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What to Do Before Telling Your Spouse You Want a Divorce: A Comprehensive Guide


“I’ve never walked out from a court session with him disappointed…

Barry really saved my life and my son in that situation”

What to Do Before Telling Your Spouse You Want a Divorce

According to Statista, 40,000 people got divorced in Canada in 2022. Given these figures, a pressing concern for many is what to do before telling the spouse that you want a divorce in a way that’s respectful and minimizes distress. 

While there’s no universal solution, taking proactive steps can mitigate potential conflicts during the divorce process.

Here are 12 things you should do to make this complicated process as smooth and amicable as possible:

1. Consider Child Custody And Support

When you have children, their well-being should be at the forefront of your considerations during a divorce. Think about the custody arrangement that would best serve their interests before telling your spouse that you want a divorce. Familiarize yourself with local child custody laws to know what the legal process entails. 

Sometimes during separations, one parent might reduce the other’s time with the children to strategically push for sole custody. Stay vigilant about this possibility and always refer to any prior agreements with your partner to address such concerns.

Learn more about Child Custody in Toronto

2. Legal Preparation and Consulting an Attorney

Before discussing divorce with your spouse, it’s imperative to be legally prepared. Start by gathering and organizing all pertinent documents, including:

  • Joint assets
  • Debts
  • Income and expenses
  • Insurance papers
  • Advanced health guidelines
  • Powers of attorney

Anticipate post-divorce changes, such as separating vehicle insurance policies and updating your will. While the specifics of each divorce can vary, it’s universally beneficial to consult with a qualified divorce attorney early in the process. They can provide insights into the legal journey ahead, clarify your rights and responsibilities, and advise on the best course of action tailored to your situation.

Legal Preparation and Consulting an Attorney

Even if you decide against retaining an attorney throughout the entire divorce process, equipping yourself with their expert advice beforehand is invaluable. For those in Canada, understanding the nuances of the Divorce Act and other family laws is crucial. Timely legal advice can assist you in:

  • Making informed decisions about child and spousal support
  • Cohabitation agreements
  • Parenting arrangements
  • Opting for family mediation
  • Understanding other legal responsibilities and liabilities.

3. Understand Your Financial Situation 

The legal intricacies of divorce will decide the division of your combined assets and debts, as well as any potential spousal or child support. If you haven’t already, begin tracking your finances before you talk to your spouse that you want a divorce. Review bank statements and other financial records to develop a comprehensive report. You should be able to detail your monthly and yearly income and expenditures, including:

  • Food expenses
  • Transportation
  • Child care
  • Entertainment
  • Any miscellaneous costs

Collect and copy essential financial records, including bank statements, tax returns, and investment account summaries. A comprehensive understanding of your financial standing is crucial for making well-informed choices throughout the divorce. Also, consider your post-divorce financial aspirations before you go ahead with divorce proceedings.

4. Prepare Emotionally and Find Support

Navigating the decision to divorce is an emotionally charged journey. Understanding your spouse’s potential reactions is paramount. While you’ve had time to process the decision, it might be a sudden revelation for them, possibly eliciting strong emotions or defensiveness.

Find support

Your primary goal should be to approach the topic with empathy, aiming to minimize the emotional impact. Anticipate their immediate reactions and strategize on the best ways to convey your feelings without escalating tensions. If there’s a possibility of a heated response, carefully choose the timing and setting of the conversation, and consider having a trusted confidant present.

Simultaneously, it’s essential to fortify your emotional well-being. Divorces, while challenging, can be navigated more smoothly with a robust support system. Rely on close friends and family to provide comfort and perspective. Additionally, consider seeking professional guidance, joining support groups, or connecting with online communities tailored to divorce support.

5. Find A Place to Live

After deciding to end a marriage, some couples can coexist peacefully for a short period. However, it’s often advisable for separating spouses to find separate living arrangements promptly. Having a predetermined temporary living space, whether with family, friends, or through affordable short-term rentals in Toronto, ensures you’re prepared for the immediate aftermath of the conversation.

6. Talk to a Marriage Counselor

If you are considering divorce, counseling can offer insights into what went wrong and guide you on moving forward. Engaging with a counselor can be beneficial, even if your spouse isn’t involved. The Canadian Association for Marriage and Family Therapy has a directory of professionals who can give you valuable divorce advice. Recommendations might also come from work, social, or religious connections. 

7. Consider A Timeout

When a relationship becomes strained, creating some physical distance can help both partners think clearly and prioritize what truly matters. Before applying for divorce, implementing a “Time Out” can be an effective way to manage overwhelming emotions and avoid escalated confrontations. Be prepared for your partner to initiate this break after discussing divorce and respect their decision. Don’t attempt to hinder their departure, whether it’s from a conversation, room, or the house.

8. Plan How You Will Pay for Divorce

Plan How You Will Pay for Divorce

While considering divorce, it’s wise to start saving immediately. The anticipated expenses of legal fees can often make individuals hesitant to make decisions that lead to independence and stability. It’s crucial to educate yourself about your rights and available options. Consultation with a lawyer can help you navigate the existing laws, assess your current situation, and provide guidance on safeguarding your savings during a potential divorce.

Learn more about Spousal Support

9. Practice Your Conversation

It’s essential to approach your divorce conversation thoughtfully. Prepare yourself to answer any questions your spouse might pose. Here are some potential questions you might encounter:

  • Is it about someone else? Approach this question sincerely and avoid getting defensive.
  • Have you thought about the kids? Discuss your preliminary thoughts on custody and your aspirations for your children’s well-being. Emphasize that these ideas aren’t definitive and that you’re only initiating the dialogue.
  • Is this about money? Be straightforward about your financial concerns and expectations.
  • Have you started looking for a lawyer? Answer honestly. If you’ve sought legal counsel, it indicates your seriousness about the decision. Transparency can set the tone for a more open conversation.

10. Prioritize Your Privacy

Before telling your spouse that you want a divorce, it’s vital to prepare yourself in several ways to ensure your emotional, financial, and legal protection. Here are essential steps to consider for your safety:

 Consider Making A Private Email Account

Set up a separate email account exclusively for communications related to your divorce proceedings. This step safeguards confidential information and reduces the chance of your spouse unexpectedly discovering these communications. 

Always Secure Important Documents

Secure copies of vital documents such as passports, birth certificates, social security cards, and financial statements. In situations where conflict might escalate, possessing these documents can prevent potential issues with your spouse retaining or denying access to them later on.

Sort Your Search History on Shared Devices

When using a shared computer or device, always remember to erase your search history after looking up information related to divorce.

11. Detail Your Personal Items

It’s essential to categorize your belongings based on their origin, distinguishing between items owned before the marriage and those acquired during it. For items received as gifts or acquired after marriage, you should be ready to negotiate an agreement with your partner, either personally or through the legal process.

For significant assets, such as homes, vehicles, or boats, consider enlisting a property division lawyer. They can guide you through the process of dividing both everyday items and larger assets.

12. Plan Your Conversation with Children

Plan Your Conversation with Children

Engaging with your children about the topic of divorce requires a delicate balance of honesty and sensitivity. Each child, unique in age and temperament, will internalize and respond to the situation in their own way. 

It’s paramount to craft your message in a way that resonates with their individual needs while providing consistent reassurance. Below is a tailored guide to facilitate these crucial discussions based on different age groups:

Age-Appropriate Conversations:

  • Toddlers (1-3 years): At this age, children might not grasp the concept of divorce. Keep explanations simple. Use phrases like, “Mommy and Daddy will live in different houses, but we both love you very much.”
  • Preschoolers (4-6 years): They might blame themselves for the divorce. Reassure them that it’s not their fault and that both parents will continue to be there for them.
  • School-age Children (7-12 years): They might ask more detailed questions. Be honest without overwhelming them with information. Avoid blaming the other parent.
  • Teenagers (13-18 years): They’ll likely understand the concept but might feel a mix of emotions, from anger to sadness. Encourage open dialogue, allowing them to express their feelings.


Navigating the complexities of divorce requires thoughtful preparation and a clear understanding of the steps involved.

Key takeaways:

▪Prioritize children’s well-being and familiarize yourself with custody laws.
▪Organize all essential legal and financial documents.
▪Seek guidance from both marriage counselors and divorce attorneys.
▪Understand your financial standing and anticipate post-divorce financial needs.
▪Establish a strong support system for emotional and practical assistance.
▪Be prepared for emotional reactions and practice the conversation in advance.
▪Secure alternative living arrangements or consider a temporary separation.
▪Plan for the financial aspects of the divorce, including legal fees.
▪Prioritize your privacy, especially in shared spaces and digital platforms.
▪Understand the distinction between personal and shared assets.

Remember, while the path ahead may seem daunting, with the right preparation and support, you can navigate this transition with clarity and confidence.

If you’re in Toronto and need expert guidance, connect with a trusted family lawyer today to ensure a smoother process.

Did You Know

Most abusers’ behaviour stems from feelings of privilege and entitlement and learned attitudes.

These can be extremely challenging to change. They must be deeply committed to making lasting changes to their behaviour. 

Published On:November 6, 2023