How to separate in Ontario – what you need to know

How to separate
  • Decide whether you will remain in the house with your spouse or one of you will move out.

  • Speak with the children: if you have children, you and your spouse will need to speak with the children and break the news about the separation as gently as possible.

  • Decide what to do about your family’s finances. The chances are that you and your spouse had had an agreement on how to handle the family’s income when you got married. However, now that you are separating, you will need to discuss how to handle things from now on.

  • Learning that mom and dad are separating is terrible enough for the kids without them having to deal with disruptions in other areas of their lives. So try to keep their routines as stable as you can.

  • You will also need to ensure that you keep things as close to normal as possible.

  • Get a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) to help you navigate the murky waters of financial issues arising from the separation.

  • A Separation Agreement sets out your and your spouse’s rights regarding child support, parenting agreement, debt, asset division, and spousal support. A divorce ends the marriage.

Separating from your spouse is a big deal because when you were married or together under common law, your lives were intertwined in many different ways. As you take steps towards separating, you may need to make changes to several other areas of your life, such as career, lifestyle, and parenting agreement, to name a few. The following tips will help you understand what you need to do better.

How to separate in Ontario FAQ

Spouses can be having issues in their marriages and not choose to end it yet for good reasons. You can opt for a trial separation if you still want to stay married to each other. This type of separation is a voluntary one and does not require any court filings. However, if the trial separation is to go on for more than two months, spouses can decide to agree on the terms. 

This includes the timeframe, handling of the finances, child support and custody, and other important items.

When partners are burned out on each other, constantly “setting each other off,” and acting out in destructive ways, Therapeutic Separation (TS) is recommended.

It is a set period of time during which you continue your work in therapy, remain a couple, but live apart. The “time away” is planned and intended to allow partners to relax and regroup so that they can focus and energise.

These become the Terms of Separation

  • Financial management
  • Sex and intimacy with each other or others during the time apart**
  • Managing “family time” if desired during the Therapeutic Separation
  • Concerns about privacy (who they tell, and what is permissible to say)
  • Children’s care and visitation, as well as minimising the impact on children
  • Setting boundaries for “heavy” discussions and date nights
  • Pet care, parental duties, and household chores

It should be noted that in the most successful Therapeutic Separation, the couple remains monogamous. It is recommended no introduction of any dating, as it destabilizes the marriage. The goal Therapeutic Separation is to keep the energy IN the marriage.

Legal separation can mostly be filed directly in a court in some of the states. Starting with a written petition also known as a complaint, you can go to your local court and file for separation. This has the same process as divorce. The judge will either decide for the couples or they both will agree on marriage-related issues like child custody and support, alimony, and property division

The court will provide the formal settlement agreement form after everything is resolved. If the agreement seems to be okay by the court, they will then issue the orders and declare the couples legally separated.

The health care benefits, some certain tax credits and benefits, and other benefits are retained in legal separation but all of these maybe terminated in divorce.

Once in a legal separation, you are not allowed to remarry because you’re still legally married to each other. But in a divorce, you both are free to marry someone else.

Medical or financial decisions can still be made by both spouses and they will also be considered as next of kin. These decisions or next of kin are not recognized in divorce.

In a legal separation, the spouses are still responsible for each other’s debts/liabilities but in a divorce, the process is handle during the dissolution of marriage.

It is quite easier for a spouse in a legal separation to reconcile but this is impossible in divorce as it can not be undone unless the couples involve remarries, and seek legal reunification.

The legal rights to property benefits upon the death of one’s spouse in a legal separation are preserved. But all of these rights can be wiped out in a divorce.

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Ken S, Maynard CDFA

Divorce Advice
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Certified Divorce Financial Analyst & Family Mediator at
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