Separation Agreements in Toronto, Ontario

separation agreements

A Separation Agreement is a Domestic Contract used by common-law or married clients to confirm the agreed resolution of all issues arising from the breakdown of their relationship or marriage. The agreement covers the range of issues concerning the children, including financial support and the parenting arrangement; the division or sharing of property; and financial support for a spouse.

Domestic Contract

The Separation Agreement is one form of Domestic Contract, the umbrella term for a restricted list of specialty contracts signed by spouses or family partners. To be enforceable, the Separation Agreement must meet formal requirements. These requirements include:

  • the contract must be in writing
  • each party must sign before a witness
  • the witnesses must also add their signatures to the document, and
  • the date when the last signatory signed must be indicated

Domestic Contracts include cohabitation agreements, marriage contracts, paternity agreements, separation agreements, and family arbitration agreements.

Subsequent or Amending Agreements

As time passes, the agreement should be formally amended to reflect any significant changes in the income of the spouses, the special needs of the children, and any other event which impacts on the original terms of the agreement.

Custom Agreements

A Separation Agreement allows for the clients to find their voice to negotiate what each wants, with an eye to what the courts would order in the same circumstances. Keeping a watch on how judges have decided related matters, family law lawyers can guide and advise their clients on a range of matters they face negotiating at the end of their relationships.

Married clients can creatively alter the legislated division of property regime to meet their unique circumstances. For example, if the sharing of an investment with a time-sensitive maturity date could be preserved, then both clients would benefit from the full value of investment. By negotiating this plan, the clients save serious costs by not having to return to the court to advise on progress, and avoid barriers or restrictions on being able to move forward.

Best Interests of the Children

Satisfying the best interests of the children is paramount in negotiating all provisions relating to the children in the Separation Agreement. The location where the children will reside, the type of parenting plan, the choice of school, and the number and variety of extracurricular activities must all meet this standard.

Anticipating a new job or fearing loss of an existing one due to downsizing, parents may decide to revise their parenting arrangement to give a parent facing an uncertain work future a more flexible schedule to accommodate job hunting. The terms in the Separation Agreement will factor in this flexibility in view of the benefits to the children of having a parent with them instead of a paid sitter.

Child Support Guidelines

The financial child support negotiated in a Separation Agreement typically covers the span of the child’s entitlement to receive the benefit of that support, from prenatal expenses to young children’s community sports programs to post-secondary school education. That’s a lot to consider.

The application of the Child Support Guidelines (CSG) must be considered at each stage to ensure that appropriate monthly child support is being paid for the benefit of each child. Parents who wish to develop reasonable alternate support benefits for their children may be able to do so if the fundamental principles of the CSG are met. It is wise to seek assistance from a family law lawyer familiar with the CSG.

Exchange of Full Financial Disclosure

There must be comprehensive financial disclosure exchanged between the clients before the financial implications of any decisions can be properly assessed. Requests to provide proper values of all assets, debts, and liabilities must be answered to the satisfaction of the requesting client. Documentation supporting the financial details is provided before any contract is signed.

Independent Legal Advice

Clients may wish to negotiate directly with each other to keep costs low. And they may be able to resolve many pieces of the puzzle on their own.

However, ensuring that the negotiated resolution for each issue can be enforced, and that the financial disclosure is accurate and complete, is critical to the negotiation process. Failing to do so would be like buying a car and forgetting to take it to a car mechanic to ensure its road worthiness, or like buying a house without assessing its structural integrity.

If the negotiation between the spouses was sound, each spouse receiving independent legal advice will have that confirmed. If, on the other hand, there are fundamental problems with the proposed terms of the agreement, then rectifying them before either spouse begins to rely on terms not intended by either of them is certainly worthwhile.

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