SEPARATION & DIVORCE
The first step in the journey toward separation or divorce is to decide that your marriage or relationship has come to an end. This is generally a difficult and emotional decision. It can take weeks or months to come to terms with your changing circumstances. During this time, it can be helpful to rely on the support of skilled professionals, including your family physician, a counsellor, a therapist or coach, a financial planner and your family lawyer.
When Should You See a Family Lawyer?
As soon as you begin to seriously consider a separation or divorce, it is prudent to consult with a family lawyer. The role of a family lawyer is not to encourage or discourage a decision to separate. Rather, our family lawyers inform you as to how your landscape, including your finances and your children, will likely look in the event that you separate. This information will be invaluable to you in making a decision regarding separation or divorce. Also, our family lawyers will provided guidance, to ensure that you avoid steps that could be harmful to your interests should you proceed with a separation or divorce.
If you wish to proceed with a separation or divorce and you don’t know how to tell your spouse, please see the article “How To Tell Your Spouse You Want a Divorce” for guidance from a therapist and divorce coach about taking this step.
When Are You Legally Separated?
Am I legally separated? This is a commonly asked family law question. You should be aware that there is no process in Ontario to obtain a declaration of legal separation. Whether you are characterized as “separated” depends upon the context in which your question is posed. For example, the criteria required to be characterized as separated for the purpose of qualifying for support may differ from the criteria necessary to be characterized as separated for income tax purposes. Our family lawyers will assist you in identifying your status and qualifying for the specific rights that you seek to claim.
Time Limits for Action
Upon separation, you must attend to certain Family Law issues within specified, limited time limits. Your failure to act within these legal time limits could prejudice or extinguish your rights to make certain critical claims, including claims relating to the sharing of property.
It is essential that you contact a family lawyer promptly, to ensure that you preserve your rights on separation or divorce. Our family lawyers will notify you of your timeline for action and ensure that your rights are not extinguished as a result of delay.
If you are separated but have yet to obtain your divorce, you must take steps to avoid unexpected or unwanted results arising from the automatic operation of law. For example, if you were to pass away before obtaining your divorce, your spouse might be able to claim rights to your estate, whether or not he/she was named in your Will. Your family law lawyer will ensure that you take steps to avoid such unexpected or unwanted consequences.
You may seek a divorce on the following grounds:
1. having lived separate and apart for a period of one year;
2. cruelty; or
Claims for divorce based on cruelty or adultery are relatively rare. Our family lawyers can guide you as to the ground that is best suited to your needs. A divorce may be obtained on an uncontested basis, by way of an over-the-counter Court application. The timing of this application and the speed with which it can be completed vary depending on your circumstances. Our family lawyers will educate you as to how this process ought to unfold for you.