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What happens upon separation after marriage or cohabitation?

When common-law relationships or marriages end in Ontario, there is typically an extended period of living apart before the final divorce. It is important for spouses to sit down and discuss important issues that will be affected by their separation. Life goes on, and two homes instead of one may have to be run while parenting arrangements will be necessary if there are children.

Couples who can agree on the manner in which they want to handle the separation can put the terms in writing in a separation agreement. Issues that could be covered include child custody or guardianship, spousal and child support, property division and more. However, this agreement will be effective for the separation and will have to be authorized by the court at the time of the divorce. Child support agreements, for example, will have to be authorized by the court before a formal court order will be issued.

Couples who struggle to agree on contentious matters but wish to avoid the trauma and expenses typically associated with litigation may find comfort in knowing that they can seek the assistance of an experienced divorce mediator. A neutral mediator can provide a platform for peaceful negotiations. The mediator may not provide legal counsel, but he or she will encourage communication and compromise to bring about solutions that might allow a smooth separation period.

Ontario couples may be inclined to be satisfied with oral agreements for the period of separation -- especially in cases in which the breakup is amicable. However, it is advisable that each spouse secures the services of an experienced divorce lawyer; in fact, it might be required by the Family Property Act. A lawyer can advise about property division, support payments, and more, as it applies to divorce or ending a common law relationship. A lawyer can also ensure any written agreements are fair and legally binding.

Source:, "When Couples Separate", Accessed on July 4, 2017

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