Clean break in divorce – what is it and when should you use it

family law act and divorce act in Ontario

Ending a relationship by separation or divorce can be a difficult decision. Once the decision has been made things like division and distribution of assets and spousal and/or child support agreements need to be negotiated and approved by the court. The process can be a long and arduous one and as such, consideration may be given as to whether or not a “clean break in divorce” can be achieved. What is a clean break approach in divorce and when should you use it? Let’s review.

What is a clean break approach?

A clean break in divorce is a type of settlement that effectively severs the financial ties between spouses after divorce. When a clean break approach is in place, there are no ongoing spousal support payments and no future financial or support claims may be brought forward by either party.

In some cases, a lump sum support payment will be awarded as part of the clean break approach. That lump sum payment may be paid in full all at once, or over a series of payments.

A clean break in divorce allows both parties to move forward, financially independently of each other.

When is a clean break approach used?

In most cases of divorce and separation, some form of spousal support may be ordered. In Ontario, spousal support falls into one of two categories: compensatory or non-compensatory. Compensatory spousal support is awarded when the recipient partner has made financial and/or professional sacrifices during the marriage. Non-compensatory spousal support, in contrast, is needs-based.

There are however cases where ongoing spousal support may be deemed unnecessary or inappropriate and a clean break approach may instead be issued. This may include cases such as:

  • A short-term marriage where few joint assets have been accumulated and each party may reasonably leave the relationship with that which they brought into it. For example, a shared home is sold, and profits are split between both parties.
  • A second marriage with no children where both parties are able to sustain themselves financially once apart.
  • Intimate partner violence where it is determined that the safety of one party is at risk if ongoing financial ties are in place.


Every divorce settlement is unique and nuanced and retaining appropriate legal representation is crucial. The divorce lawyers at Epstein & Associates each have different areas of expertise. Contact our office for a FREE initial 30-minute consultation to find the right lawyer to represent you in your divorce or separation.