Draft a comprehensive settlement agreement

If you have come to the point in your relationship where you decide to separate, you and your former love interest face many important decisions. Below are some points to consider.

— Who, if anyone, will remain living in the family’s home?

— Who will have the physical custody of the children and be responsible for the bulk of their care?

— How will marital debts be divided and paid?

— Will their be spousal support paid? How much, and for how long, to which party?

— How will the division of assets be managed?

As you can see, there is much potential for things to go south over negotiations. Some decisions may be easily agreed upon between the parties and detailed in verbal agreements of informal written arrangements. These can become part of a more formal separation agreement that has to be signed in the presence of a witness, who also signs.

Sometimes when there are sticking points, mediators or even arbitrators can assist with hashing out a viable separation agreement between splitting spouses. Another option is to use collaborative family lawyers who have been properly trained in these collaborative procedures.

Perhaps the least palatable option is to go to court and allowing the judge to decide. This may be the only option when one spouse is manipulative or violent, but litigating a separation agreement is both stressful and costly.

However it is reached, this document dictates how the parties (and their children’s) lives will be post-divorce. It is more problematic to modify a separation agreement later than to get it right the first time, so make sure that an Ontario lawyer retained by you fully explains the legal consequences of the agreement to you before you sign it. Insist on full disclosure over your spouse’s financial affairs before deciding anything.

Source: Ministry of the Attorney General, “What You Should Know About Family Law in Ontario,” accessed Sep. 30, 2016

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