A separation agreement is a contract between spouses that establishes the terms of financial, child and other arrangements that they agree to follow when separating. You can establish a separation agreement before seeking a divorce, after divorce proceedings are in progress, or even if you are separating, and neither partner plans to file for divorce.
Why consider a separation agreement?
The main reason is to make life easier and more predictable while you’re separated. Simple verbal agreements – “Sure, just take the car” – may seem fine to one spouse at one moment. But separations are emotionally difficult, and partners are likely to rethink such decisions over the course of weeks or months. A separation agreement provides a formal opportunity to negotiate terms on a variety of issues. By formally negotiating and putting their agreement in writing, the partners commit themselves legally to follow the terms of the agreement. So you’ll know what to expect of your partner, and what’s expected of you.
Another important advantage of a separation agreement is that it probably will speed up – or at least ease – divorce proceedings. Courts generally follow the terms of a separation agreement, especially one that has been carefully negotiated between two Canadian family law lawyers.
Perhaps the most important reason to consider a separation agreement is that it can help provide for the welfare and security of children. Adults going through a separation or divorce experience emotional distress and can often feel like they don’t know what might happen next. Children naturally experience these same feelings to an even greater degree.
By negotiating the terms of custody, access, and financial support for children during the period of separation, parents can help to protect their children from unnecessary worry and uncertainty. By putting that agreement in writing, the parents can be sure they’re communicating clearly with each other, and also be sure they know what their rights and responsibilities are toward their children after separation. Finally, putting their commitment to their children in writing can help parents reassure children that both parents are dedicated to taking care of them, no matter what happens.
Can you put together a separation agreement on your own, or do you need to consult a Canadian family law lawyer? My recommendation is to learn your legal rights, then try to resolve as much as possible without lawyer. Only get lawyers involved if negotiations break down or to put your agreement into formal legal terms.
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