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Best Toronto Family Separation Lawyers

The Best Toronto Family Separation Lawyers help separating and divorcing spouses resolve matters promptly and fairly. Helping spouses and their children resolve family separation and divorce includes:

  • obtaining a Toronto divorce
  • resolving Toronto child custody, guardianship, parenting time, and parenting responsibilities issues
  • calculating Toronto child support
  • deciding entitlement, amount, and duration of  Toronto spousal support
  • dividing Toronto net family property, the matrimonial home, and excluded property
  • ensuring Toronto family property is preserved, discovered, and properly valued; and
  • ensuring family members stay safe
  • preparing separation agreements, mediations, arbitrations, and trials

Best Toronto Family Separation Lawyers Tips 416 900 3428

Best Toronto Family Separation Lawyers
Peter Graburn, senior Toronto and Calgary  family lawyer at MacLean Law

Toronto and Calgary family lawyer Peter Graburn explains some key aspects of Toronto separation and divorce laws. Contact us at our Toronto family law office on 150 King Street West in downtown Toronto.

It is trite to say, but the breakdown of family relationships (whether through Separation or Divorce) is hard – especially on children of the relationship. But about 40% of couples will have to face this decision. Aside from the emotional stress of this decision, many practical and legal decisions have to be made: How do we co-parent the children? How do we financially support ourselves? How do we divide our family property? Difficult decisions that the best Toronto family separation lawyers help clients answer successfully.

But what is the difference between Separation and Divorce in Canada? Basically, it comes down to whether the spouses were married or not (ie. living “common-law”).  Some separating couples may try to attribute blame or responsibility to one or the other for the breakdown of their relationship. Quite frankly, in legally dealing with that relationship, the Courts do not consider who is responsible.  Canada has a “no-fault” system for divorce. Ontario (and most Canadian provinces) have a similar system for common-law spouses. So how do the Courts determine how and when a family relationship, whether for married or common-law ex-spouses, should be considered legally ended?


The divorce of married couples is relatively straightforward.  The regulation of divorce in Canada is within federal jurisdiction [s. 91(26), The Constitution Act, 1867).  Under the federal Divorce Act [Section 8(1)], there is only one ground for divorce, being the “breakdown of the marriage”. But Section 8(2) of the Divorce Act goes on to state that this breakdown of the marriage must be established on one (or more) separate grounds:

1-Year Separation – this is the most common ground for divorce in Canada, and the very embodiment of “no-fault” divorce in Canada. Ex-spouses do not have to be living in separate residences to be “separated” – they may be living “separate under the same roof”. Ex-spouses also do not have to have been living separate and apart for one year before applying for divorce, but must have been living separate and apart for at least 1-year before the Court can grant the formal divorce on this ground;   

Mental or Physical Cruelty – such that it makes it unbearable to continue to live together;

Adultery – that has not been condoned (ie. accepted or forgiven by the other spouse).

The best Toronto family separation lawyers explain that the vast majority of divorces proceed on a one-year separation and there may be costs consequences if a spouse persists in wanting to proceed on fault grounds.

Legal Separation

The granting of a divorce by the Court formally ends the legal marriage of the ex-spouses. But as indicated above, it can be a year or (usually) more between the time married ex-spouses physically separate and are actually granted a formal divorce by the Court. During this time, still-married ex-spouses may wish to be legally separated and confirm (whether by Separation Agreement or Court Order) those issues raised above: custody & access to children; child and spousal support; division of matrimonial property, etc. For more general information on Toronto family law issues read this.

Common-Law Separation

Common-law separation is a little more complicated.  Obviously, common-law spouses do not need a divorce – they made a conscious decision not to get legally married. But they still have to deal with those other issues: children, financial support, and division of family property.  In Ontario, these issues are (currently) dealt with under the Children’s Law Reform Act (CLRA) and Family Law Act (FLA) (see MacLean Law founder Lorne MacLean Q.C.’s recent article “Toronto Child Parenting Contact Changes” regarding proposed changes to the CLRA:

The CLRA states (the FLA has a similar definition) that the term “spouse” means:

“the person to whom a person is married or whom the person is living in a conjugal relationship outside marriage;”

Accordingly, under Ontario legislation, so-called “common-law” spouses are given most of the same rights and responsibilities regarding children, child support, and spousal support (not the division of property) as married spouses. But how do common-law spouses prove that they are living ‘separate with no reasonable prospect of resuming cohabitation’ [FLA s. 5(1)]?  This is a factual determination, based on many factors (not just whether they continue to have sexual relations) including whether the ex-spouses:

● continue to communicate with each other;

● sleep in the same bedroom;

● share household duties (meals, laundry, etc.);

● continue to shares living expenses, bank accounts, and credit cards, or;

● hold themselves out to the community as a couple, etc.

Accordingly, demonstrating whether so-called “common-law” couples have ended their legal relationship and are living “separate and apart” (even “under the same roof”) is much more difficult than for married couples. It is for this reason that it may be even more important for “common-law” ex-couples to confirm their separation and continuing rights and responsibilities (ie. to children, financial support, and property) by a Separation Agreement or Court Order.

Toronto Separation and Divorce is a serious decision and has serious consequences. Once spouses decide to separate, many other decisions have to be made regarding children, financial support, and the division of family property.  While many rights and responsibilities affecting married and common-law couples upon relationship break-down are now substantially the same, there are still some significant differences (ie. re property division) you must be aware of.  There are also different ways to resolve disputes regarding these decisions: negotiation; mediation, and (if necessary) the Courts (litigation).

Speak to one of our top-rated family lawyers from Canada’s national family law firm who know how to help you through the highly stressful situation of a Toronto Separation and Divorce. It just makes sense to contact one of a number of the best Toronto family separation lawyers.

Call us now at 416 900 3428