Emotional stress aside, divorce can be time-consuming and expensive. Sharing children, assets and debts can make a divorce extremely complicated legally and financially. Even without complications, a divorce can be the source of tremendous grief, so the decision to divorce should not be made lightly.

Legal issues

Going to court is one option if you are separating. In B.C., however, there are cooperative approaches to settling issues to reduce the time and expense in front of a court.

In many cases, it's possible for couples to agree on a fair division of assets and debts, and any monthly financial support. But if you and your spouse are unable to agree, you'll need to investigate legal mediation services or hire lawyers to represent you in the negotiations.

Family law issues are complicated. A lawyer who specializes in this area can provide valuable advice for making important legal decisions that will have a long-term impact on your life. You may also need the services of a tax or financial advisor to help with money matters.

Parenting time and child support

If your divorce involves children, the new Family Law Act supports ways to resolve family matters outside of the courtroom if appropriate, through agreements, mediation, parenting co-ordination and arbitration.Before you go to court you may want to contact a provincial Family Justice counsellor to resolve disagreements over issues surrounding your children. These counsellors offer dispute resolution services to families undergoing separation or divorce.

To learn more, visit the family law section of the JusticeBC website. The following website also offers information for families in British Columbia experiencing separation and divorce. http://www.familieschange.ca/

Money matters

Marriage linked you and your spouse financially. That link will need to be undone so that you can move forward in your separate lives. If you have decided that divorce is the best, or only, option for you, here are some things to consider:

Analyze your assets:Draw up a list of all your family assets and liabilities. Even assets or debts owned by only one spouse, and/or owned before the start of your relationship. When you have the entire financial picture, then you can consult with a legal professional and determine what’s important to you.

Open new accounts: You will need to open bank and credit card accounts in your sole name. And you may need to work on building your own credit history to qualify for loans or credit cards.

Change beneficiaries: Ask your lawyer about your estate plan. Once you begin a legal separation, you should immediately review and potentially update your will, insurance, RRSP and other legal documents. Even though you are divorced or legally separated, many documents naming your spouse as a beneficiary may remain valid.

Overhaul your budget: Your monthly income and expenses will likely change. Sometimes dramatically. A new budget will help you deal with these realities and may help you negotiate a fair settlement with your spouse. Our can help.

Check your retirement plan: Your long-term financial plans will also need to be reviewed so that you can effectively deal with your new reality. Review all your registered plan beneficiary designations. As part of your settlement, you may wish to to negotiate sharing your spouse’s Canada Pension Plan and/or employer pension plan entitlements.

Review your insurance and estate plans: Previous insurance coverage provided by your spouse may no longer be available to you or your children, or you may need more coverage. A specialist can provide an in depth analysis of your new insurance needs. Review all insurance beneficiary designations and your will with an experienced family lawyer.

Like marriage, a smooth divorce is all about give-and-take. Be reasonable or you risk making the process even more difficult. At the end of the day, a level head and a diplomatic approach will save you time, money and, most of all, grief.