If you and your spouse are separating, you will have to make decisions together about things like:
- who will stay in your home,
- how your children will be cared for and where they will live,
- financial support, and
- dividing up property and money.
- It is usually best if the two of you can agree on as many of these things as possible. Sometimes it can be helpful to have a lawyer represent you in working out the details with your spouse. Anything you decide can be written in a separation agreement. Before signing a separation agreement, you should make sure that:
- you know your rights,
- you understand what you are agreeing to, and
- the agreement covers everything that needs to be decided.
The best way to make sure of these things is to have your lawyer read the agreement and give you advice. You and your spouse cannot both get advice from the same lawyer.
Once you sign a separation agreement, you will both have to follow it unless you both agree to change it, or a judge decides that there is a good reason to change it.
Separation agreements and court orders can resolve some family matters when you separate but they do not legally end your marriage. The only way to legally end your marriage is to get a divorce.
Common Law Separation Agreements
Common law couples can write and sign separation agreements in the same way married couples can. You can include whatever you both want in your agreement. It is important for each of you to see different lawyers before signing the agreement.
If common-law parties are not separated at the time they signed a "separation agreement," the document which they signed will be considered a cohabitation agreement.