Separation Agreements

Markham Stouffville Separation Agreement Lawyers

When separating or divorcing, it is important to create a comprehensive separation agreement. A separation agreement is a contract that former spouses or partners create, setting out the terms that will govern their post-separation life. The agreement will address any issues applicable to the couple in question and may include spousal and child support, parenting time, and property division.

If you and your former spouse or partner can come to terms through a process such as negotiation, mediation, or collaborative family law, you retain control over the terms of your separation. If you cannot reach an agreement independently, it may become necessary to have a judge or arbitrator impose terms based on federal and provincial legislation. Prior to signing, each party must obtain independent legal advice from separate lawyers to ensure fairness and legal validity.

What Should be Included in a Separation Agreement?

A comprehensive separation agreement should address and proactively prepare for any and all issues that may arise following the breakdown of a relationship. While each agreement will be different depending on the family, there are some issues that should be considered in nearly every case.

Support Payments & Financial Responsibilities

  • Child and/or spousal support payment obligations and entitlements;
  • The amount, duration, and frequency of payments;
  • Extraordinary expenses (sometimes called “section 7 expenses”) obligations; and
  • Circumstances requiring a variation or termination of payments, such as unemployment or re-marriage.

Property & Asset Division Protocols

  • The division of family property, including shared accounts, pensions, and assets;
  • The division of business interests, including family businesses or professional corporations;
  • Exclusions from property division, such as inheritances, gifts, or litigation settlements;
  • The matrimonial home including any agreements for exclusive possession and the sale of the home; and
  • Real property not considered to be a matrimonial home.

Clearly Defined Parenting Roles, Schedules, and Arrangements

  • Parenting time and how it will be divided (formerly referred to as “access”);
  • Parenting schedules, including days of the week, holidays, pick up and drop off times and locations;
  • Decision-making responsibilities (formerly referred to as “custody”) with respect to health, religion, and education.

Protocols for Varying the Terms of the Separation Agreement

  • As circumstances change over time, it may become necessary to modify or vary the terms of a separation agreement, particularly relating to the amount and duration of spousal or child support or parenting time or decision making as children age or circumstances change.
  • The agreement should address specific events or occurrences which could trigger a variation of the existing plan or support payments.
  • For example, if the parent paying child support were to become unemployed or unable to work, or the recipient of spousal support was to remarry, new arrangements may need to be discussed.

These issues are common in most separations (certain exceptions apply to common-law relationships) and can become quite complex to resolve. To avoid future disputes or miscommunication, it’s vital there be no ambiguity in the language.

Separation Agreements Should be Tailored to Your Family’s Needs

Some clients are tempted to use boilerplate separation agreements to create their own contracts; however, we strongly advise against doing so. These agreements are often much too simplistic and general, leaving gaps and unaddressed issues which could lead to future disputes.

Each family is unique so the issues to be addressed in a separation agreement can vary drastically depending on the circumstances. A custom agreement will ensure you’ve addressed the issues important to your family. Our lawyers will create a unique agreement drafted with your family in mind, leaving no room for misinterpretation. Clarity is also crucial to make sure the agreement will withstand judicial scrutiny, should you need to enforce one or more terms of the agreement in the future.

At Shariff & Associates in Stouffville, our team of family lawyers keep our clients informed of their rights while advocating for their position throughout the drafting process. We will pre-emptively alleviate any stress or anxiety on your behalf through open, honest, and transparent communication, so you are never unsure of where things stand.

Independent Legal Advice for Separation Agreements 

A separation agreement forms the backbone of the post-separation and divorce relationship and can be enforced by a judge if necessary. Given its significance, it is vital that each party be fully aware of their rights and responsibilities under the agreement. Even if the parties can come to terms on their own, each party is required to seek their own independent legal advice from a lawyer before signing. Independent legal advice is required to ensure both parties have adequate protection, and to establish legal validity should enforcement become necessary.

At Shariff & Associates, we regularly provide independent legal advice. Our divorce lawyers will thoroughly review the agreement with you, explain how it will affect your rights and obligations, and flag any potential consequences or areas of concern. In the event we have concerns, we will recommend revisions to better protect your interests. Whether we draft the agreement or review it with you as part of providing independent legal advice, we will ensure you can sign with confidence, knowing you are fully informed about the contents and how they affect you.

Contact the Family Lawyers at Shariff & Associates to Draft or Review Your Separation Agreement

At Shariff & Associates, our compassionate family lawyers help our clients create and execute a comprehensive separation agreement tailored to their individual circumstances. We are experienced working with clients on both simple and highly complex separation agreements.

From our office in Whitchurch-Stouffville we serve clients in Aurora, Markham, Richmond Hill, Uxbridge, Pickering, Ajax, Whitby and throughout York and Durham Region. No matter your situation, we will ensure your interests are protected and you are informed on all aspects of your agreement in advance of signing. To review your matter with a member of our team, please reach out to us online, or call us at 905-591-4545.

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