Separation is when you and your ex—you can either be married or common‑law—decide to live apart. If you’re married, being separated doesn’t mean your marriage has ended. A divorce is when a court officially ends your marriage.

How do you “legally” separate in Ontario? Here are some tips to guide you through the process.

What does “separate and apart” mean?

You are legally separated as soon as you and your ex are living “separate and apart.” This could mean either:

  • Each person lives in their own place.
  • Both people live in the same house but have separate rooms, meals and finances.

Separation agreements

People who separate often make an agreement to set out what their rights and responsibilities are after separating.

It’s important that:

  • you both understand the agreement
  • the agreement is fair
  • you share complete and honest financial information

You must also consider these issues:

  • Children
    • Do you have financially dependent children?
    • Who has the main responsibility for deciding matters of health, education and welfare?
    • Who has custody?
    • Who will the child mainly live with?
    • What’s the visitation and vacation schedules?
    • Who is paying child support? How much? How often?
    • Are there any special expenses such as daycare costs?
  • Property
    • What are you doing with the home?
    • Do you or your ex get any specific items?
    • What happens to shared debts and assets?
    • What happens to your pension and life insurance?
  • Support
    • Is one person paying spousal support?
    • How much spousal support will be paid and how often?
    • When will the payments stop?
    • What are the tax implications?

    TIP: Visit Child support table look-up

How do you make a separation agreement legally binding?

  • Create a separation agreement, making sure you cover the issues listed above that are applicable to you.
  • While you can draft your own separation agreement, before you sign it, you should have a lawyer review it .This is called independent legal advice. Some lawyers may only charge you for reviewing the agreement. You should ask a lawyer if they offer unbundled services and what they will charge for a review.
  • Sign the agreement in front of a witness (who will also sign).

How to enforce the support part of the agreement

More information