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.
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.