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Our Top Ten List for Making Smart Choices on Marriage Breakdown

Our Top Ten List for Making Smart Choices on Marriage Breakdown

Going through a marriage breakdown is hard.  Making smart choices throughout will make it easier.  Of course, it is always easier said than done so here are some choices that we hope people will make so that their own situation works as well as it can for them in all the circumstances. 

1. Make the choice to do things right.

Operate out of one’s human brain not out of one’s animal brain.  Out of rational and objective thought, not fear or anger or spite.  The biggest job of good divorce lawyers is to provide clients with objective advice.   In other words, lend clients the lawyer’s human brain when clients are unable to access their own.  Too often people operate out of flight or fight (the instinctive animal brain) or the advice of non-lawyers (see “Greek Chorus” below) and that instinctive reaction is then rationalized in some fashion.  Not a recipe for doing things right.  Get the advice.

2. Get good legal advice as early as possible

Good legal advice means talking to a good family law lawyer.  How you start out will have a dramatic impact on how issues are resolved.  If you start off being disrespectful of the other’s interests and needs, you are likely going to get the same in return.  Instead of being aggressive be appropriately assertive, which means respecting your own rights, needs, and interests as well as those of the other person.  If your case is easy and both parties are reasonable you will not need a lot of legal work. Don’t be afraid of getting advice early.  Spending the time and money up front can often save you much more later.  Good lawyers are problem-solvers first and foremost.  It is not a war to be won.  It is a restructuring of the relationship, the parenting, and the finances. 

3. Do not make promises (or threats) without first having good legal advice

Too often people make promises that are not reasonably or easily achievable in the legal system. They feel compelled to live up to their promise and create problems as a result.  Make your promise “I don’t know what the total answer is right now, but I know I want to work cooperatively with you to make sure our children get the best they can from the both of us, that whatever we ultimately agree upon works for you and at the same time works for me.  We may need some help getting there, but I want to work with you to do that.” 

4. Separate the legal from the non-legal

Recognize that there are emotional issues and relationship issues in any separation as well as legal issues.  While the emotional and relationship issues are important, they are not capable of resolution in the legal system.  People who are most successful in solving their legal issues without drama are the ones who are the most successful at separating the legal from the non-legal issues.  Easier said than done, but imperative that it be one’s goal.  Get support from a professional. Therapists, counselors, and psychologists can be helpful for emotional and relationship issues. 

5. Decide parenting from a child-centered perspective

That is the law.  And more so given the changes to the Divorce Act in force on March 1, 2021.  It is not based on what works for mom or for dad.  Be honest about it.  Do not rationalize that what happens to work for one parent is really the best for the children.  Try hard to be objective.

6. Recognize that children are from both of you and need you both

Most important is a relationship with both parents, peace, and a home.   Get advice early from a parenting expert such as a child psychologist if there is any disagreement or dispute. Parenting is often about sacrifice.  To do the right thing for the children often means sacrificing one’s own needs, wants and interests.  Part of that often means having less time with your children than you would otherwise wish so that the children can have a good relationship with all the important people in their lives, particularly their other parent.

7. Pets can be hard to deal with

Technically pets are property but try telling that to a dog or cat lover.  The best is if everyone can agree and not make it an issue.  Doing what is best objectively for the pet may be sad for someone in the family.  No good answers, and is unique for each family.

8. “The best result will come from everyone in the group doing what’s best for himself and the group.” – John Nash

The subject of the movie “A Beautiful Mind”.  A Nobel Prize winner for economic science – he says there are mathematically ideal solutions for every problem, including family law problems; it is just that we are inadequate to find them.  The best answer comes from doing what works for you and at the same time works for everyone else in your group.

9. Don’t rely on advice from your “Greek Chorus”

– friends, family, and acquaintances.  Families are like snowflakes.  They might look the same from far away but up close are all uniquely different and those differences can be critically important in determining the right answer for you. What worked for your brother, friend, or another person you know may not be the right answer for you.  The old phrase “a little knowledge is dangerous” comes to mind.

10. Do it smart upfront

Pick a process for resolution with your eyes open as to all the process options and the merits of each of them.  This is part of getting good legal advice.  Too often good mediators and good lawyers hear “I wish I had come here first!”.


Make an appointment to speak with one of our lawyers who can help you make smart choices and do it right.