It can be heart wrenching when someone hears a spouse or partner say, "I don't want to be with you anymore." Sometimes, it's put in writing or demonstrated by moving out of the bedroom or by any number of actions that signal the end of a union. The starting point for a legal separation agreement is a mutually recognized date of separation. In Ontario, collaborative family law recognizes that in the end lies the potential for reconfiguring still-meaningful relationships.
Most separating couples are likely unaware that under Canadian law there is no legal concept of separation per se, except as one of the grounds for divorce. It is, rather, the agreement to separate -- embodied in a legal separation agreement -- which is legally enforceable. In most provinces, divorce can only be filed one year after the date of separation. Apart from the obvious intimate indications, that crucial date can also be ascertained through documentary evidence such as tax status forms or from assertions made through social media.
Importantly, common-law separations are treated differently by the courts than separations occurring between married partners. Still, the areas of family law, including shared domicile and assets, spousal or child support, and child custody and visitation, pertain to both common-law and marital unions. An experienced family law lawyer can help clarify the areas in which the law's perception and treatment of common-law family issues differ to ensure that a written agreement is aligned with the law.
The value in using legal counsel outside a courtroom is to encourage a spirit of collaboration within a context of divestment. That is what separation is. An Ontario family law practitioner with knowledge and experience in collaborative family law can help identify the legal pathways that bind. He or she can also help guide a couple into a closure that both addresses their concerns and abides by the law.
Source: stepstojustice.ca, "1. Learn about your legal rights and responsibilities", Accessed on Oct. 10, 2017