Separating in Your 30’s…Collaborative May be the Right Place for You

The number of people in their late 20’s and 30’s separating is increasing.   Many experience the irony of feeling like their life is starting, while simultaneously ending a big chapter.   Often, finances were combined, debts amalgamated and new homes bought.   Some had parents gift them funds to a buy a house, many saw large changes in careers and salaries and usually lifestyles were starting to be created.  What do you do when it’s coming to an end at what feels like the beginning?

Financially, you are starting out.  You finally have money in the bank.  You may have made a dent in your school debt.  The concept of ‘equalizing’ property doesn’t really seem fair since often someone feels like the partnership wasn’t long enough to warrant a traditional division of assets.  The joining of assets was recent such that one person doesn’t want to feel like they are enriching the other, but the other doesn’t want to leave feeling destitute.  You may have travelled to other cities together for school and job opportunities, and your incomes may be different.  If you do not have kids, monthly spousal support may feel funny.  There wasn’t a plan for what’s next and it feels scary.  You also do not want to spend your newly acquired, hard earned savings on legal bills trying to sort out the money you do have.

If this is you, consider a settlement process, such as collaborative or mediation.  In these processes, we can get creative.  It may be, for example, that you just bought a house.  Parents helped, you both contributed, and got into the market.   When you both think of what to do with the house, selling it feels like a lost investment because the process of selling is so costly that it may cut into the majority of your profit margin.  Is there a way you can both hold on to it as an investment until an agreed upon time?  Can you rent it out, likely earning more money than you need to carry it, thereby creating additional money in both your pockets to live in two separate houses?  Maybe this doesn’t work, and someone wants to keep the house but needs time to buy the other person out.  Maybe selling does make sense.  These are big decisions that do not have one size fits all answers.   

A traditional legal model may not keep the most money in your hands.  If you are young, live in the same neighbourhood, have the same friends – you are going to keep seeing each other.  If you have social media, you will inevitably come across each other and know more about the other person’s life than you perhaps care to.  Duking it out will make an already painful separation feel that much worse.  

Ending a short marriage comes with a host disappointment with not living out what was promised such a short time ago.  There is emotion riddled for both people.  We get that.  This process makes room for that.  There is always so much more to these negotiations than money.  There is healing, forgiveness, coming to terms with and moving on.  

We hope that if this is you and you have come to the difficult decision of separating that you consider a settlement based process to assist.