Toronto Separation Agreement Lawyer
If you and your spouse are largely in agreement on what you want to happen when you separate, you are free to put your decisions into a separation agreement—a written contract that details how you will deal with separation issues. Married couples, as well as those in a common-law relationship, can make a separation agreement. It is important that you understand that a separation agreement is not the same as a divorce; you must apply to the court to get a divorce after you have been separated for one year. Your separation agreement can, however, detail when and how you will get a divorce.
It is always a good idea to seek legal advice from a Toronto family law lawyer before signing a separation agreement. Your lawyer can help you understand the rules necessary to make your separation agreement as well as your rights and responsibilities toward your spouse and children. While you can make a separation agreement any time after you separate, some issues do have time limits. As an example, you have six years from the date of your separation to divide your property, but only two years from the date of your divorce to divide the property. There is no requirement that you wait until you and your spouse are in agreement about everything prior to making a separation agreement.
You can move forward with the separation agreement, including the issues you do agree on while continuing to work on property issues. Separation agreements can also cover a specified period of time; as an example, your separation agreement could detail where your child will live during the summer months, ending when summer break is over. As long as both partners agree on changes, those changes can be made at any time by entering into a new separation agreement.
What Does a Separation Agreement Include?
A separation agreement is a contract between two people who once lived together and are now living apart from one another, explaining the rights and obligations of each spouse. Property division can be addressed, with such issues as whether the matrimonial home will be sold, who gets the family vehicle(s), and whether bank accounts will be shared. If spousal support is an issue, it will be addressed, as well as financial support for children of the relationship. The separation agreement will detail where the children will live, and when access will be granted to the other parent. All of these issues, as well as any other issue which could conceivably arise as the result of separation, can be addressed in a separation agreement.
Why a Separation Agreement is a Good Idea
There are a number of reasons why having a separation agreement is a good idea. When you and your spouse create a separation agreement that you can both live with, you are saving the stress involved in going to court—and saving money in the process. While you will still want a lawyer to look over the agreement, when you collaboratively create a separation agreement, you and your partner can decide what works best for you and your family rather than letting the court make those decisions. Additional reasons to have a separation agreement include:
- Those involved in your children’s care (teachers, daycare workers, doctors, etc.) will know what has been agreed on between parents and can act accordingly.
- A separation agreement can be used to get assistance from the Family Responsibility Office if there is a problem getting spousal support or child support.
- A written separation agreement makes it easier to prove the arrangements made by you and your spouse than if you only have a verbal agreement.
Reasons You Might Want to Avoid a Separation Agreement
There are certain situations in which you might want to avoid a separation agreement worked out between the two of you. The primary reason for this is if you and your spouse are unable to talk with one another or work with one another, even with a neutral third-party present. If your partner has abused you in the past, or if he or she has serious drug or alcohol abuse issues or mental health issues, then a separation agreement made between the two of you is unlikely to be a good idea. If any of these situations exist for you and your spouse, you need a family law lawyer—preferably trained in mediation—to help resolve the issues. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to have a court order that can be enforced.
Key Tips for Your Toronto Separation Agreement
There are a number of issues to consider when you are considering a separation agreement, including the following:
- A separation agreement is a legal, binding contract when signed by both parties in the presence of a witness, and properly dated.
- All dates, names, account numbers, addresses, etc., need to be listed accurately.
- Assets must be specifically listed and itemized, described in detail to avoid confusion down the road.
- Make sure the provisions in your separation agreement are realistic—provisions which are unrealistic can result in conflict or even a breach of the agreement.
- Always involve a lawyer in your separation agreement. It can be dangerous to use a “kit” from the internet, which involves boilerplate clauses.
- If and when you divorce, the court will likely take the contents of your separation agreement into consideration.
- The terms of your separation agreement are likely to be recognized by the court so long as the terms of the agreement are fair to both parties.
- The date of separation is important when you apply for a divorce since divorce cannot be granted until you and your partner have lived separate and apart for a full year or more.
- Child support and spousal support obligations can only begin from the date of the separation agreement.
- The division of property and liabilities are also calculated from the date of separation, so this date is extremely important.
- If it is impossible, economically, for you and your partner to physically separate into two homes, there are instances so long as you maintained separate bedrooms, did not engage in sexual relations, did not attend social events as a couple, and did not fit one another’s schedules to that of the other partner.
- Because a separation agreement can potentially be challenged in court and set aside, it is critical that you have a Certificate of Independent Legal Advice attached to your separation agreement. This ensures there was no duress, no misrepresentation by one partner, no unjust or unfair provisions, and no undue influence involved in the separation agreement.
How Musson Law Can Help with Your Separation Agreement
Musson Law has fifteen years of experience helping other Toronto couples successfully navigate separation agreements, divorce, and all other family law issues. Our knowledgeable lawyers can review the terms and conditions of your separation agreement to ensure it is legally binding, or, we can handle the entire agreement by obtaining and reviewing financial disclosures, negotiating the terms of the agreement, and formalizing the separation agreement.
At Musson Law, we want to help you move forward in your life by helping you resolve the issues in your personal life. We will always focus on your unique circumstances, whether that involves collaborative law during a divorce, mediation, arbitration, and negotiation. Contact Musson Law today for all your family law needs.