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Your Complete Guide To Legal Separation In Ontario

how legal separation is different from a divorce

How Separation Is Different From Divorce?

If someone is considering divorce, it is important to fully understand the different situations and terms that are involved. 

One question that comes up often is whether or not there is a difference between the terms “legal separation” and “divorce”. Are these simply different ways of saying the same thing, or is there more to it?

The difference between separation and divorce is both factual and a matter of formality; first off, only people who are legally married can be divorced, and secondly, the divorce itself is a procedural filing with the courts to dissolve the marriage and allow the parties to apply for a new marriage license (or remarry).

A separation is when two people who have been living together as a married or a common-law couple decide to live apart. If you’re married, separation doesn’t end the marriage.


Why It Might Be The Best Thing For You

If you and your partner are constantly fighting, or are having other issues that may not be absolutely fatal to the marriage, a legal separation might be the best thing for you. 

Legal separation can help with giving both parties a much-needed break and breathing room to start to either mend themselves or work on the relationship. Legal separation will also give you an idea of how living alone, or without a spouse, will be and can help you decide on whether or not it is something you want to fully pursue. 

Overall separation, gives you the time to contemplate what you would like to do and what is best for yourself. It allows you to figure out what you want out of your partner or plan ahead for your divorce case. 

Either way taking this time will help you determine the next steps to moving forward with your life.

In either case, it is important to consult with a divorce lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected or to ascertain what your obligations are because certain timelines commence and issues arise immediately upon separation.

It is also important to keep in mind that people can live separate and apart under the same roof.  There are a number of factors that are considered to determine if parties have separated.

Debunking The “Fears of the Unknown”

Over the years we have discussed and addressed many common questions and concerns that those entering a separation period, or divorce have. Here are some of the top questions you may have and how we will plan for them: 

How will my children react?

Depending on the age of the children they may react to the news very differently.  Younger children may sooner accept the situation as the new normal, which teenagers may form their own opinions based on what they perceive to be the facts of the situation. 

Regardless of the age, if divorce or separation is the right choice, there needs to be a conversation where both you and your spouse, to voice the love and support you have for that children, even with the separation. Children just want to be heard and supported and although news like this will most likely be difficult to hear, they will want to hear that their life and relationship with both of their parents will not be tarnished.  This may require the involvement of a neutral third party who specializes in such counselling.

Will I have enough cash flow to be able to live? Or will I be bankrupt?

Cash flow refers to how your money moves in your household, from the time it is received to when it is spent, which means we typically want to ensure that you have a positive cash flow. The only ways to increase your cash flow are to increase your income, cut your expenses, or some combination of the two.

Separation can be a difficult journey but it is also part of our job as lawyers to ensure that all assets, and income, is divided as evenly as possible to ensure that you have enough cash flow to live.   

Will I be able to retire?

When going through a divorce in your mid-late aged years, retirement is definitely at the forefront of your mind. 

When a marriage ends, deciding the equal distribution of assets to each person is a necessary step. Under the law, the value of any kind of property or assets that were acquired by a spouse during marriage and exists at the time of divorce must be divided equally. This covers pension and retirement funds as well.

Every divorce is different and usually, the division of property and assets involves a spouse receiving what is known as an ‘equalization payment’.

Will I lose my business?

Resolving what to do with a family-run business adds another layer of complexity on top of everything else.

The family business will be treated as an asset. As with other assets, it isn’t always so easy to find the best way to divide it equally. 

This is something that would need to be discussed with a lawyer that is familiar with your case in order to make a fair assessment and give their recommendation. 

Will my family hate me and how will my ex react?

In the past, we have seen and experienced the stigma wrapped around divorce and separation, especially around the initiator. 

The biggest thing to remember is that you can explain yourself to those who deserve an explanation; anyone else is not worth your time or energy. Your children, close friends and family are the people who should love and support you no matter what. They are also the people who probably know how hard of a decision it was in the first place and want nothing more than to be there for you. 

Know that it is not your responsibility to make everyone involved happy or even understand your reasoning behind the separation. 


Feel free to reach out to Epstein & Associates to set up a free consultation where you can get a sense of the legal advice and reassurance that our team can provide to help you through a complicated legal situation. 

We have lawyers who focus on family law and also practice business law who can advise you.