Calgary & Strathmore Family Lawyers Creating Separation Agreements

What Is a Separation Agreement in Alberta?

A legally binding separation agreement in Alberta is a contract between spouses that details the conditions of your separation. It must:

  • Use concise and unambiguous language;
  • Be based on full financial disclosure;
  • Set out future dispute resolution and amendment processes; and
  • Confirm the parties have obtained independent legal advice.

You and your spouse must have separate lawyers for independent legal advice. The same lawyer cannot represent both of you.

Benefits of a Separation Agreement

A separation agreement is invaluable and acts as a roadmap for the relationship between the parties after their marriage or common-law (adult interdependent) relationship breaks down. Benefits of a well-written separation agreement include:

  • Avoiding disputes and misunderstandings, resulting in a more amicable separation or divorce process;
  • Certainty for both parties about financial arrangements;
  • Protecting the interests of your children; and
  • Reducing costs spent on litigation.

A separation agreement is not required to separate from or live apart from your spouse. However, Alberta courts will not grant a divorce until you and your spouse have decided on separation terms.

Entering into a separation agreement allows you to maintain control over decision-making about your separation instead of handing over authority to the court.

Creating a Separation Agreement

You and your spouse have the right to decide on the conditions of your separation, including the division of property and parenting arrangements. If you can agree, most things can happen without the involvement of the courts. It is advisable to hire a lawyer to draw up a separation agreement to make your conditions legally binding and avoid conflict in the future.

If you and your spouse cannot agree, you can enlist the help of a lawyer, mediator, arbitrator, or judge. Arbitration and litigation relinquish your right to decide the conditions of your separation and place the decision-making in the hands of the arbitrator or the judge.

Rights After Separation in Alberta

The Family Law Act governs spousal support, child support, and parenting orders. Alberta courts decide on parenting arrangements based on the best interests of the children. The Family Property Act classifies and divides family (or matrimonial) property and debts after separation and divorce. Alberta law requires you and your spouse to divide any debt incurred during your marriage.

Upon separation, you and your spouse can live together in the home if you can’t afford separate homes. However, you must live completely separate lives, essentially as roommates. And there must be an intention for one of you to move out when it’s feasible.

If you leave the home, you have a right to take anything that belongs to you alone, including your clothing, personal items, gifts given to you alone, and anything exclusively yours before your marriage. You can take a vehicle registered in your name and a reasonable amount of money from any joint account to support yourself (and your children, if needed). You may also take whatever is necessary for the care of the children (if you take them), including dishes, furniture, and clothing.

Benefits of Having a Family Lawyer for a Separation Agreement

Alberta family law protects individuals from agreeing to anything out of ignorance, misunderstanding, or coercion. This is accomplished by requiring you to get independent legal advice before signing a separation agreement. Your own lawyer has your best interests in mind, so they will explain your rights and obligations and ensure you understand before you sign the contract.

Without independent legal advice for both parties, a separation agreement may be found not to be legally binding and set aside by the court. Your family lawyer is obligated to:

  • Inform you about the likely spousal support, child support, and division of property that would be decided if brought to court;
  • Describe your settlement options, including what’s reasonable and what the pros and cons of each option may be; and
  • Tell you if you’re agreeing to receive less or more than what’s required by law and how that may impact you.

Financial Disclosure & Separation Agreements

It’s essential that you have all the information you need to make an informed decision. This includes the information your spouse discloses about finances. Your lawyer can review the information you have and advise you if it appears valuable information is missing. They can also tell you if you’re disclosing more information than is necessary.

Contact Getz Collins and Associates for Comprehensive Advice on Separation Agreements in Calgary & Strathmore

Getz Collins and Associates provides thorough, trusted advice on separation agreements. Our skilled family lawyers draft and review agreements that protect our clients’ rights and meet their family’s unique needs. We understand that no two families are the same and ensure each contract is tailored to address the full spectrum of a couple’s separation.

The family and divorce lawyers at Getz Collins and Associates combine a client-centric, community-minded approach to create innovative, practical legal solutions in family law matters. Conveniently located in Calgary and Strathmore, we serve communities across Alberta, including Airdrie, Cochrane, Okotoks, Drumheller, Chestermere, Hussar, and all surrounding areas. Call 587-391-5600 or contact us online to book your confidential family law consultation.