Getting Divorced

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50 Things You Must Do if a Separation or Divorce is Pending 


This list is offered, not as legal advice, but rather a “Tipping Point” list of information that, whether you are a man or a woman bound by traditional marriage vows, living common law, or are in any other sort of marital union, will help you to get organized. This information in no way suggests there are answers. There are none. Don’t believe anyone who says they have the answers, in books or otherwise. There are no answers. Only questions. And the very most sad part of the whole situation is that no one is able to provide you with a specific list of “questions.” When the brain is scrambled from stress and questions need to be asked, one must make a list. But what to put on the list. No one knows, at the time, how to formulate a list of questions that ultimately will require answers. The professionals can only help you if you ask the right questions. But what are the right questions? Typically the professional in whatever field will be looking to you to ask them questions. If you don’t know what questions to ask, how can you know what to ask when your brain is maybe only working on half-power? 

If the breakdown or breakup has come as a surprise to you, and was not orchestrated by some sort of mutual agreement to disagree, you won’t just be “surprised,” you may find yourself, literally, in shock. Physical shock. Mental shock. It’s really no different than that dreaded phone call in the middle of the night, or the knock on the door in the middle of the night, and you just know that something awful has happened. 

You may go through stages where you don’t even know where you live, cannot spell your name, and you may experience dreaded panic attacks. Likely no one told you to expect this type of reaction.  But somehow you manage to get to work each day, or at least get through the day. You do all the “normal” things like grocery shopping, get gas for your car, plant a few flowers in the garden; but there is nothing normal about your new life, even if you anticipated the breakup. Fear creeps in. Particularly at night or often in the middle of the night. How will you ever survive? Somehow being busy will help a little. But it really is just a method of putting your thoughts on the back burner, hoping against hope that life will return to normal, whatever normal is, was.  

The human condition is stronger than many would have us believe. You may lose your appetite. You may gain weight. You may cry in your sleep and not even know it; the residual dried tears so full of salt are the only evidence and this salt can actually burn your eye sockets. Tears are made up of many chemicals. Tears of joy produce different compounds than do tears of sadness and grief. Your hair may go gray overnight, or your hair may fall out, in clumps, or gradually, or even all at once. Stress does awful things to your body and your brain. Some days you will be so tired you will feel that you cannot get out of bed, but somehow you simply must.

Speaking of grief, you will grieve. People will say, straighten up, get over it, get on with your life. But until they have walked a mile in your shoes, do not let anyone tell you that you have no grief going on. Grief is grief. Grief is a natural experience in regard to loss. And you have loss. You have “lost a life, as in lifestyle,” as surely as if someone had died. There will be no more “family Christmas or other December celebrations,” family get-togethers, family vacations, family all together at some other family event such as weddings and graduations. Unless and until you happen to connect with someone new, your life at the moment is experiencing many shockwaves. Some people deal with it easier (not better) than others. Some go on to other relationships and never look back. Others become like vegetables, stewing in the grief pot for years. It’s fine to say don’t go there. No one would intentionally travel that road. Sometimes separation and or divorce is literally worse than death, because it can be an ongoing thing; ongoing for years with no closure in sight.

Regardless of the length of your relationship, a few months or many years, the word surprise does not nearly cover what is now going through your mind following either the decision in which you had a part or a decision someone else made for you.  

It was the best of times and the worst of times. Truly “A Tale of Two Cities,” except this tale is “A Tale of Two People.” 

Two people who may have thought they had a strong marriage or other relationship. Two people who trusted one another implicitly. Two people, and this aside from a union that produced offspring, who thought they would live together until one or the other passed away. Two people who looked forward to growing old together. Isn’t that the common theme that runs through the ideal marriage or relationship? 

What happened? When? By now, one of you at least has decided that the marriage is over. Whether or not you have informed your spouse, your head and your heart are both someplace else and you don’t know how you will get through it all. You need a support system, but often no one will tell you that you will come to understand that a support system is hardly ever there for you. Yes you have friends. Yes you have relatives; you even have inlaws (in many marriages, whole families are involved right from the beginning). But no one can feel what you are feeling. As much as they may want to help, just like in a real death situation, no one can. In a “real” death, everyone knows that no one can feel your pain. The pain of a breakup, too, (and it is real pain) can be so physical as to be debilitating. Sometimes you feel like you can’t breathe. You mentally beat yourself up asking what you could have done differently. And you ask yourself over and over again what you did wrong. Could be that you did nothing wrong at all. These are real questions, mostly with no answers. 

Your doctor cannot provide answers, neither can the clergy. Your friends can’t help other than to give you a shoulder to cry on. After the first few go ‘rounds, people don’t want to hear about your situation anymore; and, they simply do not know what to say to you to assuage your heartbreak. So, somehow, go on you must. But someone needs to tell you up front, whatever help you think should be there, just isn’t there, somehow.  

You will have to make decisions that you never thought about previously. Alone. Mostly you need to make decisions right now, right this minute. Somehow. How? Everyone is looking for answers: your attorney, your creditors, your family. Now. Right now. And, of course you are in no frame of mind to provide answers. Too many questions. No answers. Certainly, no good answers. 

Whatever it was that caused the impending separation, you must keep your own head on straight. There are counselors, mediators; there are lawyers, there are the courts, the court clerks; there are laws. And, for the moment we are not even talking about dealing with family, and then there’s the children, a whole topic all on its own and not at all part of the discussion here. We are lead to believe throughout life that someone else will take care of us. That the system will provide answers when all else fails to produce answers. This is far from true. In real life, there is no system, and certainly no system to be relied upon. There are no answers. But there are plenty of questions. You need to make a list. Here is a list that will trigger more questions than answers, but nonetheless, since there is no other list available, at least it may help to get you started. 

Let’s just deal with the “list,” of things that need to be attended to. 

    1. Who to call first – do you know?
    2. Your home & property rights; what are your “matrimonial home rights?”
    3. Your property rights at large
    4. Appraisals: house, other real estate; jewelry, artwork, other valuables
    5. What’s in your house? – Who owns what? Who bought what? At what status?
    6. Where will you live? Will you go or will you stay?
    7. Your responsibilities: Now and in the coming months until things are finalized?
    8. Investment properties: Local and non-local
    9. Investment files and portfolios: Where are they now?
    10. Bank accounts – should you notify the banks? What does a joint account really mean? When did you last chevk the balance? Who owns “that” balance?
    11. Special banking – mortgage and credit lines; offshore accounts
    12. Pension funds – government and private and pre-designated notations – are they still valid?
    13. Accountants: mine, yours, and ours - and business accountant(s)
    14. Mediators and advocates and other advisors
    15. Counselors: Religious, Legal, Medical, and family friends
    16. Lawyers: Who would serve you best? What are their credentials? How would you know which one to hire?
    17. Police, Judges and the Courts – and how you can expect to be treated
    18. Churches and other places of worship – will they guide you?  or force their rules on you?
    19. Internal Revenue Service or Revenue Canada; non-resident taxes – will they call? Should you call them? Are you responsible for your spouses outstanding taxes?
    20. Mortgages: Who is responsible for notifying the lender; how is a pending renewal handled? What is a buyout? What changes can you make?
    21. Property Taxes – are they up to date? If not, who is responsible?
    22. Disposable Assets – Cash on Hand
    23. Mutual Liabilities –Who is responsible? For exactly what? and when?
    24. Outstanding Contracts – did you sign? Are you now responsible?
    25. Existing Wills and Beneficiaries; pre-bought funeral arrangements
    26. Credit Cards (sometimes dozens of them) and Loans; furniture bought on loan money, payback not yet started
    27. Credit Bureaus and notifications; Should you declare bankruptcy?
    28. Publicizing – it’s in the paper, now what
    29. Utilities
    30. Warrantees and renewals
    31. Renewals – Driver’s licences and plates and Insurance
    32. Automobile leases
    33. Car loans
    34. Business loans
    35. Other loans
    36. Clubs, Courses and Memberships; subscriptions
    37. Friends and relatives; parents of your children’s friends
    38. The animals
    39. What will you do now? In other words, what’s next?
    40. Should you tell your doctor? Your spouse’s doctor?
    41. Can you plan for your future yet? Are you able to start again?
    42. If you and your spouse work together, how will that play out?
    43. If you and your spouse own a business together, how will that play out?
    44. Legally, what are your responsibilities (covered again in other questions)
    45. How will you deal with the sex assault squad if required?
    46. How will you deal with Childrens’ Services, if required?
    47. How will you deal with schools if applicable?
    48. If there is more than one country of origin involved, what are the cultural rules? And how do they apply to “you?”
    49. What proof must you provide for various infringements?
    50. Last but not least, what about Insurance? Life Insurance: Do you know who the beneficiaries are? Who “owns” the policies? What are “your” rights? Medical Insurance: Will it continue? What responsibilities are yours? Whom to notify?

If this list and its related contents sounds overwhelming, that’s because IT IS. Make a list; make many lists. Put your list(s) in a file or envelope that you can carry with you everywhere you go. As thoughts pass through your mind, write every thought down. You can’t possibly keep track of what is going on otherwise… who said what, and when. Perhaps get a set of file cards and carry a few cards with you all the time. You will get brainwaves at the most odd times, and if you don’t write down the thoughts right away, you will forget. There’s just too much going on. At least this way you will be a little bit more organized, and from there you will begin to reorganize your life, with the help of all the professionals, special helpers and friends. Don’t let years pass by and keep saying that you wish you had thought of this or that or the other thing, and wish you had done something differently about it all, way back when the file was active. 

Note: This information was provided by a third party:

The word on the street is that if you have been separated for 'x' number of years, there is a possibility that you are in fact seen to be divorced, having not actually gone through the divorce paperwork. To clarify information in this regard, you may want to do your own research.

Information on divorces can be located through the Central Divorce Registry maintained by the Federal Department of Justice. For inquiries related to this topic, the office can be reached at:
Central Registry of Divorce Proceedings
Department of Justice Canada
284 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0H8
Tel: (613) 957-4519

Copyright Carolyne Realty Corp. May not be reproduced by any means without written permission. Protected by International Copyright Law. All rights reserved.

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1998 by Carolyne Lederer PLEASE NOTE: this material is copyrighted by Carolyne Realty Corp. and may not be reprinted or duplicated in any form without the written consent of the copyright holder.