Is a separation agreement right for your situation?

Once you and your spouse or partner make the decision to split, your next concern is likely to be the details of your separation agreement. This written contract spells out how the two of you will handle the issues stemming from your divorce or break-up.

Both legally married couples and those in common-law relationships can draft separation agreements. However, the actual divorce process is a separate legal procedure.

Many couples draft their own separation agreements without involving a lawyer. However, a lawyer can fully explain the rights and responsibilities you have toward your partner and any children from that union. It’s always a good idea to seek legal advice before signing any agreement or contract.

Generally, it’s best to handle the details of your separation agreement immediately, as time limits affect how long one partner can make demands for the division of marital or jointly owned property.

One thing many people don’t realize is that you can draft a partial separation agreement regarding the issues where you have already reached accord. This allows couples to continue to resolve more intransigent issues such as property distribution, but to move forward on matters involving custody, child support, access, etc.

Separation agreements can be of limited duration if necessary, like when deciding summer vacation child custody schedules, or to try and see how the plan works for your family. If the parties agree that the agreement needs modified, they are free to make changes.

Couples often prefer making their own agreements rather than having the courts poke through their finances and lifestyle arrangements and deciding the matter that way. However, when issues remain that are real sticking points, the courts are a viable alternative to simply rehashing old arguments and renewing old grudges.

Source: Community Legal Education Ontario, “Make a separation agreement,” accessed Aug. 19, 2016

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