Separation & Family Lawyers in Coquitlam, Vancouver & Lynden, BC
What is Separation?
“Separation” is the term used for the breakdown of a relationship, whether the parties involved are married, or living together in a common-law relationship.
What Happens When You Separate?
What is the Process?
Parties become “separated” as soon as they stop living together in a “marriage-like” relationship. It is technically possible to be separated, and yet continue to live under the same roof.
Upon separating, there are a number of issues that need to be considered. These can include parenting arrangements, child support, spousal support, and property division (including who, if anyone, will continue to live in the family residence.)
In a contentious separation, these questions may need to be answered by the courts. Otherwise, the parties may be able to figure things out together, with or without the help of lawyers, and may choose to enter into a separation agreement. If you can come to agreement without negotiating through lawyers, it’s still important to have a lawyer draft the terms of the agreement reached to ensure it is binding.
How long does it take?
Every matter is different, and the time to finalize arrangements after a separation can vary depending on circumstances. A simple, non-acrimonious separation, may only take a couple of months, barring complications, between separation and the execution of a separation agreement and other relevant documents.
When can I move out?
If you are separating, it is typical for one person to move out of the shared family residence; even before property issues have been resolved. In a situation where there are children, the parent who is taking on primary care of the children often stays in the home with them.
If you are choosing to move out, this does not mean that you are giving up your property interest in the residence, or even that you are agreeing that the other party will continue to reside in the residence in the long term.
What to expect
A separation comes with many changes. You may have to start paying bills on your own that were typically shared between you and your former partner, or you may now be paying rent on new accommodations. If there is a joint bank account, arrangements should be made to open separate accounts for payroll deposits and spending. You may also have to begin paying child support, spousal support, or both.
Meeting with a lawyer early on can be useful to ensure that you know your rights and obligations, and do not make any missteps that may prove costly in the future.
Serving Separating Partners and Spouses in British Columbia
At Norton Law, we offer a variety of services for separating partners and spouses, including drafting separation agreements and parenting plans. Our family lawyers are also experienced litigators, and can represent you if it proves necessary to take your matter to court.
Although a formal written agreement is not required for separation, it is an extremely useful tool. A separation agreement provides the parties with a clear understanding of all of their rights and obligations, and a method for enforcing these obligations should one party fail to follow through.
What is a Separation Agreement?
Simply put, a separation agreement is a contract between you and your ex-partner, detailing how things will proceed now that you are no longer together. Usually, this includes parenting arrangements and child support (if applicable), spousal support arrangements or a waiver of spousal support, and property division.
How is it enforced?
Like any contract, there are consequences for breaching a separation agreement. Usually, these consequences are financial. If one party has to take legal action against the other for breaching the separation agreement, the courts will often award “costs”, requiring the breaching party to cover some or all of the legal fees for the party who had to take them to court. Many separation agreements have a clause included that stipulates that the breaching party will pay costs.
You should not sign a separation agreement if you are not prepared to abide by the conditions it sets, or if you think you will be unable to do so.
Who can prepare a separation agreement?
A separation agreement can be prepared without the assistance of a lawyer, but this is often a bad idea, and may end up costing more than having one prepared by a lawyer.
If your separation agreement is ambiguous, vague, or does not address all of the possible issues and eventualities, it is likely that further disputes will arise in the future, and that these disputes will need to be litigated, or dealt with in a new agreement.
A separation agreement signed without legal advice also has a higher likelihood of being overturned by the courts should one party decide to challenge it in the future.
What makes an agreement legally binding?
Once an agreement is signed by both parties in front of a witness, it is legally binding, so long as it is not unduly harsh or signed under duress. If both parties have sought legal advice prior to signing the agreement, it is less likely that either of them can challenge the legally binding nature of the agreement in the future.
What is included in a separation agreement?
Generally, a separation agreement will deal with:
- Parenting arrangements – where the child or children will live, how much time they will spend with each parent, and how decisions will be made regarding the children.
- Child Support, including “special or extraordinary expenses” such as medical and dental expenses, education, and extracurricular activities.
- Spousal support
- Division of assets and debts
Does this all have to be dealt with in a separation agreement?
Sometimes, you may be eager to put an agreement in writing with respect to one area of your separation before everything has been decided. It is possible to do a “partial separation agreement”, dealing with some issues while acknowledging that others are still outstanding.
If there are children involved, you could also have a lawyer prepared a “parenting agreement”, so that you and your ex understand your rights with respect to parenting time and child support, and can have certainty around these issues, even as you continue to negotiate the terms of property division and spousal support.
Contact a Separation Lawyer in British Columbia
Our top priority is representing our clients and their interests regarding their family law matters, including spousal separation and agreements. We help by advising them on their legal options and preparing separation agreements that get them through this challenging and difficult period. We understand the numerous issues that may occur throughout the separation process.
To learn more about common-law and spousal separation call Norton Law at (855) 810-5286 to book a consultation with one of our British Columbia family lawyers.