Exchanging financial information
In any family law process, both spouses must provide each other with full and complete financial information so that informed decisions can be made. In the collaborative process, these decisions are discussed and made together, after everyone understands the full financial picture of the family.
In the Pro Bono Collaborative Family Law Project, financial information is exchanged as part of the intake process. This helps you and your spouse to be prepared for meetings with the collaborative team, and lets you focus your time on what's important, finding solutions for your family.
You will be asked to bring all of your financial information and documentation to your in-person intake meeting. If you qualify for the program, you will be assigned a collaborative professional team and your financial documents will be provided to your lawyer and the other team members. Financial documents to be provided include:
The date of separation is the date that you and your spouse decided to live separate and apart, and/or the date that things changed in the relationship such that there was no longer any reasonable prospect of getting back together, regardless of who made the choice to separate. The date you select as your date of separation (also called the "valuation date" in family law) can have legal and financial implications, so it is important that you understand the significance of this date before you complete your financial forms and negotiate an agreement.
Sometimes the date of separation is clear - it could be when one of you told the other that that the relationship was over, it could be a conversation you had together when you both realized the relationship was over, or it could be an argument that changed things. Sometimes the date of separation is not as clear and needs to be discussed and agreed on. From a legal perspective, the date of separation does not necessarily mean the date that one of you moved out of the home, and in many cases couples can be separated but still living in the same home. You do not need to sign any document to be separated for family law purposes, it is the date when an objective third party looking at the family would say that things changed and you were no longer acting as a couple.
Why your date of separation matters
Dividing Property: If you were married, the Family Law Act normally divides the value of property accrued during the marriage and up to the date of separation by way of an "equalization payment". In order to discuss the equalization calculation, all of your assets and debts must be valued at both the date of marriage and the date of separation – this must be done for both you and your spouse for all of the property in each of your names (jointly owned property is normally shared equally regardless of when you separated). Therefore, the date of separation used can have a significant financial impact.
If you are uncertain what date of separation to use for property division calculations, or if you and your spouse do not agree on the date of separation, the equalization process may be more complicated. You should obtain legal advice before choosing a date of separation to make sure your financial information is accurate.
Sharing Income and Expenses: The date of separation may, in some cases, also be relevant to the issues of child support, spousal support, tax credits, and payment of expenses.
Divorce: Separation and divorce are different legal concepts. A separation occurs when you and your spouse decide the relationship is over, or when one of you tells the other that the relationship is over and starts to act differently (regardless of whether the other one wants to separate or not). A divorce is a legal process that starts with a court application and ends with a certificate of divorce that proves you are no longer married.
A couple can be separated for years without divorcing. Normally, people work on resolving all of their parenting and financial issues first in a separation agreement, before getting a divorce. If everything else has been resolved, then the divorce can be obtained by filling out forms at the end of the process. A divorce may only be obtained from a court one year after the date of separation on a no-fault basis.
If you are involved in the Pro Bono Collaborative Family Law Project and you are not sure about your date of separation, it will be discussed at your first collaborative meeting. Gather financial information for the date(s) you think might be relevant so that you can discuss the issue with your professional collaborative team.
Choosing your "date of separation"