Educational Resources

Legal Separation: A Blueprint (Part II)

Written by Russell Alexander / (905) 655-6335

Legal Separation:  A Blueprint (Part II)

In the first of this two-part Blog, we talked about the fact that some divorcing couples may have a hard time pinpointing their exact date of final separation.  This can be because of multiple attempts at reconciliation, or perhaps because they cannot financially afford to get their own separate residences.  This may see them having to live under the same roof for some period leading up to their divorce. 

If you are part of a couple on your way to divorce, you will want to take affirmative steps to make it clear that you are no longer together in the eyes of the law.  How to do that?

In Part I we talked about some of the practical aspects, like living arrangements.  In this Part II, we discuss some of the more social and emotional components that have to be severed, for a court to be convinced of your legal separation date. Do as many of the following as possible:

Untangle Your Family Life

  • Advise your families or otherwise make it publicly known you are officially separated
  • Avoid attending formal family gatherings (on either side) together, like family weddings
  • Stop socializing with each other’s extended family for holidays and informal events
  • Don’t take your children out jointly, for local outings
  • Take separate vacations, and stop scheduling joint family vacations 
  • Don’t socialize together with any mutual friends you may have

Don’t Celebrate Together

  • Avoid commemorating your wedding anniversary
  • Celebrate separately during holiday times (such as Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, Thanksgiving)
  • Don’t exchange gifts or tokens of affection with each other

Skip the Emotional Intimacy

  • Don’t keep each other abreast of your illnesses, health issues, or treatment
  • Avoid lending help to each other on personal issues (e.g. death in the family, individual financial or personal problems)
  • If possible, avoid taking active steps to provide care for each other after an injury, illness, or surgery – leave that to others

Change Your Communication (About Most Things)

  • Make sure you sit down together and have a conversation confirming to each other that “it’s over”, and document the date and time
  • Stop accounting to each other about daily activities, future plans, etc.
  • Restrict your discussions to only necessary topics, like dealing with your kids 
  • Tell your children that the two of you have decided to separate
  • Also clearly announce the split to friends, extended family, work colleagues, and people in your religious or sports/hobby communities

Keep It Separate, Socially

  • Show up separately at non-family social functions (like neighbourhood events)
  • Stop going to each other’s work functions together
  • Stop presenting yourselves as a couple at places like your church, community or volunteer activities, your kids’ sporting events, and in your broader social network 

Show You’re Moving Forward 

  • Don’t try to reconcile, or seek couples’ or marriage counselling
  • No more “dates” with each other
  • When the time is right, start to date other people

Adjust the Paperwork 

  • Change your Wills, so neither of you is the beneficiary of the estate of the other 
  • Ensure your Income Tax returns show you are “separated”
  • Change the beneficiary on your life insurance policies
  • Ensure any official documents (e.g. loan applications) show as each being “separated” rather than “married”

Start the Legal Stuff

  • Consult a Family Lawyer
  • Have one of your lawyers send a formal letter to the other, confirming your separation
  • Exchange draft separation agreements
  • Formally start your divorce proceedings

It’s important to note that these lists are not comprehensive.  There can be other factors that a court will take into account, when determining when any married couple has formally separated.  And it bears repeating: each case is decided on a case-by-case basis.

If you have questions or need advice about the formal point of separation, give our team a call.

At Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders.  For more information, visit us at

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About the author

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander is the Founder & Senior Partner of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers.