When am I "Legally" Separated?

The time of legal separation starts to run immediately at "separation as to bed and board." This means that you can keep living under the same roof as your spouse - sometimes for a very long time - and be legally separated. The date of separation is very important for the valuation date of matrimonial property. 

Do I Need a Separation Agreement?

For many couples, separation agreements are more important than divorces. A separation agreement is nothing more than a domestic contract between a couple, wrapping up all the loose ends of a relationship. Who will look after children? Will child support be payable? Will spousal support be payable? How will assets be split? 

Yes, you could work out all these things by yourselves verbally. But if one of the parties later decides he or she doesn't like the arrangement, and you've written nothing down, then there's going to be trouble. It can be as if you need to go through the separation all over again, but this time in a court-based process.

So written separation agreements are key for future family stability. By contrast, divorces are most necessary for remarriage purposes if all other rights of a spouse have already been dealt with, such as by changing life insurance designations.

Do I need a Lawyer to Draft a Separation Agreement?

In one word, YES. Wrapping up all the details of a relationship that might have endured for many years, accumulating assets and children along the way, is very complicated. It is a legal minefield. Because negotiating such agreements doesn't usually involve going to court, they need not be especially expensive to draft unless the family makeup is very complex or agreement negotiations are particularly contentious. 

We have seen time and time again separation agreements done up by couples themselves, and even formalized by way of a court order, wind up at the centre of bitter contentious court battles years later when relations between the parties have worsened (sometimes because of differences over child rearing), rather than improved. If those agreements had been drafted by lawyers from the start, they might have held up on court. But the self-drafted agreements usually don't stand a chance, in part because their language is vague and they don't address many necessary details. 

Further Reading

  1. Top Features of a Great Separation Agreement