Separation and annulment

How separation and annulment are defined and how they work in relation to ending a marriage.


When people are married or are in an ‘adult interdependent relationship’ end their relationship and begin living apart from each other, they are separated. There is no such thing as a ‘legal separation’ in Canada, but being separated for a year is one of the grounds for divorce.

Adult interdependent relationship

Any of these relationships is considered an ‘adult interdependent relationship’:

  • interdependence with another adult for 3 years
  • less than 3 years if you’ve signed an Adult Interdependent Partnership Agreement
  • less than 3 years if you have had a biological child together

If people in an adult interdependent relationship are separated for 1 year, their relationship is officially considered to have ended. Partners of an adult independent relationship may also end their relationship by an agreement.

Separation agreements

A separation agreement is a contract between parties who are separating or divorcing. These usually deal with issues such as:

  • where your children will live and what time periods they will spend with the other parent
  • how much child support will be paid
  • how much spousal support will be paid
  • how property is divided

It is possible for you and your former spouse or partner to write an agreement yourselves, but it is recommended that you speak to a lawyer.


An annulment is a court order that says that your marriage did not exist or was not valid – this is different from a divorce, which ends a valid marriage that previously existed. When a marriage is annulled, it ends immediately.

Annulments are only possible to obtain in rare situations such as:

  • your spouse was already married to another person when they married you
  • you married the person only because someone threatened your physical safety
  • you were impaired by drugs or alcohol to the point that you did not understand you were going through the marriage ceremony
  • you thought you were marrying one person, but it was actually another person
  • if the person you married is unable to consummate the marriage
  • if you were under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage, you did not have your parent’s consent, and you did not consummate the marriage

Sometimes a church or other religious institution might grant an annulment. This is different from a legal annulment.

You will need to speak with a lawyer to discuss an annulment.