The question, ‘when am I legally separated?’ gets asked a lot. Most people expect some sort of document or official event to act as a confirmation of legal separation – but this isn’t necessarily the case. At law, “you are considered legally separated when one person has formed a settled intention to separate and has communicated that to the other side.” This means, you are legally separated once you say it out loud to your partner. You’ll need to note when that happens because we call that your ‘valuation day’, that is the day when property is divided.
It’s crucial to remember that physically separation does not equal legal separation. In fact, a lot of couples end up living ‘separate and apart’ in the matrimonial home while they continue to strive towards a resolution to the many issues that can arise on separation.
Ideally, those considering separation would have a consultation with their lawyer before actually separating. First, it very well could not make legal sense to separate. Legal separation has tremendous impacts on the amount of time one can spend with their children, how they participate in spending time with children, their income and their assets. If you find yourself in financial issues at the same time you’re considering separation, the legal issues arising on separation could become much more complicated. Second, consulting with a lawyer allows you to gather everything needed when addressing the issues you will face. One of the biggest contributors to individuals finding themselves in court is the lack of ‘financial disclosure’. It’s not uncommon for documents to vanish after a spouse has announced his or her intention to separate. Or, as is quite often the case, one partner has been handling the homes finances while the other, remains unfamiliar with the goings on. A divorce lawyer will draw your attention to what is relevant and what information can be gathered directly from source (i.e. the bank). This can take a lot of the mystery out of financial disclosure. Disclosure allows lawyers like Laura Oliver divorce legal expert to give you an opinion on how much child and/or spousal support should be paid, how extra expenses should be shared and how much capital you can expect to start your new life with.
If you have already separated but have not seen a lawyer, the first step should be to have an consultation. At that consultation, a lawyer will outline the issues that you can expect to deal with and a range of possible outcomes. The lawyer can also give you a rough idea of the costs of each stage along the separation timeline. Your next step should be the mutual exchanging of full financial disclosure. This disclosure should include no less than three years worth of tax filings, details of income, statements from all assets and debts as of the date of separation and pension or business valuations if necessary. Once disclosure has been exchanged, both you and your partner should try to agree on the process you wish to engage. You do not have to deal with things all on your own but, you can do a lot on your own and save time and money.
Once/if an agreement is reached, your next step is to document it. In Canada, property laws are individual to specific provinces while other issues such as custody or child support have the same or similar treatment throughout the country. Having a lawyer prepare the separation agreement will ensure that everything is dealt with including life insurance, releases and tax issues.
The process of legal separation is hard enough without worrying about the legal implications or dealing with the issues that arise due to lack of legal guidance. Contact us at DivorceSOS to help you every step of the way.