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Separation is often a pre-curser to divorce and many couples choose to separate for a period of time before taking action to legally divorce.

In British Columbia, there is no such thing as a “legal separation.”  Separation is a matter of fact and occurs when the parties decide they no longer want to continue in a marriage-like relationship. No legal steps need to be taken in order to “separate” from your spouse. All that is required for spouses to separate is for the spouses to have the intention of living separately and apart, or to start living separately (spouses can continue to share the same residence and be separated, so long as the separation is clearly communicated between them).

Legally, you do not need your spouse’s permission or an agreement to begin living separately. If you are married or in a common-law partnership and one partner decide they no longer want to live together anymore, you can become separated immediately and seeing a lawyer or going to court isn’t necessary to affirm your “separated” status. If you are legally married, choosing to separate is not sufficient to end your marriage and a divorce is necessary.

Couples who are having difficulties in their marriage or relationship may choose to have a trial separation period to take a break from one another while they decide if divorce is the right path forward. This may include the use of third party professionals to provide counselling services individually or to both spouses as a couple, in an effort to see whether reconciliation is possible.

Permanent separation, on the other hand, is when the couple decide that they are not going to get back together and divorce often follows.

Although separation can occur without any legal steps, legal action or advice may be required if you are dealing with issues that have arisen from the separation, such as parenting, finances, property division, and for married couples, divorce.  It is important that you find out what your legal rights and obligations are from the outset before making any final decisions that will affect you long term.