Family Law...Practical Tips for Separation

Anne McFarlane – June 2017

Following a separation, it’s difficult to know where to start. This process can feel overwhelming, and there is no pause button for the rest of your life when dealing with your separation. But trust me when I say it can be done.

Once you’ve seen your lawyer, there are a number of practical steps you can take to make the process as smooth as possible. This list is certainly not exhaustive, but will likely help you navigate this difficult time.


If there are certain issues that need to be addressed right away, make sure these are on the top of your legal “to-do” list. I will often ask clients to make a list of “A”, “B”, and “C” priorities; “A” being the highest, and “C” being the lowest. We then start with the “A”s and work our way through the list. Generally, there are a number of items that can be put on the back burner for a later date, once the “A” priorities are managed.

Examples of more pressing issues could include the following:

  1. Determining who will pay the mortgage or rent for the home;
  2. Ensuring school and extracurricular registration is completed; or
  3. Obtaining travel consent for an upcoming trip.

Only you know your personal circumstances, so be sure to discuss these items with your lawyer. The sooner you can prioritize your needs, the easier it will be for she or he to make recommendations about next steps.

Get Organized

As a dear advisor of mine always tells me, you need to “get your ducks in a row” in order to move forward. This is especially true in the midst of a separation. It is a great time to organize your financials, ensure your important obligations are on the calendar, and start keeping a journal of important events/details.  It’s also a good time to set new passwords for personal email accounts, hand-held devices, and online banking.

Work with other professionals

Although the family law team at MDW Law has experience with many types of matters, they are not (and will not pretend to be!) qualified to assist you in all areas of your life post-separation.  It is highly important to reach out to other professionals when necessary.

Involving a mental health professional early on is hugely helpful during such a difficult time. These professionals can assist you in creating coping mechanisms and working through your emotions. Unlike your lawyer’s time, these services are often covered under private health plans. This means dealing with the emotional side of a separation with the right professional can be hugely cost and time-efficient.

It is also wise to make an appointment with your financial advisor as soon as possible. She or he can assist you with making an interim financial plan, until final arrangements are made regarding property division and/or financial support. Your family law lawyer will also want to see a breakdown of your assets and debts, which your financial advisor should be able to provide you with quite easily.

Make Time for Yourself

Try to do what your flight attendant would say when boarding a plane: put your mask on first! In other words, make sure you take good care of yourself so you can be there for others who may need you (especially your children or other dependants).

We all have something that keeps us grounded and helps us de-stress in the midst of a difficult time. For me, it’s taking my dog for a long walk in the woods. What ever that de-stresser is for you (and perhaps your mental health professional can help identify this), there is no better time than post-separation to make it a regular part of your life. Though it can be hard to fit in to the day-to-day schedule, you will thank yourself later for that night out with friends, extra workout, or pedicure at the spa.

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