In or near the Toronto area, if you are considering divorce, or if you anticipate that your spouse will be divorcing you, there are a number of things that you must do before taking even the first legal step. One of them is scheduling a consultation with a Toronto divorce lawyer.

What are the five most important steps you must take before you even think about getting a divorce in the Toronto area? How can you protect your rights and your long-term best interests throughout the divorce process? What else should you know about getting a divorce in Ontario?

If you’ll keep reading this brief discussion of divorce, your rights, and the law, those questions will be answered. Listed below are the five steps that you must take before you even think about seeking a divorce.

#1: Speak to a Marriage Counselor or Another Trusted Person About Your Marriage

Even before you take legal action or speak with a Toronto family lawyer, you may want to speak with a marriage counselor, with someone in your faith community, or with someone else you trust about the possibility of saving your marriage. Do not wait for your partner to join you.

If you do not know where to locate a marriage counselor, you can find one near you in Ontario at the website of the Ontario Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. It doesn’t matter if your finances are affluent or more modest – affordable marriage counseling is available to you.

Counseling resources are abundant in the Toronto area in both the private and public sectors. Many marriages may be restored through counseling, but even if you have no hope for your marriage, a counselor can help you move forward positively and constructively with your life.

#2: Take Steps to Protect Your Interests and Assets

What can you do to protect your interests and assets prior to a divorce proceeding or even before you discuss divorce with your spouse? Consider these suggestions:

  1. Know the extent of your marital assets. Both spouses must file complete financial disclosures in a divorce, but you should know – and be able to prove – the full extent of the marital assets. If the divorce is imminent, learn the extent of your assets immediately.
  2.  Do you think that your partner is hiding assets to keep those assets from being divided in your divorce? Put together any evidence that supports your suspicion and speak to your divorce lawyer about it immediately.
  3. You may want to hire a financial professional to help you understand and document your marital assets. Gather and make copies of your tax returns, insurance and mortgage documents, credit and bank statements, and any other documents that may be important.

The right Ontario divorce lawyer will fight aggressively to ensure that your divorce is handled fairly and that you do not lose anything that is rightfully yours.

#3: Arrange to Be With Your Child or Children As Much As Possible

In a divorce or any other legal matter in Ontario that involves a child, that child’s best interests will be the court’s highest priority. Therefore, when the court makes a child custody award, the stability of the child’s living situation and daily routine will be an important consideration.

If you want the custody of your child or children, you must demonstrate to the court that you want custody and that you already spend considerable time with your child or children.

Parents who can change, compromise, and put their children’s best interests before other considerations may be perceived by the court as effective parents who have good judgment.

When you separate from your spouse, you must find a way to maintain a relationship with your children and to remain responsible for them. Do not let the spouse you are divorcing keep you from your children and in effect push you out of their day-to-day lives.

#4: Do Not Leave the Marital Home Before Consulting a Lawyer

If you leave the marital home prior to or during your divorce, your spouse’s lawyer may allege that the move constitutes abandonment. In the Toronto area, before you leave your home, speak to a Toronto divorce lawyer to ensure that you fully understand your legal status and rights.

Sometimes, divorcing spouses can live under the same roof while their divorce is pending, but this obviously is not possible for the majority of divorcing couples. If you both agree to reside together through a divorce, you must establish and insist on clear boundaries and rules.

#5: Talk to a Lawyer Before You Take Any Legal Action

Understand your rights and options before you begin the divorce process and before you discuss divorce with your spouse. The law is complicated, and even when spouses cooperate, the process can seem confusing. If you anticipate a divorce, the steps you take now may affect the outcome.

Talk to a lawyer before you do anything to begin the divorce process. You may have legal options that you are not aware of. A Toronto family lawyer can answer your divorce-related questions, address your concerns, prepare your legal paperwork, and represent you in court.

If you are a parent, your child or children come first, and you’ll need a lawyer’s help to negotiate child custody, child support, and visitation agreements. And whether or not you and your spouse are parents, you may need a lawyer’s help to divide the marital assets, properties, and debts.

What Are the Basic Legal Requirements for a Divorce?

In most cases, to divorce in Ontario, you must meet all of these requirements:

  1. You and your partner are married legally under Canadian law or under the laws of another nation and the marriage is recognized in Canada.
  2. The marriage has broken down.
  3. At least one of the spouses has resided in Ontario for a full year immediately before applying for a divorce.
  4. You may also have to pay an application fee to the court.

What Else Should You Know?

The only ground for divorce in Ontario is a breakdown of the marriage. Your marriage has broken down if any of the following apply:

  1. You and your partner have been living separately for at least a year.
  2. Your partner has been mentally or physically cruel or has committed adultery.

This cannot be stressed strongly enough: Before you take any legal step regarding a divorce, discuss your rights and options with a Toronto family and divorce lawyer. You’ll obtain the personalized advice you need, and that lawyer can help you begin the divorce process.