health benefits, house and car insurance, credit cards, lines of credit?  Again you have a list going and try to make decisions at a time when your emotions are running high and you realize you have to split the pots and pans and they were a set you bought together…not to mention the hand carved 4-poster bed and the last set of silk sheets.

So off you go to a lawyer to find out just how do you start this process and your lawyer prospect is of course in a litigious mood that day and determines his retainer fee for this file is 5 or 7 or $10,000.00 to start things going, tells you it will take months and months at some rate per hour almost as high as your weekly income! Whew!  Breathe in, breathe out…

“Going” means filing an action and serving your spouse with the paperwork and you just know this is not going to go over well and he/she (etc.) is going to suggest that your intentions were never to “do this nicely”.  And that’s when the hostility is more apparent in your day to day encounters with each other.  If you’re still living in the same house, every single indiscretion will be viewed differently – now it’s a personal slight and motivated by your partner's desire to make your life absolutely miserable!  There couldn’t be any other reason!  Once again, you forget to breathe!

The fact is that all of the above is very normal and you both need to be supported through this process of change to make it through to the other side, ready to start that new chapter.

So the reality is that you both can be aided along the way by professionals who can work with both of you to keep the emotions calmed while moving forward piece by piece through the transition.  The outcome is that neither of you will have the same level of assets you had when you were together, finances will be tighter, you may not have all the pots and pans and you may or may not have to find somewhere new to live.  But, beyond that, you will hope to remain respectful of each other.  While it’s true that some couples remain, friends, many do not.

At the beginning of 2014, The Huffington Post reported that a recent poll by Toronto’s Devry Smith Frank LLP legal firm found 74 percent of respondents believed they can divorce amicably, a surprising finding for a process known primarily as being long, expensive and bitter.  This is surely good news!  You really don’t have to spend 40 to $80,000.00 on ending a relationship – if you accept that you will have to consider fairness and equality for both sides in final decisions!

Many of the decisions and therefore clauses in your separation agreement will be defined by legislation but many can be negotiated between you.  This is where you need someone neutral to assist you and help bring fairness and clarity to your choices and then document these choices into your agreement.

DID WE FORGET THE CHILDREN!!!!  Of course not!  The young ones bring to the table a whole new dimension and an additional set of decisions and emotions under fire.

Are you still breathing?  I hope so.  And what’s more, we can help.  We are professional mediators.  In our process, we still utilize legal resources and you are still protected by the judicial system…we just keep you both working together respectfully and help you to stay out of the litigation minefield.

“Getting Out” is not easy on either of you but we can help. You only have to ask us how.

Article was written by Catharine Allen, Founder, and President of Toronto ADR Services