Before two people can get a divorce in Alberta, they must first separate for a minimum of one year. While there is no legal requirement to do anything beyond agree on a date of separation, many people find it useful to create separation agreements. By making certain arrangements in advance, there should be less chance of disagreements down the road.
A separation agreement is a legally binding contract that clarifies the responsibilities each party takes on between the separation date and the divorce. The purpose is to head off contentious issues before they arise. Commonly addressed in separation agreements are matters relating to child custody, division of property, assets and debts. Child support is another important item frequently included.
To be valid, the agreement has to be written, not verbal, and signed by both spouses, as well as dated and witnessed. Once completed, the agreement can be enforced by the courts should one party fail to live up to his or her end of the deal. In most cases, a judge will uphold an agreement, provided both parties entered into the agreement willingly.
The best way to be certain an agreement is legally sound is to draw it up with the assistance of a lawyer. In fact, it is usually best for each spouse to seek individual counsel. An Alberta lawyer who has experience with separation agreements will make sure that his or her client's best interests are provided for, and that his or her rights are protected in the document.
Source: What is a separation agreement?, "FindLaw Canada", Miriam Yosowich, Accessed on May 31, 2017