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Marriage Separation Agreements in Ontario


What is a Separation Agreement in Ontario?

The issues arising from a breakdown in a marriage are not resolved until it is in writing in a legal separation agreement that deals with all major issues, including all aspects of parenting and financial settlement. The agreement will cover what happens to the matrimonial home, property division and where children will live, and detail co-parenting arrangements.

The date of your separation is of critical importance as it will be used as the date of valuation of any property that must be divided. Further, it will impact when you can apply for divorce since, in Ontario, a divorce will only be granted after one year of separation, with the exception of situations involving cruelty or adultery.

A separation agreement in Ontario allows two spouses to live “separate and apart” without legally ending the marriage. This may be under the same roof, or in different homes.

These agreements require a high degree of formality – they must be in writing, have adequate financial disclosure, and independent legal advice, and be signed and witnessed.

The lawyer’s job is not just to get you a final agreement, but one that you can rely on and which protects your present and future rights. It is critical to understand the difference between deals that are permanent and those which are subject to variation in the future. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses in of these agreements is critical in planning your settlement and protecting your rights. Ultimately, a well-developed legal separation agreement will set the terms of the divorce that take care of you now and later.

Of critical importance is understanding and building in mechanisms that enable you to enforce your agreement through the Court and through other means in the event of a breach of the separation agreement by your spouse. In this respect, creativity and forethought are the keys to ensuring an effective and enforceable agreement.

Elliot S. Birnboim, the creator of, has over 20 years of experience in negotiation and drafting family law separation agreements in Ontario that protect his clients’ rights in the present and in the long term. Understanding how your circumstances may change in the future and anticipating how future disputes may arise are critical aspects of Elliot’s strategic advice in resolving matters.

Of critical importance is understanding and building in mechanisms that enable you to enforce your separation agreement through the Court and through other means in the event of a breach by your spouse. In this respect, creativity and forethought are the keys to ensuring an effective and enforceable agreement.


Setting Aside Separation Agreements

Before filing a separation agreement in Ontario, you’ll want to ensure you’ve covered all your bases. Here is a handy separation agreement checklist to get started.

Division of Property: Create a list of all assets acquired and all debts incurred by each spouse during the relationship. Each party should provide a complete financial disclosure statement and determine if assets and liabilities will be shared equally and how property will be divided. You’ll also need to consider housing – where will each partner live moving forward and the mortgage on the family home.

Children: Who will have primary custody of any minor children, and how often will the other parent see them? Other decisions about children need to be made, including paying for the care, visitation by extended family members, and decisions about education and faith.

Changing Marital Status: You’ll need to inform the bank, CRA, insurance companies, schools, pension plan and others of your changed marital status.

Collecting Documents: You’re going to need copies of a variety of documents, including wills, bank records, trusts, bills, tax returns, marriage certificates, birth certificates, business agreements and more.

Other Things to Consider: In some cases, you’ll need to plan for issues like spousal support and an enforcement clause should one of the parties breach the agreement.

Enlisting the guidance of a family law and divorce lawyer will help ensure that nothing gets missed in the process. This speeds up the procedure and helps avoid future issues later, providing both parties with a nice clean break with no misunderstandings.


Many people have asked us what happens if a spouse refuses to sign a separation agreement in Ontario; this is more common than you might think. The answer is to seek legal advice right away. A separation agreement in Ontario is a legally binding contract, and you need to ensure that your rights are protected, and the law is on your side. Our FREE, no-obligation consultation can help you get on the right track to drafting your separation agreement, one that you can both live with.


As family law and divorce lawyers in Toronto, we understand you have questions. We are often asked, “How do I file a separation agreement in Ontario?” “What if my spouse won’t sign a separation agreement?” and, of course, “How much does a separation agreement cost / what is the cost of a separation agreement in Ontario?” Our team is also frequently asked, “Is a separation agreement legally binding in Ontario?” “Do you need a separation agreement before divorce in Ontario?” and “Who can witness a separation agreement in Ontario?”

Because every situation is unique, a generic answer found on a website will not be much help for you. Instead, we invite you to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with us so that questions surrounding your unique separation agreement issues can be answered accurately, considering all relevant factors. Separation agreements in Ontario are legally binding contracts, and you should get professional legal guidance before signing and filing.


Elliot S. Birnboim has extensive experience in one of the most challenging areas of family law: when can a separation agreement be set aside? Issues such as fairness, both in the formation of the separation agreement (including financial disclosure, legal advice, undue pressure and influence) and the result of the separation agreement (including both foreseeable and unforeseeable financial consequences of the agreement or in the lives of the spouses) are all material in assessing a case.

The timing of making a claim to set aside a separation agreement is critical and delay in pursuing such a claim can have serious consequences. Early advice is critical.

Call us for a free consultation.

Separation agreements are complex binding contracts; ensuring that you have professional legal guidance in drafting your agreement from the start, can help avoid unnecessary litigation costs down the road. As Toronto’s leading team of Family Law and Divorce Lawyers, we will help you navigate your separation with confidence, supporting you every step of the way.

To learn more about these legal agreements, or how to navigate a breach of a separation agreement in Ontario, , get in touch today at 1.800.648.7943 toll-free in Ontario or 416-800-2573 in Toronto for a free, no-obligation consultation. You can also use our online contact form to email us.

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