Important Information for Separating Couples

Establish a Date of Separation

A couple is deemed separated when they begin living “separate and apart”, even if they both still reside in the marital home. The date on which that they decide to end their relationship, is referred to as the “date of separation” (or “valuation date”). Often at this point, it is recommended that a couple prepare a separation agreement. This is a written agreement between both spouses that outline the details of their separation. The agreement covers a range of issues including the division of property, support obligations and child custody and access.

Separation vs. Divorce

Having a  Separation Agreement is not the same as a divorce. It is simply a document whereby the terms of separation have been detailed in writing. A divorce is the legal action that terminates the marriage. In order to obtain a divorce, a couple must submit an application for a divorce to the court. In Ontario couples can file for a divorce one year from their separation date.

How to get a Separation Agreement

To prepare a separation agreement, the parties can either negotiate the terms between themselves, hire an outside professional such as a divorce mediator or they can hire independent lawyers. Often, couples cannot agree on certain terms on their own and require professional support to create a fair agreement. The services of a mediator can make this process much easier and less costly, while considering what is fair and equitable to both parties. In order to draft a proper separation agreement, both spouses will have to provide complete financial disclosure to the other.

Benefits of a Mediated Agreement

Couples are encouraged to resolve their separation issues outside of the court room. Mediation allows couples to take control of their future through a safe and confidential process. Since agreements are created by the parties themselves and not through a court order, the terms are more likely to be upheld by the couple that has created the agreement together. Mediation is cost effective and time efficient, but more importantly, it saves families from experiencing the emotional and adversarial court process.  If you or someone you know are going through a separation and could use the assistance of a mediator, call Positive Solutions Divorce Services®.

What should a Separation Agreement Include?

A good agreement will include, but is not limited to:


  • Year to date pay stubs showing income and deductions
  • Tax returns and attachments if self-employed (past 5 years)
  • Notice of Assessments (past 3 years)


  • Extraordinary expenses for children


  • All bank account statements
  • Personal property
  • Retirement accounts
  • Investment accounts
  • Other assets such as; inheritances, gifts, and insurance proceeds
  • Real estate
  • Business statements Employee benefits


  • Outstanding loans, mortgages
  • Credit cards, lines of credit
  • Student loans or any other type of loan
  • Income tax owing, outstanding insurance, utilities and property tax

Other considerations:

  • While preparing a separation agreement may include the following:
  • Allocation for future expenses such as post-secondary education for the children
  • Special and/or extraordinary expenses
  • Medical and dental benefits
  • Life insurance

Allocation for future expenses

  • Post-secondary education for the children
  • Special and/or extraordinary expenses
  • Medical and dental benefits
  • Life insurance

 It is strongly recommended that you retain Independent Legal Advice before signing any documentation arising out of the end of your marriage or common law relationship.