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Legal Separation in Ontario


When the person sitting across the table from you in the revolving restaurant atop the CN Tower on your first date describes himself as “separated but not divorced,” you should make a beeline for the elevator and spend the long, lonely elevator ride to the street level thanking your lucky stars that you did not stick around for any more drama.  In any other context, there is nothing untoward about being separated but not divorced.  Legal separation is a legally valid concept in Ontario; it is an inexpensive way for couples who have decided to live apart after a legally solemnized marriage or a common law marriage to divide their property.  A legal separation ends some aspects of a marriage, but not others, so if you get a legal separation, you will find answers to questions you never knew you had about Canadian family law.  A Mississauga divorce lawyer can help you understand the implications of a legal separation and decide if one is right for you.

How Is Legal Separation Different From Divorce?

In a divorce, the court dissolves a legally valid marriage and divides the couple’s property.  In a legal separation, there is no dissolution of marriage.  Instead, the spouses jointly sign a separation agreement, in which they divide their marital property and debts.  With regard to inheritance law, tax obligations, and other matters outside the domain of the family courts, a married couple that has signed a legal separation agreement is just like any other married couple.

Different jurisdictions in Canada and the United States have different laws about legal separation.  In Ontario, a legal separation functions like a postnuptial agreement.  The terms of the legal separation are up to you; to make it valid, both spouses must only sign it in the presence of a witness, who also signs.  The court never has to know that the separation agreement exists unless a dispute arises from it.  Some legal separations last forever, some lead to divorce, and in some cases, the couple later reconciles.

An Unofficial End to an Unofficial Marriage

You can get a legal separation even if you are in a common law marriage.  In Ontario, many of the rights of married couples apply to couples in common law marriage.  If you have merged your finances with your common law spouse, you don’t need a judge to dissolve the partnership.  In fact, legal separation is the best way that you and your common law spouse can separate your property.  As with any other legally binding contract signed between individuals, you have the right to go to court to resolve the dispute if your former common law spouse does not abide by the terms of the separation agreement.

Contact Zagazeta Garcia LLP About Legal Separation

A family law attorney can help you draft or review a separation agreement if you are living separately from your spouse or ending a common law marriage.  Contact Zagazeta Garcia LLP in Mississauga, Ontario to discuss your case.



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