Before you become divorced, you first need to become separated. You are separated when you and your spouse begin living “separate and apart”, with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. This does not mean you have to live at different addresses. It is possible for both spouses to reside in the same home and still be living “separate and apart”. At the time of separation, there are many decisions to be made, which means there will be a number of discussions about things like custody, support, and division of property. Here is how you can resolve a separation peacefully while covering all the bases.

Coming to an agreement

There are a number of different ways to come up with a separation agreement. You can start by having a verbal or written informal agreement that is not binding. Then, you can create a legal separation agreement that you both sign and date in front of a witness, who also must sign the agreement. It is wise to have a family lawyer look over any agreement before signing. If you can’t come to an agreement on your own, you may need a family lawyer to help you negotiate an agreement, or even an independent mediator or arbitrator. Collaborative family law is also an option, or if it comes to it, a court of law may decide the terms of your separation. Court proceedings can be very expensive and take a long time, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to come to an agreement outside of court if at all possible.

Decisions to be made

You will need to arrange a number of different items when coming to an agreement. For example, you need to agree on which spouse is going to remain in the family home, or if the home will be sold. You both have an equal right to stay there, so this can be a real sticking point. You also need to decide what the parenting arrangements will be for the children, which spouse will pay which debt, how much, if any, support should one spouse provide for the other and how property will be divided. The list doesn’t end there, but these are the most important details to hash out when coming to a separation agreement.

Putting it in writing

A separation agreement is a contract that you must legally honour. You should speak to a lawyer to make sure you know all of the legal ramifications of your decisions. Don’t forget that you have the right to a complete and honest listing of your spouse’s financial affairs before coming to an agreement. You will be advised not to sign the agreement until you have all the information available to you. You need to be sure that you understand everything that is written down and that you agree to it fully.

At the end of the day, it is up to you and your spouse to decide the best way to settle the issues between you, but negotiating an agreement can save you the added cost, time and stress of court proceedings, allowing you to move on with your life more quickly.


Meagan LePage
Court Coach LLP

Court Coach LLP is an Ottawa based law firm dedicated to providing cost-effective advice and coaching services for family law clients. Meagan and her partner started Court Coach LLP with the desire to help people navigate the family law court system. To learn more about Meagan please click

One Response to “How to Resolve a Separation”

  1. Mark

    The definition of “separated” for the purpose of qualifying for no-fault divorce is different in many jurisdictions. In my jurisdiction, a couple with minor children in common must live in separate residences and abstain from sexual contact for twelve months in order to qualify to file for no-fault divorce.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *