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Child support, spousal support, and the division of property are just some of the issues that can arise from the breakdown of a relationship.

In the face of having to reconcile these areas of dispute, the date of separation is often thought to be the easy part. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

My spouse and I disagree on the separation date. What now?

Since the continuation of a relationship requires two people, either can end the relationship without the consent of the other. There may be times when one spouse knows that there will be no reconciliation and the other does not. This often occurs when one spouse has decided that they do not wish to reconcile, but the other does not yet understand this.

Where parties simply cannot agree, the starting point is asking, when was it that the parties knew, or ought to reasonably have known, that their relationship was over and would not continue? Examples of facts that support a point in time when a party should  have known can include:

  • one party moving into another bedroom in the same home;
  • the separation of finances;
  • telling friends or family that they are separated.

No one factor is definitive, however, in combination, they may support the conclusion that the parties have separated as of that point in time.

It is important to remember that no matter how well intended one’s hope for reconciliation may be, hope from one spouse alone is not enough to extend a separation date, when the other spouse’s intentions to end the relationship are objectively clear.

Why does agreeing on a separation date even matter?

One may ask, why is it important to set a separation date? In the context of family law disputes, the answer is multi-faceted. When the parties are married, the date of separation can impact the date that the parties can obtain a divorce. When it comes to the financial aspects of the breakdown of a relationship, the date of separation becomes what is known as a valuation date. The valuation date is the point in time when spouses cease being intertwined entities for financial purposes. At this time, spouses’ assets and liabilities are to be reported to determine whether one party owes a payment to the other, also known as an equalization payment.

It is important to note, however, that the actions of the parties can impact when a valuation date is set. For example, if one spouse, in preparation for separation, transfers or dissipates assets, the Court may determine that an early valuation date is appropriate. If behaviours of the parties fail to align with a claim by one that they were separated, a later valuation date may be deemed appropriate.

What do I do if we cannot agree on a date of separation?

A family lawyer can help spouses evaluate the facts to determine a specific separation date, and advise on how to move forward in the separation process.

If you have questions about separation or divorce, contact our team. We are here to help.


This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2021 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.

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