Consultation with a legal professional during separation is imperative to understanding your rights and obligations coming out of your relationship, and how these will shape your future.
1. You want to know what is fair and what you deserve
The outcome of the legal issues following separation can have a huge impact on your future life, including how often you see your children and whether you will take part in decision-making for them, and whether you will have enough income and property to support your lifestyle.
Seeing a family law lawyer is not about taking advantage of your spouse. The goal of family law is to achieve fairness, for both spouses and their children.
2. You want to know what your spouse has (i.e. income and property)
Financial disclosure is essential to resolving issues after separation. For example, in order to ensure that proper child or spousal support is being paid, income disclosure is required from your spouse. To ensure that both parties end up with what they deserve in terms of property, each spouse must provide the other with proof and details of his or her assets and debts, such as money in bank accounts, investments, business interests, credit cards and other items.
While this may appear straight-forward, necessary disclosure can be difficult to achieve, particularly if a spouse is not forthcoming, does not want to do the work to provide disclosure, or if he or she wants to hide something.
Family law counsel know what needs to be disclosed in order to properly advise their clients as to legal entitlement. Further, family law counsel have the tools to compel your spouse to disclose even when he or she is slow to do so, or refuses to do so.
3. You want to know the true value of your spouse’s stuff
Disclosure may not end with the exchange of bank statements. Sometimes valuation of your spouse’s property can be more complex, as with pensions, business/corporate interests, stock options, trust interests, and certain real property.
Valuation of income for support can also be complex, for example as it pertains to self-employed individuals.
Family law lawyers know when disclosure needs to be taken to another level in order to ascertain true value. Family law lawyers know when third party experts need to be consulted, such as chartered business and/or income valuators.
If assets and/or income are not properly valued, you can end up settling for far less than you may be entitled to upon separation.
4. Your spouse is telling you not to do so
It is red flag if your separating spouse is telling you not to see a family lawyer.
Meeting with family law counsel is about obtaining information. If your spouse is telling you not to do so, he or she may not want you to know your rights and entitlements upon separation. This may include rights pertaining to time with your children or financial issues such as child or spousal support or property division.
Your spouse may also tell you that if you involve family law counsel you will end up in court. In fact, most family law counsel try to keep their clients out of court if possible.
5. You don’t want to go to court
A common misconception about retaining a family law lawyer is that you will end up in court. Often quite the opposite is true. Most family law lawyers work to keep separating parties out of court, only using it as a last resort.
Family law lawyers attempt to resolve their clients’ issues through negotiation. It is only if and when a dispute arises that a lawyer will recommend a dispute resolution process. Most family law lawyers recommend mediation or mediation/arbitration to resolve these disputes, keeping the issues private and out of court. This usually results in a quicker and more amicable resolution.
6. You want access to money
It is not unusual for one spouse to have more access to money than the other. Unfortunately upon separation access to money can sometimes be used as a means of control. If this is the case, a family law lawyer can advise you as to how to compel the other spouse to provide access to funds and financial support.
It is not only spouses who have a right to financial support. Upon separation of their parents, children have a right to be supported by their parents. A family law lawyer can advise you as to how to assert these rights on behalf of your children.
If you are the support-paying spouse, a family law lawyer can advise you as to what you are required to pay, ensuring that you have adequate resources to provide for yourself as well.
7. You want to see your children
There are times when children are used as a means of control upon separation.
Children have a right to spend time with both of their parents in accordance with their best interests. It is not up to your spouse to unreasonably restrict your time with your children. Family Law counsel can advise you as to what type of fair and balanced parenting schedule may work for your family after separation and how to implement it.
8. You can’t or don’t know how to communicate with your spouse
It is not unusual for spouses to have a period of time post-separation during which communication is difficult or impossible. This is a time when family law lawyers can step in, not only to protect and assert their clients’ legal rights, but to manage communication between the parties during this transitional period.
9. You want to move forward
Sometimes seeing a family law lawyer is simply the only way to move the issues arising out of separation forward toward resolution. It is not uncommon for one spouse to be more reluctant than the other to move forward, for a variety of reasons. A family law lawyer can advise you as to how to manage this and, if necessary, can take steps to compel the other spouse to address the issues.
10. You want peace of mind
At the very least, consultation with a family law lawyer will give you peace of mind that you are aware of your rights and obligations, and that you are protecting yourself legally upon separation. The separation period can be a very difficult and stressful time, making it all the more important to have experienced legal counsel at your side.
If you would like to schedule a consultation with a family law lawyer please go to our Family Law section for more information.