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How do I write a separation agreement?

A separation agreement is essentially a legal contract, in which you and your partner write out the specifics around how you wish to deal with various financial issues and family- and relationship-related matters in the event that you decide to end your relationship.

An initial caution: Since it is a legal agreement with full, binding contractual force, your separation agreement should ideally be drafted by a Family lawyer. He or she will be well-versed in ensuring all relevant topics are covered. In fact, ideally you should each have a separate legal representation to ensure that your respective legal interests are covered in the event that you do split.

Nonetheless, if you and your partner insist on making a separation agreement yourselves (or if you want to do an initial draft that will later be reviewed by your respective lawyers), the first step is to familiarize yourselves with the Family Law legislation – both provincial and federal – since these not only set out the requirements for making a valid separation agreement in the first place, but they also entrench various legal rights and obligations that you have towards each other, some of which cannot be overtaken or circumvented by a separation agreement at all.

Next, you will want to sit down together and consider the broad array of issues that will have to be negotiated between you. This involves reflecting on your current family structure and lifestyle, and then coming to an agreement on how you want your future to look when you are no longer together. This is especially important if you have children together.

Finally, you will want to tackle the specifics, including (but not limited to): what you and your partner each brought into the relationship, your joint finances and assets, your desired level of support towards each other post-split, how you wish to arrange for the care and custody of any children you have together, and then agree on how each of these items is to be treated if you split up. You should also agree on when and whether the separation agreement needs to be reviewed at some point in the future.

To make it valid, you will need to clearly and comprehensively address each of these issues in written form. Once it is completed, you will also need to sign the separation agreement in the presence of a witness.

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