The Breakup Earthquake

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The Breakup Earthquake

When a couple breaks up, it sends shockwaves through a family.

We call this the breakup earthquake. Depending on its seismic force, anger, sadness and confusion can rumble through a family. At the very least, the breakup earthquake weakens family structure and relationships. At its worst, the shockwaves can tear apart families the same way an earthquake tears apart buildings, bridges and the ground.

Such destruction is often the result of constant conflict, which can cause toxic stress. Toxic stress is never good, and it’s very harmful to children because it can block or weaken brain development, which can lead to many health problems at the time and throughout life.

Just as a house needs a sturdy foundation to hold up the walls and roof, a child’s brain needs a good base to support all future development and lifelong health.

Our community offers a number of ways to support this development and deal with the shockwaves of the breakup earthquake. For example, different legal options to divorce, such as collaborative practice and mediation, help families keep their integrity and avoid fighting. They also put separating parents in control.

Lawyers and other professionals trained to help families restructure are like aid workers in a disaster. In this case, they work with parents to find positive and practical ways to solve a family’s problems.

This support helps parents settle their differences, and protect and share what matters most to them, such as their children, being a parent and their security, property and finances. Parents gain the knowledge, skills and support they need to lead separate lives, to co-parent and contribute to the community.

Giving parents better ways to talk about and deal with their feelings can also help them divorce or separate without the cost and anxiety of a legal battle or going to court.

With the right support, families can calm and reduce the damages of a breakup earthquake.

These resources offer divorcing or separating couples options to the traditional divorce system.

  • This website from the Collaborative Divorce Alberta Association includes frequently asked questions about collaboration and lists registered and trained professionals in your area, as well as family counsellors and financial specialists.
  • A respected and effective program in Medicine Hat, the New Ways for Families Program helps separating couples with children build their parenting skills and reduce the effects of high-conflict divorce and separation on children. It teaches flexible thinking, managed emotions, moderate behaviours and checking yourself to see if you are using your skills. Subsidies available.
  • Visit the Alberta Family Mediation Society website to find registered family mediators, parenting coordinators and answers to frequently asked questions.
  • Families can find a range of resources from Alberta Justice and Solicitor General Mediation and Counselling Services, including mediation services to resolve parenting issues. Subsidies available.
Janis Pritchard
Janis Pritchard helps you navigate the turning points of life. She is a partner, Collaborative Lawyer and Registered Family Mediator with Pritchard & Co. Law Firm, LLP. Janis is part of a team of lawyers and family counsellors working to help Albertans understand their legal options to divorce. Almost half of marriages in Alberta will end before a couple’s 30th anniversary. Contact Janis at (403) 527-4411 or at