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Ending a relationship or marriage can be a difficult and emotionally fraught time. Our experienced and compassionate family lawyers at Navigator Law can help you ease the workload and navigate through a separation.

A separation agreement is a great way for couples to resolve issues and plan the practicalities of starting a new life apart. Our legal team at Navigator Law can help you draft, review, or negotiate a separation agreement that works for you.

What Does Separation Mean?

In Canada, while there is no official, legal separation process, getting separated from your spouse is typically the first step to getting a divorce. In most cases, you are required to prove that you have been separated for one year before you are able to get formally divorced.

Unmarried/Common-Law Separation

Separation also applies if you are unmarried but live together in what is considered an ‘adult interdependent relationship’, also referred to as a ‘common-law relationship’.

Your relationship can be considered an adult interdependent relationship if:

  • You and your partner have lived together in a relationship for more than 3 years .
  • You and your partner have signed an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement.
  • You and your partner have a biological child together.

As per Alberta’s Family Law Act, adult interdependent partners have some of the same rights as married couples once the relationship ends. For example, unless the couple has an enforceable cohabitation agreement in place, adult interdependent partners divide the assets they have accumulated during the relationship in the same way as divorcing married couples do.

At Navigator Law, we can help you draft a separation agreement whether you are in a common-law relationship or are married. We will help you understand your unique position and what you need to consider.

Separation Agreements

A couple in a common-law relationship or a marriage can draft a separation agreement to detail the terms of ending their relationship. Once the agreement is finalized, you can turn it into a court order, so that the terms of the agreement are enforceable by a court.

Getting a lawyer’s help or assistance from a law firm can help you ensure that the separation agreement is fair to you and is legally enforceable.

Common terms of a separation agreement include the following topics.

Division of Assets

As part of ending the relationship, you will need to negotiate and make a plan for the division of property. Unless there you have an enforceable prenuptial or cohabitation agreement in place, you are legally entitled to 50% of your shared property – the assets that you have accumulated through the course of your relationship or marriage. There are some exceptions, such as gifts or inherited assets.

Other examples of assets to be considered in the property division process.

  • Real estate, such as your home, condos, and vacation properties.
  • Businesses
  • Bank accounts and investments
  • Pensions, RRSPs, and other retirement income
  • Value increase of property that’s otherwise exempt

Division of Debt

Just like assets, debts should be divided equally, unless there is an enforceable agreement in place.

These are common types of debt that a separation agreement will address.

  • Mortgages
  • Loans, for example, vehicle loans, or student loans
  • Credit card debt

Spousal Support

If you or your spouse is entitled to spousal support, the separation agreement will detail how much they will receive and the schedule of payment.

Parenting Plans

If you have children, the separation agreements should also cover practical and financial arrangements regarding your children. Those terms usually include:

  • Child custody
  • Who will the children live with
  • Who will have access to your children
  • Child support payment

Benefits of a Separation Agreement

There is no requirement to get a separation agreement when your relationship ends, but there are several reasons why you are better off taking the time to draft one anyway.

Cost-Effective

Getting a lawyer to draft an agreement that is legally sound and enforceable could save you a lot of money down the road. For married couples, a separation agreement that is drafted by a lawyer can be used as the basis of a divorce order. That means that a separation agreement can make the road towards a divorce faster, smoother, and less expensive.

Peace of Mind

With a separation agreement in place, the separation and divorce process becomes a lot easier and predictable. When you have negotiated and agreed on all major terms of your separation, you’ll know exactly what you can expect and can start planning your future with peace of mind.

Prevent Conflicts

A legally binding separation agreement is a great way to prevent any conflicts throughout the separation or divorce process. When you and your partner take the time up-front to negotiate an agreement that is fair and acceptable to both parties, you can significantly reduce the risk of any legal disputes later on.

How a Lawyer Can Help

As soon as you know that your relationship or marriage is ending, you should contact a lawyer.

While you can make an informal agreement among yourselves, but for a legally-binding separation agreement, both parties must receive independent legal advice from a lawyer.

A lawyer can also help ensure that the separation agreement is valid and lives up to the following criteria.

  • ● Informed Consent. Both parties understand the agreement and what it means for them.
  • ● Surrendering a Claim. That they are aware of any potential claims and that they are giving up that right.
  • ● Independent Counsel. Both parties have had legal advice and their independent lawyers have each signed the agreement separately.
  • ● Voluntary Agreement. Both parties are signing the agreement without being forced or coerced.

Our Separation Agreement Legal Services

A separation agreement does not require official court proceedings in Alberta. That does not mean you should not have a lawyer draft or review your separation agreement.

Navigator Law can help you with all aspects of separation and separation agreements, including:

  • Drafting separation agreements
  • Reviewing separation agreements
  • Negotiating separation agreements
  • Enforcing separation agreements
  • Support throughout the separation and divorce process

We are here to help guide you through your separation and provide advice and guidance on what your agreement means. If you are married, we can also help you navigate the divorce process.

Dispute Resolution

Sometimes, things don’t go according to plan.

The last thing you want during these difficult times is a long, drawn-out, expensive legal battle that will leave you with a sizable bill. However, sometimes conflict is inevitable.

Navigator Law can support you if a dispute arises at any time during your separation. We will help you find a reasonable, cost-effective solution that serves your interests. We have extensive experience using alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation to help both parties come to an agreement outside of court.

We can also help fight for your legal rights in court, including enforcing a separation agreement and property restraining orders, if necessary.

Other Family Law Agreements

Need a different type of agreement in the area of family law?

Navigator Law can help with any type of family law matter, including prenuptial agreements.

Contact Us

Do you need help drafting, reviewing, or negotiating a separation agreement? Get peace of mind and ensure your interests are protected with legal advice from our experienced lawyers. Contact our law office today to book an initial consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get legally separated in Alberta?

There is no official, legal process to get separated in Alberta. However, if you are married, you are typically required to be separated for a year before you can be granted a court order for a divorce.

Do I need a separation if my common-law relationship has ended?

Unlike a divorce, separation is not a legal process in Canada. However, you might have certain rights and obligations once an adult interdependent relationship (common-law relationship) ends. A separation agreement can help you and your partner outline the terms of your break up, including the division of assets, spousal support, and custody of children and can reduce the risk of legal issues and conflicts.

Can I use our separation agreement to get a court order for a divorce?

Yes, if your separation agreement is legally binding, it can be used as the basis of a court order for a divorce. The best way to ensure that your separation agreement is legally binding is to seek the advice of a divorce lawyer or a family lawyer.

What if my ex-partner or spouse violates the separation agreement?

If your separation agreement is legally binding, you have a number of options to enforce the separation agreement. Depending on the severity of the violation, you can go through mediation, seek support from relevant government agencies, or go to court to fight for your rights. A family lawyer can help you develop the right strategy for enforcing the separation agreement.