Divorcing? Is a separation agreement in your future?

When Ontario couples decide to split up, they are faced with many different issues to decide. Because it’s a rarity that both spouses will be on the same page regarding every issue, many get a separation agreement drafted.

These agreements can address each issue to be resolved. Common points of contention include:

— Which parent will have primary custody of the children

— Which spouse (if any) will remain living in the couple’s former home

— How the marital debts shall be divided between the parties

— The distribution of the marital assets

Some couples are able to reach accord fairly easily and find that informal agreements work best for them. But many others have to hash out their issues in mediation or arbitration sessions that conclude with formal agreements being drafted. In those types of circumstances, it is always advisable for both parties to consult independently with a lawyer to determine the validity of their agreements. When the agreement passes legal muster and is signed by the parties in the presence of a witness who also signs it, it becomes legally binding.

Sometimes even the best separation agreements have to be renegotiated later if circumstances change. Because these contracts must be honoured by the parties who signed them, having a signed separation agreement doesn’t preclude the parties eventually winding up in court. But even if all issues cannot be resolved in a separation agreement, it can be less expensive to address all agreed-upon matters in these documents and only litigate the true sticking points in family law court.

Source: Ministry of the Attorney General, “Family Law in Ontario,” accessed March 11, 2016

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