The global pandemic of COVID-19 is changing the way we function as a society. More specifically the way the family law practice regarding separation and cohabitation agreements is adapting to make sure our clients and fellow practitioners are safe.
On March 23, 2020, the Ontario court services were modified to adapt to physical distancing. At the moment, courts are only hearing motions on an emergency basis, however we anticipate there may be changes over the next few weeks to provide remote access which may increase the types of matters to be heard in the court.
While the court process has been altered, the profession of family law practice has as well. In order to make sure we are all being safe and working together to get through this pandemic, we are conducting our new client intake meetings through Zoom and/or Skype as well as other client meetings by phone, and email correspondence to update clients on existing matters.
Separation Agreements are an area of family practice where we can safely practice physical distancing, while working to make sure you are legally protected.
Separation is difficult for all parties involved and creates a dramatic change in the family unit. This is evident whether or not there are children involved in the marriage break down.
Separation agreements are achieved when an agreement has been reached between the parties who have co-habited, in or out of marriage, and who have separated, in which they agree on their rights and obligations under the contract. Separation agreements can allow spouses to live separately and apart without legally ending the marriage and, in some cases, separation agreements involve spouses who are still residing in the same property, albeit separately, upon the break down of the marriage. Separation agreements are very important to the family law process as they are often filed as part of a Divorce proceeding down the road. It is important when drafting your separation agreement that you are aware of potential risks which may set aside the agreement or prevent the Court from subsequently granting a divorce.
A separation agreement can efficiently assist you and your spouse with setting out your legal rights, obligations and needs without having to go through the court process. This is especially significant during this time, where there is uncertainty as to when the courts will be operating at normal capacity.
Cohabitation Agreements, often known as ‘prenuptial agreements’, are used by couples to set out terms in advance of a marriage. Cohabitation agreements are also used for couples who are not planning to legally marry but are planning or are currently residing together. A cohabitation agreement may deal with the division of property for unmarried couples to avoid potential litigation down the road.
Cohabitation agreements can also include terms that set out exclusive possession of the matrimonial home, or how to deal with particular property that is brought into the marriage. Cohabitation agreements can deal with how assets are distributed upon death and can set out terms of custody and access of the couples’ children.
Like separation agreements, cohabitation agreements can be achieved through practicing physical distancing to respect couples’ health concerns.
It is important to note that while JMS Law is a firm that focuses on resolution, there are times when it is necessary to strongly advocate for your rights in separation matters, we at JMS Law are not adverse to strongly advocating when such advocacy is necessary.
For more information on your rights and obligations please contact our office.