A separation agreement is a written contract between you and your ex which stipulates your agreement regarding all of the legal issues. Done properly, a separation agreement is legally binding and enforceable. It may deal with parenting schedules, decision-making for the children, child support, spousal support and division of property. We often are able to help clients negotiate the terms of a separation agreement. Separation agreements can contain creative clauses that resolve the issues the way you and your ex want them settled. It is up to you how you settle your legal issues.
Sometimes we need the help of a judge to resolve your legal issues but even if your case ends up in Family Court, it is often resolved with a separation agreement. In Ontario, your separation agreement does not normally have to be filed at court. This is on account of there being no issues enforcing the terms.
Some people attempt to save money by creating their own separation agreements. However, if you are not a lawyer, you may end up not doing it correctly rendering the separation agreement unenforceable. We help many clients fix their unenforceable homemade separation agreements. This can be costly, especially if we have to go to court to fix it. It is less expensive to do it correctly from the beginning with the help of our family law lawyers. We know how to make a legally enforceable agreements that are long lasting and are in accord with the law. That’s what we do everyday. We can help you get it done.
Once you sign your separation agreement, then we can proceed with a divorce on an uncontested basis, saving you money.
We help clients resolve their family law issues with separation agreements every day. Our family law lawyers and caring support staff can help you achieve a settlement. The first step is to contact us for a consultation where we can answer your questions and discuss your options.
If you're looking for a way to separate from your spouse or partner without spending much time and money on the legal aspects, settling things outside court might be the right solution. An effective separation agreement can simplify the process and clarify the rights and obligations of both parties after a relationship ends.
Legal separation can be emotionally, mentally, and financially difficult. You have to determine who gets what property, how much parenting time you will get with your children, and whether one of you needs short or long-term financial assistance. It’s a process made easier by hiring a skilled and caring Toronto separation lawyer.
At Galbraith Family Law, our top-rated family lawyers understand what you’re going through and work to make your legal separation as efficient and stress-free as possible. Many of us have been divorced or separated ourselves and will treat your case with the compassion and respect it deserves.
What Is a Separation Agreement?
Separation agreements are legally binding contracts created by spouses when they separate. A separation agreement outlines the terms of your separation settlement and the terms of your divorce. When created properly, these agreements outline a variety of permanent decisions between you and your ex. Each party's rights are outlined in the agreement, which typically addresses issues related to:
- Parenting time (custody)
- Parenting plans
- Property division and equalization
- Debt division
- Child support
- Financial obligations
- Child and spousal support
- Living arrangements
You should have a separation agreement made because it removes any uncertainty around the agreements you have reached together. Having everything laid out in writing will give you peace of mind and makes the separation process easier for all parties involved. You must work with a separation lawyer to make an agreement for you. If your relationship is amicable with your ex, you might be able to take advantage of our DIY separation services as well. Having a lawyer assist you while creating the agreement will ensure that if there are any future issues with your agreement, that the agreement will be legally enforceable. When choosing to separate from your partner, there are three different types of separations for you to consider:
- Trial Separation: If you and your partner need to spend time apart to help decide whether to move forward with a divorce,, you can opt for a trial separation. Think of a trial separation as a way to help you decide if you want to stay separated or stay together. With a trial separation, the same legal rules apply as when you are married, but you are living apart. All your shared assets and property are still jointly owned, but this opportunity gives you both a break to clear your head and decide on the next steps. Normally, we don’t create a separation agreement when there is a trial separation. One caution is that if you set up a status quo regarding the children, it may be difficult to change it after some time passes. For example, if you only have the children in your care every second weekend and you decide to permanently separate, you may have to live with seeing your children every second weekend. Changing a status quo can be difficult unless you can prove that it is not working for the children.
- Permanent Separation: A permanent separation is when you live apart from your spouse without any intention of reconciling, but you are not yet divorced. If there is no intention of reconciling with your partner, you will need to separate any shared assets and joint accounts. Once you are permanently separated, any new debt your spouse acquires is no longer your responsibility. Any income that your spouse earns or property they buy, you are no longer entitled to any share of it after your separation is finalized. Often clients sign a separation agreement but don’t finalize it with a divorce for several years.
- Divorced: Being legally separated is different from being divorced. You are still considered married until the divorce is granted by a judge. Often people will remain separated without a divorce until they meet someone new who insists on the divorce is obtained. When you want finality, you will obtain a divorce immediately after the separation agreement is signed.
Separation agreements should ensure a fair settlement for both spouses and any children in the relationship.
Some Toronto couples opt for legal separation because divorce can take time, be expensive, and require court intervention. Others choose it because divorce is frowned upon in their culture or religion. A separation doesn’t require a court order, and it takes effect right away, unlike divorce. The only significant limitation is that it doesn’t legally end a marriage: if you fall in love again and want to remarry, you’ll have to retain a Toronto divorce lawyer.
The Benefits of a Toronto Separation Agreement
Benefits of a separation agreement include:
- Couples can work together to reach an amicable agreement
- The cooperative approach encourages a successful co-parenting relationship
- It is usually less stressful emotionally and financially than divorce
An experienced Toronto separation lawyer can help you to draft an agreement that protects your rights moving forward. By entering into such an agreement, you can outline the terms of your separation and avoid confusion and headaches later on. Both parties should seek independent legal advice when drafting and before signing a separation agreement.
Addressing Child Custody and Support in Separation Agreements
Separation agreements must clearly define who will be primarily responsible for the care of your children and spell out parenting plan details. You and your spouse/partner should also discuss and document the following:
- How decisions will be made and who will have the final decision-making authority in the event of a conflict.
- How much time a child will spend with each parent, including the holidays
- What steps will be taken if one parent wishes to relocate
Separation agreements should also include details about child support payments and who is responsible for them. In Ontario, the amount of child support is determined by the number of children, the province, and the income of the payor.
Spousal Support in Separation Agreements
Spousal support, which is also known as alimony, is intended to help the lower-income spouse receive the financial support they need until they can become economically self-sufficient. You and your spouse can negotiate the amount and duration of these payments with help from a spousal support lawyer in Toronto and specify details in your final separation agreement.
When should you make a separation agreement?
Once you have decided to separate from your partner, you should get an agreement made as soon as you can. The quicker you prepare the agreement, the faster and easier the separation process will be. Often issues arise if you drag out the process. On the other hand, if emotions are raw, sometimes it is best to delay the process until cooler heads prevail. Timing and pacing are important.
When you do decide to get a separation, you should immediately seek legal representation and work with a separation lawyer. They can review your situation, give you options and advice on the next steps, and can prepare an agreement for you that will be legally binding and enforceable.
Why not do a homemade agreement?
We fix a lot of homemade agreements. Often they are not done properly and are not enforceable. It is significantly more costly to fix a poorly drafted agreement than to do it right from the start. Let us help you get it done properly so you are protected from future lawsuits and conflict.
How to choose a lawyer?
When choosing the right separation lawyer for your case, be sure they have your best interests at heart. Also, be sure they are willing to help you in any way they can to keep you out of court. When a case goes to court, it can typically draw it out longer and it can be more costly in the long run. Some lawyers love going to court and take every client to Family Court. We believe this approach is unethical and disrespectful. We take clients to court who need a court. We help clients settle their cases when possible and appropriate.
What should your separation agreement include?
Every relationship is different. This is why every separation agreement is also different. Depending on your personal relationship, your separation agreement should consider the following:
- Children: If you have children, how will financial support work? How will joint custody (now known as joint parenting time) work? Where will both parents live and how will this affect the relationship each parent has with the child? How much time with children spend with each of you? How will the holidays be divided? How will decisions be made?
- Finances: If you have joint assets or bank accounts, how will they be divided? If there is any joint debt how will that be paid off? Will one person pay the other spousal support?
- Property: If you own a house together, will the property be sold and divided? Or will one person keep the property while the other moves out? How will joint assets be divided?
Again, depending on your situation, there may be more or fewer issues for you to consider when creating a separation agreement. For it to hold up in court, your financial situation and parenting plan must be laid out clearly.
Do I Need a Toronto Separation Lawyer to Draft An Agreement?
No, you can legally draft a separation agreement without hiring a lawyer, but legal advice is recommended since anything you agree to can potentially impact parenting arrangements, finances, and your future goals.
At Galbraith Family Law, we work closely with you to negotiate and draft Toronto separation agreements tailored to your family's unique circumstances. We also ensure that all financial, business, and real property assets and liabilities are disclosed at the beginning of negotiations: failure to provide adequate disclosure is a major reason why some agreements are overturned in court.
Can I Make Changes to a Separation Agreement?
Yes, you can, and it happens fairly often. As time passes, a separation agreement drafted during the formal separation may no longer adequately address the needs of one or both parties. There are several ways to amend a separation agreement in such situations, but the most common are:
- Mutual Agreement: As separation agreements are legal contracts between two parties, they can be changed by mutual consent. It will result in a dated and signed "addendum" to the original contract.
- Mediation: You may retain a trained mediator if you are unable to agree on the nature or extent of the changes. By helping you negotiate mutually acceptable changes to the separation agreement, the mediator will assist you in achieving your current goals.
- Court Order: If negotiation and/or mediation don’t work, you may have to seek a court order. The court may amend the agreement if circumstances have changed so significantly that it is no longer fair and appropriate to allow the original agreement to stand.
Can We Still Live Together While Separated?
Yes. Separation occurs when one party intends to live independently of the other. This does not mean that the parties need to live in separate residences- in some cases, it may not be financially feasible to do so. A court determines if or when a couple begins living separately and apart by looking at a number of factors, including whether they share a bedroom, engage in sexual relations, eat together, and socialize as a couple.
If you have concerns about whether your separation from your spouse or partner is legally valid, your Toronto family lawyer will review your circumstances and give you appropriate advice.
Get a Confidential Consultation With a Toronto Separation Lawyer
Legal separation is not the same as divorce, but when a couple separates, decisions made may affect property division, child custody, spousal support, and child support. For these reasons, hiring a lawyer early in the separation process can ensure you understand your legal rights and how to protect them.
The Toronto separation lawyers at Galbraith Family Law will listen to your story, understand your needs and goals, and help you draft an agreement that is fair, equitable, and maximizes your time with your children. To schedule an initial consultation with one of our lawyers, please call 866-271-1516 or contact us online. We also serve clients in Barrie, Newmarket, North York, and Oakville.