When seeking a divorce in Canada, you need to file for a legal divorce with the court. On the other hand, when seeking a separation, there is no such need for filing paperwork.
If you are married or are living in a common-law relationship (see our article What does “common-law” mean in British Columbia?) you become legally “separated” as soon as you and your spouse begin living in separate dwellings with the intention of separating.
However, it is possible for you to be considered separated even if you are still living under the same roof, as long as you have stopped sharing things like meals, social activities and a bedroom.
If you are filing for a divorce on the grounds of separation, then you must prove to the court that you have both been living separate lives. You do not need your spouse’s permission to separate or to apply for a divorce.
If you are in a common-law relationship, there is no need for you to file for a divorce. If you are married, you will remain legally married until you obtain a court order for divorce.
In order to file for a divorce in Canada, you must be legally separated for at least one year prior to filing your divorce papers. The only exception to this rule is if you are filing your divorce on the grounds of adultery or cruelty.
During the required full year of separation, if you and your spouse get back together for a period, or multiple periods, totalling more than 90 days, the start of your full year requirement recommences.
The reason for the high threshold of ninety days is to allow couples a chance to reconcile their marriage while, at the same time, not causing a delay should the reconciliation prove to be unsuccessful.