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What Is a Legal Separation Agreement?

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One method of applying for a divorce in Saskatchewan is to begin with a legal separation agreement (and it’s the most common reason people use to establish that their marriage has irretrievably broken down). It’s a valuable document that can help a couple that wants to separate work through various issues before moving into the divorce phase. Here are some basics to keep in mind when beginning the process.

What Is a Legal Separation Agreement?

In Saskatchewan, a married couple must be separated (living apart) for at least a year before a divorce is granted. This can provide a great deal of time to consider the various aspects of what separating means in terms of finances, family (if children are involved), and emotional bonds.

A legal separation agreement is a document (or contract) developed as part of the separation that the two spouses draw up on their own without going to court first. In fact, a legal separation agreement may be everything needed to pursue the final divorce in the end, and it can help avoid court altogether–saving money, time, and stress.

The agreement should include all the significant decisions that need to be addressed in a divorce, namely, child custody and support, spousal support (if applicable), division of assets, and any outstanding debts, etc. Once the couple has made these decisions, they can put them in writing as their separation agreement, forming the foundation for the divorce.

What if We Can’t Agree on Terms for the Separation Agreement?

Because many marriages can end in anger, it may be difficult for the spouses to find a way to communicate and work toward common ground when proposing terms for a separation agreement. Going directly to court could lead to increased anger, and court cases tend to be lengthy and expensive.

Fortunately, there’s another way. In 2021, changes were made to the Divorce Act that require that couples try to resolve separation disagreements through a family dispute resolution process before appearing in court. One form of alternate dispute resolution (ADR) is mediation, something Panko Collaborative has believed in and practiced for many years. We’ve seen firsthand the difference it can make in coming to amicable agreements rather than contentious court cases.

Working with knowledgeable, compassionate family law mediators can make an enormous difference when it comes to reducing stress and coming to acceptable compromises more quickly.

How Does Mediation Work with Drawing up a Legal Separation Agreement?

Mediation is a holistic approach that involves each spouse having the opportunity to express their wishes and priorities and know they’ll be heard while also taking the time to hear the other spouse out. As opposed to a court case where a lawyer may represent each spouse and set an aggressive tone, mediation involves a mediator who doesn’t work for either side. Instead, they operate as an impartial advisor who is not there to issue judgments or choose one side over the other.

The mediator’s role is to ensure all concerns and issues are fully expressed and understood by both sides and to help each side move toward collaboration and compromise. Every case is unique with its own set of values and disputes, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

When it comes to drawing up a legal separation agreement, the mediator will help identify the points where the couple already agree, then help them identify those that are causing difficulties. They may guide participants into considering solutions they may not have previously thought of. Again, the mediator isn’t the one making the final determination. Instead, they’re providing a safe, compassionate space where each side will be heard and help both sides to focus on the greater good going forward.

Is a Legal Separation Agreement Required to be Considered Legally Separated in Saskatchewan?

It’s not required. Once a couple stops living together, that specific date can be used as their legal separation date to begin the year-long countdown. However, the kinds of issues that are addressed in this agreement are central to the divorce process.

If We Draw up a Legal Separation Agreement, Do We Have No Choice But to Divorce Eventually?

No! The good news is that this document only affirms what the couple agreed on in terms of handling the separation of family and financial matters if they do decide to pursue divorce. It doesn’t legally bind them to a divorce. In fact, in some cases, couples going through the mediation process while drawing up the legal separation agreement find more common ground than dispute and decide to give marriage another try. There’s no guarantee that will happen, of course, but the separation agreement can help move toward the ending of the marriage in a calmer, less stressful manner.

Can Write Our Own Legal Separation Agreement?

It’s possible but not advisable. Family law is complex and benefits from the assistance of experienced lawyers.

When the lawyers can also provide guidance from in-house mediators, it can smooth the process even more.

What Should I Do if I Think I Need a Legal Separation Agreement?

Call Panko Collaborative Law & Mediation at 306-518-8107 for a consultation. Our team of experienced, compassionate family law lawyers and mediators is here to help make this process as low-stress and complication-free as possible. We understand that this is a difficult time in your life, and our collaborative approach to the separation and divorce process may help keep things from becoming overwhelming. Call us today to learn about our holistic services.

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