We need to talk: How to discuss divorce like adults

Click to play video: 'How to have an amicable divorce'
How to have an amicable divorce
If your relationship is no longer working, divorce lawyer Paul Riley explains how you can have the most amicable split and still discuss hard topics like custody and finances. – Feb 20, 2020

Getting a divorce can be an emotional experience.

Even if you haven’t been happy in a relationship for a while, bringing up the topic of legally splitting up can feel overwhelming — even if it’s a relatively common experience.

As of 2018, about 2.6 million Canadians identified as divorced, according to data. The age of people who are divorced or separated has been increasing, too, Statistics Canada reports, especially for individuals 50 and over. About one in five adults in their late 50s had split from their partner as of 2011.

So how can you talk about divorce and best handle it? First step, be honest with your partner, said Toronto-based divorce lawyer Paul Riley.

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“If you are not happy in the relationship and counselling is not an option you desire to engage in, let your partner know,” Riley said.

“Staying in a bad marriage is not doing you or your partner or your children any favours.”

How to talk divorce

Once you’ve addressed your desire to divorce from your partner, you need to sort out the logistics.

Riley said some key things to consider when dealing with divorce include where will your children live (if you have any), who will move out and who will live where, and who will take over primary ownership of any pets.

There are also the financial aspects, he said.

Click to play video: 'How to stay safe in a high conflict divorce'
How to stay safe in a high conflict divorce

“Who owns what and how will things be shared?” he said. “Try to work things out in advance if at all possible.”

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Your attitude towards your soon-to-be ex is also important. Riley said you don’t want to send spiteful messages or post hurtful things online.

“This will be held against you in the divorce proceedings, painting you as the unreasonable and vindictive party,” he said.

“Try and take the high road. Don’t be disparaging to the other person.”

Safety, of course, is also key. Riley said that if violence or other forms of abuse are involved, you need to maintain your safety right away.

Things to avoid

Posting about your spouse on social media can not only affect divorce proceedings, it can affect your children, too.

Barry Nussbaum, a senior lawyer at Nussbaum Family Law in Toronto, previously told Global News that if you’re fighting for custody of your children, how you use social media and the way you present yourself online can affect what happens.

“The internet is a powerful tool that can help in the course of a divorce, but it can also drastically interfere with the process,” he said.

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Click to play video: 'Ask an Expert: Mortgages and Divorce'
Ask an Expert: Mortgages and Divorce

Name-calling and posting damaging or hurtful comments about your spouse can be “a nail in the coffin in obtaining joint custody,” Nussbaum emphasized.

“The court is a creature of the ‘paper’ trail, and once it’s out there, you won’t be able to get it back, which could negatively impact your case.”

Practise self-care

Divorce can take a toll on your overall well-being, including mental, emotional and financial health.

“Separating and divorce involve big changes related to housing, finance, sleep, daily interactions, parenting and employment,” sex and relationship expert Jessica O’Reilly previously told Global News.

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“With change often comes (temporary) distress, so it’s easy to fall into bad habits.”

But there are things you can do that can help you through the transition.

First, make sure you do not isolate yourself. Find people with the sort of mental and physical health habits that will keep you on the right track, like a run club or art group. The key is to keep moving and socializing.

Click to play video: 'How to manage finances after a divorce'
How to manage finances after a divorce

“Make small changes at first to address potentially poor health habits,” O’Reilly said.

“If you’ve stopped cooking at home and find you’re eating takeout or packaged foods (perhaps because the kids are no longer with you), start with preparing one meal per day. You can pre-cook or prepare on Sundays so that you have some healthy options during the week.”

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— With files from Global News’ Arti Patel and Danielle Dube


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