You’ve talked. You’ve fought. You’ve tried therapy. You’ve exhausted every avenue to save your marriage and are moving forward with a separation. The process of separating will undoubtedly create high levels of emotional tension between you and your spouse. Anger, pettiness, and resentment can lead to a messy split, so if you’re thinking of leaving, there are a number of matters you should tend to before alerting your spouse that you’re leaving. If your spouse retaliates out of spite, you will be glad you took the time to get organized. It’s up to you to protect yourself and your assets. Here are 5 things you should do before you separate:

  1. Make photocopies of all important documents. This may include your mortgage, insurance documents, bank statements (for joint and individual accounts), any statements showing your and your spouse’s income, RRSP statements, investment statements, vehicle ownership papers, and any other documents pertaining to individual or shared finances such as CRA Home Buyer PlanOpens in a new tab..
  2. Make a list of the chattels you are taking with you when you leave. This includes furniture, appliances, books, and any other personal possessions. Consider including any financially or emotionally significant items that you are intentionally leaving in the possession of your spouse. Date and sign your list, and consider leaving a copy for your spouse’s records.
  3. Open a bank account in your own name and start putting some money away, if possible. You’ll want to make sure that you are able to support yourself when you leave, and in case your spouse petitions to freeze your assets. This is especially important if you will be claiming spousal support, as support payments likely will not start immediately.
  4. Protect your assets. Remove any heirlooms (jewellery, deeds to your family cottage, etc) from your home and safeguard them in a safety deposit box.
  5. Alert all financial institutions and advisors that no action is to be taken with regard to joint assets without your express consent. Obtain separate credit cards and revoke any powers of attorney that your spouse may have.

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In the first installment of our Getting Ready To Separate series, we looked at 5 important steps you should take to prepare financially for the process of separating from your spouse.  Chances are, finances are at the forefront of your mind when you’re thinking of leaving a marriage. Separating is expensive. Moving costs, rent, incidental bills… it all adds up. Here are some additional items you should add to your pre-separation to-do list:

  1. Take advantage of benefits. Especially if you’re covered under your spouse’s benefits plan, now is the time to use your benefits. See your GP for a physical. Have a routine dental cleaning or that root canal you’ve been putting off. Have your eyes checked by an optometrist and buy new glasses or contacts. Redeem any massage or physiotherapy benefits (you probably need a therapeutic massage anyway!) and fill all prescriptions as close to your date of separation as possible. All of these things add up, and you’ll be glad you don’t have to pay out of pocket for them when you have so many other new expenses.
  2. Stock up on groceries. If you have a lower income than your spouse (and especially if you’ll be taking the children), having a fully-stocked kitchen will help while you’re trying to get on your feet. Groceries are expensive, and you don’t need another expense while you’re paying for rent, new furniture, car payments, or any other expenses associated with separating.
  3. Make repairs and purchase anything you might need post-separation. This may include making repairs to your vehicle or replacing your old computer.
  4. Remove any personal information from your shared computer. Clear your computer’s history and saved passwords, and record any information that you may need.
  5. Sort and purge. Donate old clothes, books, and anything else that you don’t need or use. This will give you an opportunity to sort through what you want to take and leave, as well as downsize so you have less to move when the time comes.

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