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Betrayed by a ‘Trial’ Separation? Don’t Involve the Kids

Your free-as-a-bird hubby has taken up with another mate. You’ll see about that. No access to the kids until he ‘fesses up.

Marriage and Family Breakups

How’s your informal marital separation going? Family breakup wasn’t top of mind when you got hitched.  Five years and two kids later, your relationship is rocky at best. He’s moved out and you got the kids. 24/7 with two toddlers in tow can get pretty taxing.

Splitting From Your Partner Temporarily

Arguing in front of the boys is out of character for both of you. You have to admit you get wound up when he’s watching TV and you’re feeding the kids. You’ve agreed to a temporary split up, just for a while, until you sort out your differences. Drafting an informal separation agreement looks like a no brainer.

Did You Mean to Make a Pre-divorce Agreement?

Your family is a bit concerned about the temporary separation agreement you signed. At their urging, you agree to get an independent legal opinion. Your lawyer is perplexed. For a short-term breakup, it’s got all the makings of a pre-divorce agreement, right up to living separate and apart. A separation agreement doesn’t end your marriage — only a divorce decree can do that. But once a marital contract’s signed, it’s legal.

Chances a Trial Separation Will Work Out

What you thought you were getting was a trial separation. You planned to take a breather and get marriage counselling. Psychologists and marital counsellors say brief time apart can work. Ninety-four per cent of Ontario couples who separated were still married after a year, just not living together. That could be because after a year of living separate and apart, Ontario couples can apply for a simple divorce. Still, only 38% of Canadian marriages actually end in divorce after the first 14 years.

Blaming and Shaming Your Way to Divorce

St. Catherine’s “The Grace Fix” marital coach Grace Cirocco believes most marriages can be saved. True intimacy, she says, comes from communicating and navigating negative feelings without blaming or shaming. “Very much like in medicine, early detection saves marriages and ensures long term happiness and life satisfaction,” she told Elle Magazine (March 4, 2019). Her marital advice: “It might feel like a battleground out there and you may have suffered relationship wounds. But don’t give up.” 

Make a Valid Separation Agreement

Getting back to that draft agreement to separate, your partner protected his spousal rights by adding the phrase “if there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.” Your eyes glazed over at the odd wording. Where did he get this form anyway? He’s:

  • divided your assets down the middle
  • detailed your credit card debts, down to the last dime
  • given you child custody
  • taking the kids weekends, if he’s free
  • forgotten about child support (apparently)
  • skipped out on spousal support payments
  • asked you to give up your rights to his pension
  • and is no longer responsible for household debts, including utilities and the Internet bill.

The form has all the elements of a legal separation agreement. On the lighter side, he moved out of your townhouse, the one you bought before you met him. If he asks for a divorce later, you might get exclusive possession of the matrimonial home.

Get Legal Advice Before Signing a Separation Agreement

Looks like you needed independent legal advice before you signed. But no big deal. You can change an informal separation agreement just by talking it out, alone or with your lawyers. You could also hire a family mediator. Ontario family courts prefer you try mediation before you apply for divorce. 

Blocking Child Access and Divorce Law

Back to your plan to take it out on him by denying his visitation rights. Family courts frown on dragging children into marital conflict. Arguing or discussing your separation in front of children may go against you in a child custody battle. Preventing your kids from seeing your partner is parental interference. Unless your partner is violent or you fear he will abduct the kids, go ahead with those regular visits. Your lawyers can arrange neutral pick up and drop off points.

Social Media Can Harm Your Divorce 

While you’re at it, avoid grieving in public. Your kids may be too young to read, but your partner and his family are sure to see your angry social media posts. Facebook rants can wind up in front of the judge. Better to vent your feelings in a personal diary locked away for safekeeping. Before you give up your innermost thoughts in court, hit shred.

Protect Your Spousal Rights During a Trial Separation 

Axess Law Ontario family lawyers can explain all the legal terms in a written trial separation agreement. You can arrange video conference calls 7 days a week, day or evening, at times that suit your schedule. Call toll-free to 1-877-522-9377 or in Greater Toronto at 647-479-0118 or use our online booking form for an appointment. Or meet in person with a family lawyer at our Ottawa, Toronto, Scarborough, Vaughan, Etobicoke, Mississauga Winston Churchill or Mississauga Heartland law offices.
Click here to learn more about Axess Law’s family law services.

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