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Separation agreements can be invaluable tools to help couples navigate the separation or divorce process. By giving both parties control over family law issues, they are able to actively protect what matters the most.

Given the choice, most couples would agree that separation or divorce is not ideal. Chances are that when they entered their partnership, the intent was to pursue their version of happily ever after.

The reality is that in many cases, marriages and partnerships cannot be sustained and as a result, separation or divorce becomes inevitable. For partners who have reached this conclusion, having a separation agreement can be an invaluable tool.

What Is A Separation Agreement?

A separation agreement, sometimes referred to as a domestic contract, is a written contract that outlines how partners intend to handle family law issues. A separation agreement may cover a range of topics including, but not limited to:

· Spousal support and child support

· Child custody and access

· Education and healthcare for children

· Property division

A separation agreement can be drafted at any point following a separation but it is important to note that there may exist time restrictions surrounding certain claims.

Drafting A Separation Agreement

As the name would suggest, creating a separation agreement requires a certain degree of cooperation. It is important for partners to have the ability to see eye-to-eye in order to draft a contract that reflects both of their needs and concerns and protects their best interests. While there are certain aspects of the separation process that cannot be changed, couples do have control over how a great deal of their family issues will be handled.

Depending on a couple’s relationship, enlisting the support of a mediator or family lawyer may be a critical part of the separation agreement drafting process. It can be helpful to have an objective third party present to help mitigate disagreements and roadblocks that stand to interfere with the process.

In order for a separation agreement to be binding and enforceable under the law, it must meet certain criteria. Having a family lawyer review the document can help ensure that the agreement is valid. It is also imperative that both parties understand the implications of the separation agreement so that are able to be compliant. It is recommended that each party work with a separate lawyer to make sure that all legal rights are clearly understood and that no omissions have been made.

Why Use A Separation Agreement?

In Ontario, a divorce can only be finalized in court. Creating a separation agreement prior to the decree can help minimize complications and stress. By taking the time to put together a comprehensive separation agreement, couples may be able to address matters that would have otherwise taken up time in court.

A separation agreement allows couples to make the important choices about the aspects of their life that matter the most, independent of a third-party decision maker. From the division of assets to addressing child-related matters, taking a proactive approach to resolving issues can help less the stress of a difficult process.

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