These are the five things you should do before you act on any thoughts you have about divorce. These steps are specific to Ontario divorce but can be applied to divorce in most provinces. It’s important to be certain that you have done the things you need to do to feel good about your decisions. Here are the top five things to do:

1. Talk to a Marriage Counselor or other professional who may be able to help you save your marriage.

Even if you don’t think there’s hope for the marriage, “divorce counseling” can help you discover what went wrong, how to cope, and how to pick up the pieces and go on. Don’t wait for your spouse to participate. If you don’t know how to find a qualified counselor, our firm will be glad to recommend one or you can check out the directory of professionals of the Ontario Association for Marriage and Family Therapy at http://www.oamft.on.ca/. Your employment, social or religious contacts might also provide leads.

2. Talk to a lawyer before you do anything.

Even if you don’t end up hiring a lawyer to handle your separation or divorce, you would be well advised to get as much information as you can before you even discuss divorce with your spouse. There’s a lot to know about divorce in Ontario…our laws are complex and even the simplest situation can be very confusing to families already in distress. Actions you take now may very well affect the outcome of your divorce (see #3) and you need to understand your options ahead of time…not some time down the road when it may be too late to alter the outcome. Click here to find lawyers who are well versed in the intricacies of Ontario divorce law.

3. Do not move out of the marital home without talking to a lawyer first.

Leaving the house without a good reason may cause you to lose possession of the matrimonial home or custody of the children. If you leave the house, you may also be unable to return until after a court divides the property. This process could take more than a year. The best advice is to stay in the house until after you talk with a lawyer unless your spouse is violent. If your spouse is violent, you must take all steps necessary to protect yourself and your children.

4. Take concrete steps to safeguard your assets before you and your spouse begin discussing divorce.

Protective measures you might consider in your divorce planning include: protecting your own credit rating by freezing or closing joint credit cards and by blocking your spouse’s access to other joint credit such as a home equity loan or lines of credit; and closing joint bank accounts and opening accounts in your own, individual name.

5. Make arrangements to see your children as much as you can

The courts, when awarding custody, will look to the status quo in order to provide children with stability. If you intend on getting custody of the children, you must show the court that you want it and show that you can work with your spouse to arrange time with the children and make decisions.

When separating, it is important to maintain a close relationship with children and to remain equally responsible for them. This means scheduling your own time with the children, arranging to attend school and doctor’s appointments. When parties separate, sometimes a parent tries to limit the others’ time with the children to tactfully advance their case for sole custody. It is important to be aware of this.