What is the difference between a separation and a divorce?
A separation is when a couple who are married or in a common-law relationship decide to live apart. If you’re married, this doesn’t qualify as an end to the marriage. To nullify the marriage, you must get divorced in court.
Once you’ve decided to part ways, whether it be a separation or a divorce, you will have to come to an agreement to divide your property. Your debts may also be split between you and your spouse. There are many styles of property to consider, including:
- Joint savings or checking accounts
- Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSP's)
- Your home and additional property
- Canadian or Quebec Pension Plan credits
- Pensions provided by your employer
- Insurance plans
The styles of debt you may have to share include:
- Personal loan or credit card debt
- Car loan(s)
Different provinces and territories have separate laws to follow when dividing your property. These laws can differ whether you’re in a common-law relationship or are married. If you have a question tied to your specific province or territory, contact your attorney.
Common-law relationships: In this style of relationship, the person who purchased the property often keeps it. An exception to this, is if you and your partner paid for and took care of the property. In this case, you two would have to come to a personal agreement. If you two were at odds on who deserved the property, the court would make that decision.
Marriage: Property division gets trickier once you’re married and decide to end it. In a friendly divorce, couples will often equally divide the value, and any subsequent increase in the value of the property acquired during marriage. This isn’t always the case. You and your spouse may come to a different agreement or the court may decide to divide your property differently. As mentioned above, your province or territory will have specific laws regarding property division.
Have you heard of a separation agreement?
A separation agreement in a legal and written contract of how a couple has decided to move forward. This written record isn’t necessary to separate, but if the separation turned into a divorce, the document will come in handy. Also, it’s less expensive than settling each issue in court. A separation agreement can include numerous items, including:
- Living arrangements
- Property division
- Debt division
- Financial spousal support plans
- Child custody agreements
- Child access agreements
- Child support payment plans
You and your partner, or a hired lawyer, can write up a separation contract.
In the case of a separation, common-law separation or marital divorce, it is important to understand the legal, financial and familial consequences of such an action. Be sure to fully prepare before making your final decision.