Separation and Divorce—What are the Legal Differences?

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When your marriage, or your common-law relationship, breaks down it is a sad and stressful time. Dissolution of a relationship can also raise several legal questions for you, your family, and estate. Should you obtain a separation or a divorce? What are your legal options?

Our Newmarket lawyers at Shirtliff Hinds often find that our clients use the terms 'separation' and 'divorce' interchangeably. However, separation and divorce are two distinct and different legal concepts. What are the differences? How do these differences impact you?

Separation is when two people living together, whether as a married couple or a common-law couple, decide to live apart. Unlike divorce, separation does not end the marriage for a married couple. When couples separate, they may agree to a Separation Agreement. A Separation Agreement is a legal contract between the couple that outlines how the couple will settle the issues related to their separation. The Separation Agreement can include division of property, debts, spousal support, living arrangements, custody of children, and more. Our Newmarket family lawyers at Shirtliff Hinds Law believe it is in the best interests of our family law clients to help them reach a fair, signed Separation Agreement as efficiently as possible.

A divorce legally ends your marriage. In other words, it changes your legal status from “married” to “single.” In Canada, there are technically three grounds for divorce: separation of more than one year, cruelty, and adultery. Since 1968 Canada has created a “no fault” divorce, and in 1986, the Divorce Act was amended to reduce the separation of the couple down to a minimum of one year before applying for a divorce. Most Canadians file for divorce under “no fault” due to irreconcilable differences.

A Divorce Order is a formal document issued by either the Superior Court of Justice or the Unified Family Court. A Certificate of Divorce is a legal document issued the day the divorce is finalized. In most cases, this is 31 days after the Divorce Order is granted. In order to get re-married, you will need a Certificate of Divorce.

To recap, separation and divorce are two distinct legal concepts. Separation includes all couples, regardless if married or common-law, who wish to live apart. Divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage. When it comes to your legal questions regarding a divorce or separation, it is best to contact a qualified lawyer, such as the Newmarket family law lawyers at SHIRTLIFF HINDS LAW.

This blog post offers a general overview. The blog should not be taken as legal advice nor should the blog be used for sole legal decision making.



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