Inspired by a CBC interview with an Ontario family lawyer about the most common questions she hears from a couple who’ve decided to split, I wanted to share my own Big 5 (questions) with those of you living - and separating - in British Columbia:
1. Do I have to pay spousal support even if my spouse cheated?
Yes. Infidelity is irrelevant when it comes to spousal support.
If you want to put limits on how much spousal support you will pay (or not pay) in the event of a breakup, do this while you’re still together through a marriage or cohabitation (“cohab”) agreement. But make sure to leave infidelity out of it.
2. Do I have to share my pension if we break up?
Yes. British Columbia law classifies a pension as family property, so there will be an equalization of this asset between you for the years that you were together.
3. Where should I even start?
With your finances. Put together a spreadsheet that shows what each of you owe, own and earn. Identify which items you will easily agree on, and which ones you won’t. If you expect that it will be difficult to deal with your partner on these issues, it’s a good idea to do your best to get copies of his or her financial disclosure information asap.
By doing this financial “homework”, you will not only feel more in control, your first meeting with a lawyer will go that much more smoothly, since financial information will be one of the first things we’ll ask you for.
4. How long will the whole process take?
It all depends on how well you and your ex can work together. If you don’t need a divorce, the process can go quite quickly – if the two of you are able to reach agreement easily, you can have a lawyer draft a separation agreement right away (with the added benefit of being as creative as you would like). If you are divorcing, you will need to live separately for one year before the divorce can be finalized.
For spouses in conflict, however, the separation and divorce process can last for years.
5. Can I speed things up?
Of course: Be organized and open to different settlement scenarios, and don’t let high emotions derail you from finding solutions.
(Remembering, of course, that if you are divorcing, the soonest this can happen under the law is one year from your date of separation.)
*This post originally appeared on Connect Family Law's blog in November 2017.