Using a Separation Agreement Template

Separation Agreement Template
  • In more complex separations where children, pensions, RRSPs and other investments are involved templates fall short of being adequate.

  • The Courts have made Separation Agreements created from templates and kits invalid.

  • Full financial disclosure is a vital pillar of your separation agreement.

  • For an agreement to be legally durable, it’s vital that all decisions are informed decisions formulated from a complete set of facts.

  • Before signing your separation agreement, the independent legal advice requirement is misunderstood.

Creating an agreement from a template

Having a legally sound, durable and properly executed separation agreement is a primary step in your progression to a divorce. A separation agreement contains details about the understanding you and your spouse have come to regarding the vital issues that affect your separation and will shape your futures living apart from each other.

For a separation agreement to be legally durable, it’s vital that all decisions in the document have been reached with both parties being in possession of all the facts. Here are the main steps you need to take if you are planning to create your own separation agreement from a template:

Separation Agreement

Before you fill out your Canadian separation agreement template, you and your spouse will need to agree on the issues that will be covered in the agreement. These should include:

Financial Disclosure
Co-Parenting Arrangements
Child Support
Spousal Support
Actuarial Valuation of Pensions
Division of Property
Division of Debts
Matrimonial Home
Dispute Resolution
Independent Legal Advice

Use plain English, Don’t think you have to use fancy language just because these are official and legal separation papers. You need to write clearly and concisely.

Most Do-it-Your separation agreements are drafted at a point when the two of you are stressed, unhappy and in an overwhelmed headspace, and it is precisely the time when many important considerations can get overlooked, avoided, or brushed aside as “too difficult.” For these reasons, it is of particular importance to have the assistance of a neutral professional such a mediator, divorce financial specialist or parenting specialist apply a trained eye to your settlement arrangements. A Neutral knows who the good ILA lawyers are, and will prepare each of you for moving through independent legal advice smoothly.

Where to find a Free Templates:

Separation Agreement

The Family Law Information Centre is located in your local courthouse and should have an example separation agreement template aka divorce agreement form you can take away. (Sorry Not in Ontario)

Their websites will have forms for the most commonly filed family law documents, including separation agreements, but not Ontario. Finding the website for your province is easy enough. Simply search for your province name, plus court forms. Also, check out the Law Society Of Ontario and their separation agreement precedent document.

This professional software package includes 3 separation agreement precedents – Standard, Collaborative and Interim. There are versions that are specifically tailored for Ontario and British Columbia. These forms give you hundreds of clauses to choose from and cover everything from very simple cases to the most complicated. Clauses are regularly updated to keep pace with case law and legislative changes. Many professionals use DivorceMate, as I do. But expect a very steep learning curve if you choose this route and a hefty price tag of about $500 for a pay per use licence.

Link to DivorceMate.com

This is one of the top free legal resources on the internet,  a place where you can find useful information about the law, lawyers and free legal forms, including Find Law’s sample separation agreement, which you can download or copy and paste.

Link to FindLaw.ca

Link to a basic separation agreement Find Law Sample Separation Agreement

This platform offers free and paid temporary and standard separation agreement that is customized for you and your province. All you need to do is fill in a few short forms and print your agreement. It’s ready in minutes. But check out their disclaimer as to who should use this template before laying down your money.

Link to Lawdepot.ca

What makes Amazon the most trusted online retailer is product reviews. It would be worth checking out the Self Counsel Press Ontario Separation Agreement kit Review on Amazon.

Link to Amazon.ca

You can purchase Self Counsel Press Ontario Separation Agreement kits from here.

Link to Staples Business Depot

This is one the newer player on the online separation agreement space on the internet. They claim you can Create and print your free Separation Agreement in under 5 minutes.

Link to LegalContracts.com

The Master Agreement for Separation & Divorce, Second Edition is a drafting guide will save you days of drafting and improve your work product. The Master Agreement is not state / province law specific, but issue driven and applicable to all jurisdictions. The Master Agreement is designed to be used both by lawyers for your formal agreements as well as by non-lawyer mediators for your memoranda of understanding

Link to mediate.com The Master Agreement 

This site will create a free custom separation agreement for you within minutes. It will be tailored to your province and just requires you to answer a few simple questions before letting you download and print your customized form.

Link to Rocket Lawyer

If you can’t find a separation agreement template that’s specifically applicable to where you live, I recommend you download 3 or 4 templates from various online sources and modify their contents to fit your needs in order to create a custom agreement.

This will inevitably reveal other online sources of separation agreement samples and separation agreement templates that will allow you to complete your agreement online.

Online separation agreements are designed for spouses who have come to an agreement about the terms of their separation and are both willing to accept such a settlement. However, if your circumstances involve complexity relating to property distribution, assets or issues related to your children, it’s usually best to seek expert advice when preparing your separation agreement.

Not all Separation Agreement Templates are created equal. Online providers seem to have very simple and brief templates when you compared with what a professional would use. For example, compare Sample Separation Agreements between Find Law Sample and the Law Society Example.

What makes an agreement legal?

Why you need a separation agreement?

So let’s first understand divorce in Ontario. In simple terms, a divorce application is a ‘dissolution of marriage.’ It is the documentation that legally ends a marriage. The central purpose of an agreement, on the other hand, is to create clarity and certainty around your financial and parenting issues. Your separation does not end your marriage legally.

There are two ways to be legally separated and only one way to end a marriage. You can be separated either by court order or by a separation agreement. However, neither legally ends your marriage.

To dissolve a marriage in Ontario, you must make a divorce application to the courts to legally end your marriage. Conversely, a divorce order offers no protection to your assets, nor does it shield you from your spouse’s debts or establish terms around spousal and child support.

Is it necessary to get a separation agreement in Ontario? No. In Ontario, you do not need a separation agreement to separate and divorce. If you can show that you have been living apart for at least a year, the marriage has broken down and you are eligible for divorce.

You may be asking why I may need a separation agreement?  Separation agreements are agreements between spouses who are legally separating but not yet or intending to divorce. To get a divorce, you will need to apply to the courts, but you can agree on when and how to get a divorce in your separation agreement.

There are plenty of good reasons why separating couples choose to formalize their parting in the form of a documented agreement:

  • It’s usually faster, cheaper and less stressful than going to court
  • It puts both spouses in control of deciding what works best for their family, instead of letting the court decide
  • It will enable others who are involved in your children’s care know what’s been decided upon
  • With a written separation agreement, it’s easier to prove what you and your partner have agreed on, compared to a verbal agreement
  • You can call on the Family Responsibility Office if there’s a problem getting child or spousal support.

For both personal and financial reasons, couples may seek a legal separation. If you’re not sure if you want to dissolve your marriage, a formal separation might offer you time to think things through while also protecting your finances.

Separation Agreements are created any time after you decide to separate, but there are time limits placed on when you can ask your partner for certain things. For example, when it comes to dividing property, you have 5 years to sort it from your separation, but only 2 years after you get divorced.

What should be included in your agreement?

You will need two homes going forward. If you complete your separation agreement before entering the real estate market or buying your spouse out of the matrimonial home, you will avoid many costly and stressful pitfalls.  Sadly, I see too many separated spouses, feeling the pressure of our tumultuous real estate market, walk right into some very expensive traps.

A signed separation agreement will smooth out the path to buying or selling the matrimonial home or a new home.

Couples that rush past a separation agreement can remain financially entangled far past their separation. You may be separated but to the bank, you jointly signed the mortgage so you are both responsible for this debt. This can extend to your lines of credit, credit cards, and car loans. These responsibilities and other joint debts will affect your individual creditworthiness. The financial terms of the separation agreement will clear up your connecting credits and explain to the bank your obligations for equalization, child and spousal support.

Upon closing the sale of your matrimonial home, a formal separation agreement is required to instruct your real estate lawyer on how to disperse your proceeds from the sale, otherwise, your equity will stay in your real estate lawyer’s trust account until a separation agreement is provided.

The Federal Child Support Guidelines are published to assist separating couples in arriving at a determination on the appropriate amount of child support. Parents jointly maintain the responsibility of financially supporting their children.

Each of your incomes and the number of children are factors that influence the child support amount. The guidelines also assist in determining when child support will end. Commonly, it is when the child turns 18 years old or until they have completed their post-secondary education, however other factors must be considered and that age may differ depending on each case.

Soft Landing Settlement Method separation agreement will help you apply Child Support Guidelines to arrive at an appropriate child support amount. It also addresses the other components of child support, such as the special (extraordinary) and extra-curricular child expenses.

For more about Child Support and options in mediation click here

A parenting plan is the written legal document that outlines how you and your spouse, as co-parents, will raise your children after your separation or divorce.

The term parenting plan may sound like a less hostile phrase for a custody agreement, but parenting plans offer much more information and much more flexibility than traditional custody agreements.

These plans, which are mediated between the parents, address various aspects of child custody. You and your ex-spouse can incorporate as much or as little information into a parenting plan as you deem necessary, and you can change your plan if you find it’s no longer working for your family’s needs. The nice thing about a parenting plan is that you have complete control. You’re not stuck signing a document you don’t agree with or waiting for a judge to render a custody decision. Some families only address custody and visitation in their parenting plans, while others get into much more detail.

When you’re working on a parenting plan, and for the many years ahead you will spend dealing with your ex, keep the following in mind:

  • Each of you has something valuable to offer your child.
  • Each of you needs and deserves time with the child.
  • Disagreements do not mean either of you is a bad parent.
  • Work to constructively resolve disagreements with practical solutions rather than escalating a dispute.
  • Ask your ex-spouse what he or she needs, and express your needs clearly in a language that is neither confrontational nor blaming.

When you make financial, custody, and other divorce decisions, the well-being of your children should be the first thing on your mind. More than half of those children whose parents get embroiled in custody battles develop depression, but a parenting plan can help save them from such troubles down the road. Your child can rest easy, with complete security that she’ll have substantive time with both parents.

The benefits of a parenting plan:

Less stress

More than anything, children crave security and consistency. A parenting plan gives them both.

Your child will always know with which parent she will be, and can plan birthdays, outings, visits with friends, and projects accordingly. She also won’t be stuck wondering when she’ll see her other parent next or if her parents will ever resolve their conflicts.

Improved well-being

The shared parenting involved in a parenting plan is much better than fighting endlessly or trying to take all custody away from your ex.

Stronger relationships

Perhaps the most important benefit of a parenting plan is that it improves your child’s relationship with both parents. She’ll have guaranteed time with each of the people she loves most, and the open communication fostered by a parenting plan helps your child know that she’s not betraying you by loving her other parent.

Additionally, relationships don’t begin and end with parents. Your child may have grandparents, half siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, godparents, and friends he only sees when he is with one parent.

Your parenting plan keeps these relationships – which are often vital for helping kids get through the stress of divorce – strong and intact.

Your parenting plan will minimize conflict by clearly setting out parenting guidelines and expectations; providing for your children’s needs and child support. Here are a few things that can be established in a parenting plan.

  • Decision making
  • Sharing information between parents
  • Where the children live and scheduling on duty and off duty parenting
  • Access to grandparents and other relatives
  • Scheduling holidays and special occasions
  • How and when new partners will be introduced to the children
  • How other parenting issues may be addressed.

For more about Parenting Plans and options in mediation click here

In the applicable legislation, marriage is viewed as a financial partnership. When that partnership comes to an end neither spouse should be negatively affected more so than the other. Spousal support is one mechanism to equalize the financial circumstances resulting from the break-up of that partnership.

Spousal support terms such as how much, when, and for how long are detailed in the separation agreement.

The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines are now a required tool for lawyers, mediators and judges across Canada. The ‘final version’ of the guidelines was released in July 2008. The guidelines require the inputting of several variables when calculating the range of spousal support and the support duration to be considered, in effect balancing how much support the receiving spouse requires to meet their needs, and how much the payer spouse can afford to pay.

The guidelines look at the length of the marriage as an indicator of the duration of the spousal support, however, there are other factors considered. As a general rule, with shorter-term marriages, spousal support is more about helping the receiver spouse to become financially self-sufficient. With longer-term marriages, it could be more about compensating the receiver spousal for the financial inequities created by the separation.

Here are three important provisions that every separation agreement should have with regard to spousal support:

  • A clear spousal support review provision clarifying how the support is adjusted, terminated or changed.
  • A spousal support release provision is required either way. Whether a spousal support claim is waived or not, a release provision must be included in the separation agreement. A release provision may be conditional on spousal support obligations being met in full prior to the activation of the release.
  • Double dip avoidance provision. A double dip is when a spouse must pay support on income from an asset already shared with their former spouse.

For more about Spousal Support and options in mediation click here

A separation agreement arrived at by mutual consent and settled out of court is statistically known to be long lasting with a minimum of future conflict.

To create a durable settlement, your separation agreement will include dispute resolution provisions, illustrating the settlement procedure to be followed to self-resolve any future disagreements.

Having mutually agreed upon dispute resolution options and pathways ensure resolution of future unexpected issues without engaging lawyers or going to court.

Your workplace pension could also be family property. This means that it is an asset that must be addressed in your settlement negotiations. It is an asset subject to division or equalization. How this asset ultimately gets settled it must be included in your separation agreement.

A common misunderstanding around pensions is their values. Most of us take our bank, investments or RRSP statements at face value. With this thinking, the numbers on the regular annual pension statement must be the value of the pension, right? No, the pension statement value is never the correct value. The reasons the statement values are not correct has filled many books about pension valuation, so I will not go into the reasons here. My advice, however, is this: never make financial decisions directly from pension statements – you will be not just a little ‘out’ but very far off of being fair and equitable.

There are also far-reaching tax impacts connected to your pension. The good news is that, in 2012, Ontario introduced some new rules that made pension valuation a whole lot less complicated and much less expensive. Let us help you with this.

Can your agreements be overturned?

Will your separation agreement be legally binding?

  • Separation agreements must be signed by both spouses, and both of your signatures need to be witnessed in order for it to be valid.

  • Separation agreements must be made under your own free will, without any pressure from anyone.

  • The “law” says you should obtain Independent Legal Advice (ILA) before signing your agreement. This is to ensure you understand the agreement and the consequences of signing it. After all, a separation agreement is likely to be the largest financial transaction you’ll make in your life.

  • Separation agreements aren’t just for married couples. You can make one if you are in a common-law relationship too.

  • You can make separation agreements that last for a specified period of time. For example, if you agree on where your children should live for the summer, you can say the agreement ends in September

  • You can change a separation agreement at any time by replacing it with a new one, as long as you and your partner agree to the changes.

  • Separation agreements are only suitable for couples who can agree on the terms of the agreement. Any complicated issues may require you to seek legal advice.

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What happens if a spouse refuses to sign?

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Ken S, Maynard CDFA
1.855.731.3500
647.360.3200

Divorce Advice

Does a Separation Agreement need to be notarized to be binding?

What do you do if a lawyer point blank refuses to witness (notarize) the signing of that separation agreement you and your spouse have spent time preparing yourselves? You’re eager to move on with your lives, and you’re convinced that once you get your notarized separation agreement sorted, you can close one chapter of your life and start and new one. Surely you need a notarized separation agreement for it to be legally binding?

So the question remains Who can notarize a separation agreement in Ontario?  Or maybe the better question is who will notarize a separation agreement.

notarized separation agreement

Does a separation agreement in Ontario need to be notarized?

Well, here’s the news flash: you don’t need a lawyer to notarize an Ontario separation agreement aka domestic agreement. In fact, in Ontario, the only formal requirements for a legal separation agreement to meet are:

  • It needs to be written down
  • It needs to be signed
  • It needs to be witnessed

What’s far more important is getting a Certificate Of Independent Legal Advice, to prove that a lawyer has read, assessed and green-lighted that you understand the terms and impacts of your separation agreement.

Before you have a Lawyer look at your agreement!

Are you looking for a “Done for you Separation Agreement without lawyer”

I help conflicted and outcome-focused separating couples create separation agreements with clarity and soft landings for secure futures in 4 meetings or less without lawyer created overwhelming conflicts, confusion and costs.

What will your separation agreement cost?

Have Any Questions?

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Contact Information
Ken S, Maynard CDFA
1.855.731.3500
647.360.3200

Divorce Advice

We help smart and successful separating couples create separation agreements with clarity and soft landings for secure futures in 4 meetings or less without all the lawyer created overwhelming conflicts, confusion and costs.

About the Author:
Certified Divorce Financial Analyst & Family Mediator at
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I help smart and successful couples, create separation agreements with clarity and soft landings for secure futures, in 4 meetings or less without all the lawyer created overwhelming conflicts, confusion and costs. You can work with me by video conference or with a DTSW associate at any of our 6 DTSW Greater Toronto mediation centers, including | Aurora | Barrie | North York | Vaughan | Mississauga | Scarborough.

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