Mediation and Communication

When you are considering mediation for your divorce, it’s important to understand that this option can often be more challenging than it first appears. While mediation can help you avoid playing out your divorce over several months in the courts, both you and your soon-to-be-ex spouse have to understand that this is a collaborative process and approach it as such.

One of the most important aspects of mediation is how you approach communication. Mediation by definition involves a great deal of communication back and forth on how you are going to handle the various matters related to your divorce. In a time where there is often a great deal of emotional turmoil, keeping your conversations as neutral and civil as possible can be a challenge.

As you work through the terms of your divorce settlement, it can be helpful to keep in mind that many relationships break down due to issues in communication or the lack thereof. Try to avoid the temptation to approach your mediation with the same strategies and dialogues that were present in your relationship. Think about your ex as a business client with whom you are trying to make a deal.

When you are dealing with your ex in a mediation environment, our firm’s lawyers can be of great help in making sure that you are approaching the discussion as productively as possible and not bringing in emotions and issues from your relationship. If you and your ex can keep your mediation discussions to the point, you may be able to come to a settlement sooner than if you were to go through the courts and be ready to move on with your lives. Our professional experience and legal skills can help you achieve your goals in the split.

Do We Have to Have a Formal Separation Agreement?

While many people may believe that a divorce or separation always has to be a contentious process, this isn’t actually true. Every year, couples across Canada are able to work together to come up with separation agreements that outline the provisions for how their property will be divided and how child custody issues will be settled. While most people are more familiar with the concept of a formal court order, some couples may choose to have an informal separation agreement.

Those who are interested in going this route need to make sure they take the time to fully understand how informal separation agreements work and what happens when the parties no longer agree on the terms. For couples separating on fairly good terms, it’s common to try to collaborate as much as possible at first on visitation schedules for the children and other similar issues. You and your ex may decide on who will get the children when, how holidays will be spent and who will pay for which portions of the child-related expenses.

However, as time moves on, changes in your life or your ex-partner’s may make these informal arrangements impossible to continue. Some common issues that occur are one party moving or starting a new relationship. When this happens, you may find that you are no longer able to agree on how to handle your post-separation issues.

Informal separation agreements can only be changed if both parties agree. If you are unable to reach a new agreement, you will need to bring the issue before the family courts so a judge can decide what is in the best interests of the child moving forward.

Source: Family Law in British Columbia, “Making an agreement after you separate,” accessed Nov. 12, 2015

Property Division and Full Financial Disclosure

Property division is often the most contentious part of a divorce. This is true even more so for those situations where one person was the primary breadwinner and controlled the finances. If you were not part of the handling of the family finances when you were married, it can be overwhelming and confusing to figure out what you are entitled to by law and how to go about ensuring that you get a fair settlement.

One of the very first steps is to make sure that you have an accurate picture of the family’s financial standings and assets. Get statements for bank accounts, investments and any retirement accounts. You need to have a full understanding of the finances before you can make a decision on what you want out of the divorce.

During this process, it is important to have someone who can help you look for and identify any hidden assets. When only one person is in control of the finances, it’s much easier to set up unknown financial accounts or to buy physical assets and store them somewhere else. A lawyer can help you during this process.

Once any hidden assets are uncovered and you have a clear picture of your family’s financial standing, you can begin the arbitration process and start working towards a settlement. Even if your situation is fairly cut and dried and you believe that you and your spouse can come to a quick agreement, it’s important to be prepared for the possibility of extended litigation. Divorces don’t usually bring out the best in people, so it’s important to be prepared.

Source: The Globe and Mail, “Will divorce destroy your retirement plan?,” Brenda Bouw,

Common-law Relationships are Growing More Common

According to the census that was carried out in Canada back in 2011, more and more people are deciding to start common-law relationships. For Canadians who are 49 years old and younger, the amount of divorces has also been going down. Some experts think that the two things may be related, as more people turning to common-law relationships would naturally mean fewer people were married and therefore able to get divorced.

A common-law relationship is when two people live together without getting married. They could do this for years, and some people in these relationships are as committed—or more so—as people who make it legal.

The survey to find this information looked at 14 million women in Canada. They were at least 15 years of age. According to the stats, 11 percent of these women had moved in with a common-law partner and were living with them in 2011. Back in 1981, when the same survey was carried out three decades before, only 3.8 per cent of women were in this same situation.

The numbers also went up for women over 50. Specifically, for those between 50 and 54 years old, 11 per cent were in common-law relationships in 2011—exactly the same percentage as the overall total. However, back in 1981, the percentage in this same group was even smaller, with a mere 1.7 per cent reporting that they were in these relationships.

Divorce was fairly common in this age group, though, with roughly 50 per cent of the women having been divorced before entering the current relationships.

It’s important for people in these relationships to know what legal rights they have, as it can be different from an official marriage.