How Do I Separate from My Spouse?

From Clicklaw Wikibooks

Separation isn't rocket science, whether you're married or not. You don't need any court papers or a written agreement to end the relationship, you don't need to see a lawyer or a judge, and there's no such thing as a "legal separation" in British Columbia.

A couple are separated once one or both spouses decides that the relationship is over, announces that decision to the other spouse, and ends the marriage-like aspects of their relationship, such as sleeping together, eating together, doing household chores for each other, and so forth.

You and your spouse do not have to both agree that the relationship is over to separate. That's a decision that only one of you needs to make to end the relationship.

Living together after separation[edit]

Most spouses separate when one spouse moves out. Moving out can sometimes be a problem, since living together is so cost-effective. When you're living under the same roof, there's only one mortgage or rent bill to pay, one hydro bill, one grocery bill, and one phone bill. When someone moves out, the same pool of income has to cover two rent bills, two hydro bills, two grocery bills, and two phone bills.

Because living in different homes can be so expensive, a lot of people decide to separate but remain living under the same roof. From the court's point of view, a married couple can be separated but still live together as long as:

  • you're not sleeping together,
  • you're not having sex with each other,
  • you each do your own chores (cooking your own meals, doing your own laundry, and so forth),
  • you've closed any joint bank accounts, and
  • you've stopped going to social functions together as a couple.

Proof of separation[edit]

Generally speaking, when someone says they separated from their spouse on a date, the court doesn't conduct an inquiry or look in any depth into whether or not someone communicated a clear and immediate intention to separate at that time.

However, proving the date of separation can be very important in terms of an entitlement to spousal support and dividing property and debt, and this can sometimes be a challenge. If this is going to be a problem, then the only sure way of proving when separation happened is the date that one spouse moves out. It's hard to argue about that. As an alternative, you might try writing a letter or sending an email announcing the separation to your spouse. Be sure to keep a copy.

Preparing for separation[edit]

See How Do I Prepare for Separation? for more information, including some helpful tips and tricks that could save you some grief down the road.

For more information[edit]

You can find out more about separation in the chapter Separation & Divorce within the section Separation.

This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Vanessa Van Sickle, June 13, 2019.

Creativecommonssmall.png JP Boyd on Family Law © John-Paul Boyd and Courthouse Libraries BC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.

Normally referred to as the "Supreme Court of British Columbia," this court hears most court proceedings in this province. The Supreme Court is a court of inherent jurisdiction and is subject to no limits on the sorts of claims it can hear or on the sorts of orders it can make. Decisions of the Provincial Court are appealed to the Supreme Court; decisions of the Supreme Court are appealed to the Court of Appeal. See "Court of Appeal," "jurisdiction," "Provincial Court," and "Supreme Court of Canada."

A court established and staffed by the provincial government, which includes Small Claims Court, Youth Court, and Family Court. The Provincial Court is the lowest level of court in British Columbia and is restricted in the sorts of matters it can deal with. It is, however, the most accessible of the two trial courts and no fees are charged to begin or defend a family court proceeding. The Family Court of the Provincial Court cannot deal with the division of family property or matters under the Divorce Act. See "judge" and "jurisdiction."

A person licensed to practice law in a particular jurisdiction. See "barrister and solicitor."

A person appointed by the federal or provincial government to manage and decide court proceedings in an impartial manner, independent of influence by the parties, the government, or agents of the government. The decisions of a judge are binding upon the parties to the proceeding, subject to appeal.

In family law, the decision of one or both parties to terminate a married or unmarried relationship; the act of one person leaving the family home to live somewhere else with the intention of terminating the relationship. There is no such thing as a "legal separation." In general, one separates by simply moving out; however, it is possible to be separated but still live under the same roof. See "divorce, grounds of."

Under the Divorce Act, either of two people who are married to one another, whether of the same or opposite genders. Under the Family Law Act, married spouses, unmarried parties who have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years, and, for all purposes of the act other than the division of property or debt, unmarried parties who have lived together for less than two years but have had a child together. See "marriage" and "marriage-like relationship."

The conditional transfer of the title to real property by an owner to another person in return for money given by that person as a loan, while retaining possession of the property. The party to whom title is given, the "mortgagee," usually a bank, is allowed to register the title of the property in their name if the person taking the loan, the "mortgagor," fails to make the required payments. See "encumbrance" and "real property."

A payment made by one spouse, the payor, to the other spouse, the recipient, to help with their day-to-day living expenses or to compensate the recipient for the financial choices the spouses made during the relationship.

Something which can be owned. See "chattels" and "real property."

A sum of money or an obligation owed by one person to another. A "debtor" is a person responsible for paying a debt; a "creditor" is the person to whom the debt is owed.

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