When a relationship breaks down, some couples want to divorce immediately. Others prefer a trial separation while they try to reconcile. Still others remain separated indefinitely without ever seeking a formal divorce.

In this post, an experienced British Columbia divorce lawyer discusses the differences and implications of divorces and separations.

Separation vs. Divorce

A separation is when two spouses no longer share a life. You may live separately but stay married. Or you may live together but lead separate lives — not sleeping in the same room, not socializing, or sharing bank accounts. No formal document or court order is necessarily needed to set a date for separation.

A divorce occurs when a court legally ends a marriage. A judge will sign your divorce judgment and the registry will issue a divorce certificate upon application. To file for divorce in British Columbia, you must have been separated for at least 12 months (exceptions may apply if you were the victim of cruelty or adultery).

Only legally wed couples can divorce in British Columbia. A separation is enough to end a common-law relationship. However, BC law gives the same rights to married spouses and common-law spouses, including division of family property, spousal support, and child support.

That means you should try to agree on how to divide property, whether either of you wants spousal support, and what your parenting plan involves. You may do so on your own, with the help of a mediator, or by hiring legal counsel for divorce in British Columbia. If you cannot agree, a court will decide for you. 

However, keep in mind that certain limitation periods give deadlines on the time for you to make a claim to the property of your common law spouse after separation. But if you are married, those limitation periods may not apply until you get divorced.

Separation Agreements

While a separation does not require an official agreement, some couples choose to draft one themselves or hire experienced divorce counsel in British Columbia.  

Whether you are legally married or have a common-law spouse, drafting a separation agreement can help formalize the conditions of your separation. Separation agreements often cover the following:

  • Division of property: real estate, vehicles, investments, insurance policies, and bank accounts
  • Responsibility for debts: credit cards, mortgages, loans, and tax liabilities
  • Living arrangements: Who stays in the home, and who leaves? 
  • Parenting plan: Who will have primary custody of the children? What is the visitation schedule for the other parent? Where will the children spend holidays and vacations?
  • Child support: Who will financially support minor children, including daycare, schooling, and medical expenses?
  • Spousal support: Will either spouse financially support the other? If so, for how long and how much?  

Benefits of Separation

On the other hand, many British Columbia divorce lawyers know people may seek to stay married despite living apart for the following reasons:

  • Social Security: Divorcing after 10 or more years of marriage qualifies you for extra social security benefits at the age of 62.
  • Health insurance: You may hesitate to give up the health insurance benefits your spouse provides.
  • Military benefits: You or your spouse may receive significant military benefits from the other.
  • Tax advantages: You may receive tax benefits by remaining married and filing joint returns.
  • Saving money: Some couples live under one roof while leading independent lives to save on housing costs and other expenses.

Benefits of Divorce

Besides the emotional closure an official divorce provides, British Columbia marriage dissolution lawyers point out the following benefits:

  • You may no longer have the legal obligation to support your spouse.
  • You may avoid responsibility for your spouse’s debts, including credit cards and mortgages.
  • You are free to remarry.

Whether you are considering a separation, seeking a divorce, or want to draft a relationship agreement, Pier Law & Mediation can help. Call (604) 560-8285 today to schedule a consultation with a knowledgeable British Columbia divorce lawyer.

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