Everything You Need to Know About Separation and Divorce

May 16, 2024

Find answers to the most common questions about separation and divorce, financial and property division, spousal support, child custody and access, court proceedings, divorce proceedings, and family law and related matters. 

Separation in Ontario

Legal and Financial:

How do I legally separate from my partner in Ontario?

To legally separate, you just need to live apart and consider your relationship over. It’s helpful to create a separation agreement to handle things like money and kids.

How much does legal separation cost in Ontario?

The cost can vary. If you do it yourselves, it’s cheap. If you use separation divorce lawyers, it can cost anywhere from $900 +hst.

Will legal separation protect me financially?

Yes, it can. A separation agreement outlines who pays for what, dividing assets and debts, and setting up support payments, which helps avoid financial disputes.

What are the financial impacts of legal separation in Ontario?

Financial impacts can include paying or receiving spousal and child support, dividing assets and debts, and adjusting to new living expenses. A good separation agreement helps manage these changes.

Living Arrangements:

Can we stay separated forever?

Yes, you can stay separated forever without ever divorcing if that’s what you prefer. There’s no legal requirement to divorce after separating.

Can I date while legally separated?

Yes, you can date while legally separated. However, it’s important to consider the emotional and legal implications, especially if there are children involved or ongoing divorce proceedings.

Can we be separated and still live in the same house in Ontario?

Yes, you can be separated and still live in the same house in Ontario. You need to live separate lives, such as sleeping in different rooms and not sharing meals or activities.

What should I do if I want to separate but still live with my spouse?

If you want to separate but still live with your spouse, you should start living separate lives within the home. This includes sleeping in separate rooms, dividing household chores, and not engaging in activities together.

Can we be legally separated and live in the same house in Canada?

Yes, you can be legally separated and live in the same house in Canada. The key is to live separate lives within the home.

How do we separate while living together?

To separate while living together, you should start living as if you are not a couple. Sleep in different rooms, do not share meals or household chores, and avoid social activities together.

Can I live with my ex and still be considered separated for divorce?

Yes, you can live with your ex and still be considered separated for divorce. The important factor is that you live separate lives, not as a couple, even while sharing the same house.

Rules and Duration:

What protections are available for spouses during separation in Ontario?

Spouses are protected by laws for fair property division, child support, spousal support, and custody arrangements. A separation agreement can help clarify these protections.

What are the rules for separation in Ontario?

You must live apart and see the relationship as over. You can live in the same house but must live separate lives. A separation agreement helps manage responsibilities.

What are the benefits of staying married but separated?

Staying married but separated can keep health insurance, simplify taxes, and give time to think about reconciliation without divorcing.

How can I prove we’re separated in Ontario?

You can prove separation by showing you live apart, have separate finances, different sleeping arrangements, and independent social activities. A separation agreement also helps.

What’s the difference between separation and legal separation in Ontario?

In Ontario, separation means living apart and ending the relationship. There’s no formal “legal separation” status, but a separation agreement can document your terms.

What’s the process for legal separation in Ontario?

There’s no formal process. You just live apart and consider the relationship over. Creating a separation agreement with your partner helps document the terms.

How do I determine our separation date?

The separation date is when you start living apart and see the relationship as over. It can start when one moves out or when you begin living separate lives in the same house.

Preparation and Agreements:

What should I consider when separating from my spouse?

Think about money, child custody, living arrangements, and how to talk to your spouse. Getting legal advice can help.

How do I prepare for separation?

Gather financial documents, know your rights, plan where you’ll live, and consider talking to a divorce lawyer. Think about how to talk to your spouse and children.

Can I draft a separation agreement myself?

Yes, you can, but it’s smart to have a divorce lawyer check it to make sure it’s fair and legal.

What is a separation agreement?

A separation agreement is a document that outlines the terms of your separation, like child custody, support payments, and dividing property.

How long does it take to file for separation in Ontario?

There’s no filing process. You’re considered separated when you start living apart and see the relationship as over.

Can we write our own separation agreement?

Yes, you can write your own separation agreement. Make sure to include all details and have a divorce lawyer review it to ensure it’s fair and legal.

What should I do before telling my partner I want to separate or divorce?

Gather financial info, plan where you’ll live, know your rights, and talk to a divorce lawyer. Think about how to communicate your decision to reduce conflict.


Divorce in Ontario

Grounds and Process:

What are the reasons for divorce, and do I need a specific reason?

In Ontario, divorce can be based on living apart for a year, adultery, or cruelty. You don’t need a specific reason, just proof of marriage breakdown.

How do I start a divorce in Ontario?

Fill out a divorce application, file it with the court, and serve the papers to your spouse.

How do I get a divorce certificate?

Request a divorce certificate from the court where your divorce was granted and pay a small fee.

How long does a divorce take?

A divorce can take several months to over a year, depending on whether it’s contested or uncontested.

How much does a divorce cost?

An uncontested divorce might cost a few hundred dollars, while a contested divorce can cost thousands in legal fees.

What’s the difference between a contested and uncontested divorce?

In an uncontested divorce, both spouses agree on all terms. In a contested divorce, spouses disagree, leading to a longer, more expensive process.

Representation and Legal Help:

What do I need to know if I want to represent myself in a divorce?

If you represent yourself, you need to understand the legal process, fill out forms correctly, and meet all deadlines. It’s important to research and follow court procedures carefully.

Do you handle contested divorces?

Yes, we handle contested divorces and can help you navigate the more complex process involving disagreements on terms.

Do I need to be a citizen or permanent resident of Canada to get a divorce here?

No, you don’t need to be a citizen or permanent resident, but you or your spouse must have lived in Ontario for at least one year before filing for divorce.

Types and Agreements:

What is an uncontested divorce?

An uncontested divorce is when both spouses agree on all terms, such as property division, child custody, and support, making the process quicker and simpler.

What’s the difference between a “fault” and “no-fault” divorce?

In a “no-fault” divorce, you don’t have to prove any wrongdoing, just that the marriage has broken down. In a “fault” divorce, you need to prove misconduct like adultery or cruelty.

What if my partner and I agree on everything for our divorce?

If you agree on everything, you can file for an uncontested divorce, which is faster and less expensive. You’ll submit your agreement to the court for approval.

How do I change my separation agreement?

To change your separation agreement, you and your spouse must both agree to the changes and put them in writing. It’s a good idea to have a lawyer review the revised agreement.


I lost my marriage certificate. How do I get another one?

You can follow these steps:

  1. Visit Service Ontario: Go to the ServiceOntario website.
  2. Fill Out the Form: Complete the online application form for a marriage certificate.
  3. Pay the Fee: Pay the required fee online.
  4. Wait for Delivery: Your new marriage certificate will be mailed to you.

If you prefer, you can also apply in person at a ServiceOntario center.

Financial and Property Matters

Responsibilities and Rights:

Who pays the bills when we separate?

Both spouses usually share the responsibility. Agree on who pays what and include it in your separation agreement.

What rights do I have if I leave the matrimonial home?

You still have rights to your share of the home. Consult a lawyer to understand all your rights.

Division and Compliance:

Can I change a division of property or spousal support order after it’s finalized?

Yes, you can request a change if there’s a significant change in circumstances. You’ll need to go back to court to modify the order.

What if one spouse refuses to follow the division of property order?

If a spouse refuses to follow the order, you can go to court to enforce it. The court can take actions like garnishing wages or seizing assets.

How long does the property division process take?

The property division process can take several months to over a year, depending on the complexity and cooperation between spouses.

What should I do if I think my spouse is hiding assets during property division?

If you suspect your spouse is hiding assets, you should notify your lawyer and possibly hire a forensic accountant to investigate.

What happens if one spouse hides assets during the division?

If a spouse is found to be hiding assets, the court can impose penalties, order the hidden assets to be divided, and possibly award a larger share to the other spouse.

Assets and Valuation:

What should I consider with high-value estates in property division?

Consider hiring financial experts to evaluate assets accurately. Be aware of tax implications and ensure all assets, like investments and properties, are disclosed and fairly valued.

How are debts divided in a divorce?

Debts are divided based on who incurred them and for what purpose. Typically, they are shared equally if they were incurred during the marriage.

How are retirement accounts divided in a divorce?

Retirement accounts are divided based on their value at the time of separation. This can involve splitting the account or offsetting it with other assets.

Who can live in the matrimonial home after separation?

Both spouses have the right to live in the matrimonial home unless a court order says otherwise. Decisions can be made based on agreements or court rulings.

Can I buy out my spouse’s share of our home?

Yes, you can buy out your spouse’s share. You’ll need to agree on a fair price and possibly refinance the mortgage.

How do we value our home for division?

You can value your home by getting a professional appraisal or using market comparisons. Agreeing on a method with your spouse can help avoid disputes.

What happens to the family home in a divorce?

It can be sold and the proceeds divided, or one spouse can buy out the other’s share.

What date is used to value matrimonial property?

The date of separation.

What property is not divisible in a divorce?

Gifts and inheritances, if kept separate from family assets.

What is matrimonial property?

Assets and debts acquired during the marriage.

What types of property are divided in a divorce?

Family home, cars, bank accounts, investments, pensions, and debts.

How is property divided in a divorce?

Equally, unless agreed otherwise or ordered by the court.

What is property division in family law?

The process of dividing assets and debts between spouses during separation or divorce.

What are the financial impacts of legal separation in Ontario?

Spousal and child support payments, division of assets and debts, and changes in living expenses.

Spousal Support

Eligibility and Entitlement:

Can I keep my inheritance in a divorce?

Yes, if it was kept separate from family assets.

Can I get spousal support after the divorce is finalized?

Yes, you can request spousal support after the divorce is finalized.

How do I get backdated spousal support?

Apply to the court, showing the need and the reason for the delay.

What is backdated spousal support?

Support awarded for a period before the application was made.

What is temporary spousal support?

Support paid during the divorce process until a final decision is made.

What is non-compensatory spousal support?

Support based on need and the ability to pay, regardless of marital contributions.

What is compensatory spousal support?

Support for a spouse who suffered economic disadvantages or contributed to the other’s career.

What is spousal support based on a contract?

Support agreed upon in a prenuptial or separation agreement.

Receiving and Paying:

How do I start getting spousal support?

Apply to the court for a spousal support order or negotiate an agreement with your spouse.

When can I start receiving spousal support?

You can start receiving spousal support once the court orders it or once you and your spouse agree on it.

How much spousal support will I get and for how long?

The amount and duration depend on factors like the length of the marriage, each spouse’s financial situation, and any agreements in place. Guidelines and a lawyer can help estimate this.

How do I know if I have to pay or can get spousal support?

Whether you pay or receive support depends on your financial situation, your spouse’s financial situation, and contributions during the marriage. Legal advice can help determine this.

What is alimony or spousal support?

Money paid by one spouse to the other after separation or divorce to support the lower-earning spouse.

Does a husband have to support his wife during separation in Ontario?

Yes, a husband may have to support his wife if she needs financial assistance and he has the ability to pay, based on the court’s decision or an agreement.

Family Law and Related Matters

What is the source of family law in Ontario?

The source of family law in Ontario includes the Family Law Act, the Divorce Act, and related statutes and case law.

What are marriage contracts?

Marriage contracts or prenuptial agreements, are legal agreements made before or during marriage outlining the division of assets and financial arrangements in case of separation or divorce.

Should we try mediation?

Yes, mediation can help resolve disputes amicably and avoid costly court battles.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a process where a neutral third party helps spouses negotiate and reach agreements on issues like property division, child custody, and support.

What is a negotiated settlement?

A negotiated settlement is an agreement reached between spouses through negotiation, often with the help of lawyers, without going to court.

What is service?

Service is the legal process of delivering court documents to the other party in a case, ensuring they are informed about legal actions and proceedings.

Child Custody and Access

What is “status quo” in child custody and access matters in Ontario?

“Status quo” refers to the current living and care arrangements for the child before the court hearing. Courts often favor maintaining this arrangement if it is working well for the child.

How is child custody decided in a divorce?

Child custody is decided based on the best interests of the child, considering factors like the child’s relationship with each parent, stability, and the ability of each parent to meet the child’s needs. Courts can order joint or sole custody.

Court Proceedings

Disagreements and Service:

What happens if we can’t agree on issues like property division in a divorce or separation?

If you can’t agree, the court will decide on property division based on evidence and legal principles. Mediation or arbitration can also be used to reach an agreement.

What if I can’t find my ex to serve divorce papers?

If you can’t find your ex, you can apply to the court for an order allowing alternative service methods, such as serving a relative, publishing a notice, or using email or social media.

Respondent of Divorce Proceeding

Response and Action:

What is the deadline to respond to a divorce petition?

In Ontario, you generally have 30 days to respond to a divorce petition if you are served in Canada. If you are served outside of Canada, you have 60 days to respond.

What should I do if I am served with a divorce petition?

  • Read the Documents Carefully: Understand the claims and requests.
  • Consult a Lawyer: Get legal advice to understand your rights and options.
  • File a Response: Complete and file your response with the court within the deadline.
  • Gather Information: Collect relevant financial and personal documents.
  • Consider Negotiation: Think about mediation or negotiation to settle issues amicably.

Other Matters

Self-resolution and Misconduct:

Can we resolve matters like property division ourselves without going to court?

Yes, you can resolve property division through a separation agreement without going to court. It’s advisable to have a lawyer review the agreement to ensure it’s fair and legally binding.

If my spouse cheated, is there any legal punishment in Canada?

No, there is no legal punishment for cheating in Canada. However, adultery can be a ground for divorce.

Should I leave the matrimonial home?

You don’t have to leave the matrimonial home unless there are safety concerns. Leaving can affect your rights to the home and custody arrangements, so consult a lawyer before making this decision.

Get in touch.

Let’s talk about your situation.