Before you separate or divorce in BC, there things you can do before you leave your relationship that will make it easier.  Whether you are leaving an urgent situation, or have been considering divorce for a long time, the following are our top 10 smart things to do before you separate.

1.Create a new private email address, and change all of your online passwords. 

This includes your cell phone, Facebook and other social media, banking, and emails.  If you can afford it, buy a new cell phone and get a new number on a separate account.

 In some cases, husbands/wives/partners continue to access their ex’s accounts without their knowledge.  They sometimes even use this evidence in court.

2.Open a Post Office Box to receive mail (new credit card, legal correspondence etc.).

3.Apply for a credit card with a low interest rate in your sole name.

Preparing for financial independence is crucial.  There will be costs for a new apartment (rent, utilities and the like).  You may have to pay more than your share of expenses until everything is sorted out.  You may also have new costs, such as daycare, education, and legal costs.

If you have money or credit accessible to you, you can use that to obtain new housing, transportation, pay for monthly costs, and  legal advice.  Having a credit track-record will also help if you need to qualify for a mortgage to buy out your current house or buy a new home.

4.Save or reallocate money for living expenses and legal fees. 

If you don’t have time to put aside money in advance, consider withdrawing some money from your Line of Credit, or borrow from extended family.

5.Make photocopies of your financial information. 

You should have your most recent bank account statement.  Likewise for any credit card statements or investments.

Take copies of your most recent pay statement, T1 General Tax Return and Notice of Assessments.  For a separation or divorce in BC, you will need your most recent pay statement, and your last 3 years’ tax returns for  your Financial Statement.  If you can, take photocopies of your spouse’s pay statement and tax returns.  This can help verify their income as well.

6.Gather your most important documents and identity cards :  Passport(s), BC Services/Care Card, Status Card and Identification, bank and credit card(s), marriage certificate, birth certificate(s).  These apply to both yourself and your children.

7.Collect all your medications and prescriptions, for yourself and your children (if they are coming with you).

8.Download photographs and documents you would like to keep on a memory stick, or forward them to your email.

9.Take photographs and make a list of your personal and marital property.

Sometimes you have to leave your home when you separate, for safety or health reasons.  Try not to worry too much over personal property.  You may be able to negotiate “who gets what” in the home at a later date.   It may cost you money to “fight” over inexpensive items (such as kitchen items) that can be replaced.

10.Round up the most significant personal items you wish to keep (jewelry, family heirlooms, sentimental items, clothing, excluded property). 

In the event that you need to return to your home to retrieve items, safety can be enhanced by arranging a time when your ex-spouse is not home, or a time when you can have a friend or family member accompany you.  In some cases, the police can also attend the residence when you are there to gather up your property.

Try to be fair, and sensitive to sharing sentimental items with your ex (such as holiday decorations and family photos).

Leaving & Family Violence

Michael Butterfield, our lawyer and mediator, stresses that our firm’s recommendations are guidelines, and should not be done at the expense of safety.  If you are leaving an abusive relationship, consult with the Victoria Women’s Transition House for their 24-hour crisis line, and other support services.

We recognize that not all people have the financial resources to follow these guidelines.  However, there are free services which can assist you with your separation and divorce in BC.

Taking these steps before you leave our partner* will save you time and money.

  • You won’t be paying for your lawyer to try get things for you after you’ve already left the home.
  • You will be in a stronger financial position to negotiate and mediate long term decisions about your future.
  • You can prevent negotiation or trial difficulties that could be created by a lack of privacy.
  • *These suggestions apply both to couples who are married or living together.

“All endings are also beginnings.  We just don’t know it at the time.” 

Mitch Albom

Jayne Embree, M.A.

Jayne holds a Masters Degree in Psychology. She is currently Mr. Butterfield’s Legal Assistant and the Mediation Coordinator at Butterfield Law.