Divorce vs. Separation – What is the Difference?

You may have heard the terms “divorce” and “separation” and wondered whether they are one in the same or how they are different. You may be wondering whether you need to get a divorce and whether you already separated. This article “Divorce vs. Separation – What is the Difference?” aims to clear up the confusion by breaking down the legal differences between each term.

 What is a Divorce?

A divorce is the legal process that terminates a marriage. If a divorce is granted you will receive a certificate recognizing the divorce. A divorce is only available to married couples. To get a divorce, there must be legal grounds for it. The most common grounds on which to file for a divorce is living separate and apart for one year or more from your partner or spouse.

If your relationship ended over a year ago but you have continued living in the same residence for economic reasons, you may still be able to apply for a divorce. When applying for a divorce, you can apply for other orders such as property division, spousal support, child support, and custody. You must file your application with the Supreme Court of BC, which can be done either solely by yourself or jointly with your ex-spouse if you agree on all the terms of the divorce. If you file solely, be prepared for your ex-spouse to contest your application. Should this happen, we recommend that you seek legal help.

What is a Separation?

Separation refers to when you start living separate and apart from your partner or spouse. A separation is the legal term for the end of a relationship. It is the prelude to a divorce if married or if you are living together, the end of the relationship. It applies equally to married couples and common law spouses. The date of separation is the date you started living separate and apart from your partner or spouse. This is usually when one partner communicated to the other, their intention to end the relationship. Despite common belief, you don’t actually have to take any other steps to become separated. However, we recommend preparing a separation agreement if you and your ex have significant assets or debts, there is a substantial difference in your incomes, or you have children together.

If you and your ex cannot agree on the terms of your separation, you may use the services of a mediator to help facilitate an agreement or apply to the courts for a decision. For more information on mediation, please visit our page “Family Mediation”. To find out more about separation agreements, please see our article “What is a Legal Separation Agreement?”.

 Why get a divorce?

You may be wondering why bother to get a divorce if you have already separated from your married partner or spouse.  You must get a divorce if you are planning to remarry. You cannot get married if you are still legally married to someone else. Otherwise, it is not necessary to get a divorce. However, some people find that it helps bring a sense of finality to the relationship so that both ex-spouses can more easily move on with the next stages of their lives.

We hope this article helps answer your questions “Divorce vs. Separation – What is the Difference?”. Should you have any questions or require help with applying for a divorce or drafting a separation agreement, please contact us at 604-449-7779.

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