A separation agreement can be helpful when getting divorced because a divorce takes time to finalize. Having a separation agreement settles issues like parenting arrangements, financial support, and property issues. The divorce process may be easier if you have a written agreement because you will have already agreed on all the important issues. You and your spouse can negotiate the terms of your separation in a written agreement and sign it anytime after you separate.
The law does not say you must make a separation agreement. You can still apply for a divorce without a written separation agreement. If the spouses have a signed separation agreement, the court can include it into the court order. If the spouses do not have a signed separation agreement, the court will make an order that will deal with all the issues.
If you and your spouse decide to get a separation agreement, it is best to go to lawyers to get the agreement done. A family law lawyer can tell you what kinds of things should be included in your written agreement and can prepare the separation agreement.
NOTE: Although the law does not say you must have a lawyer prepare a separation agreement or divorce papers, it is important to be careful when using store-bought kits or online templates. There is no guarantee that these online companies and kits are using the right forms for Nova Scotia. In Nova Scotia, there are 3 different ways to apply for divorce, and it is not likely that a simple kit found online will give you the right template, forms or instructions that you need to file for divorce or complete a valid separation agreement for Nova Scotia.
If you have a signed separation agreement, but you are not ready to apply for divorce, you can apply to the court to have your separation agreement registered. You are not required to register a separation agreement, but if you want to turn your separation agreement into a court order, the law allows you to apply to court to ask to have your original signed agreement approved by a judge. The written agreement will need to meet certain requirements before a judge will approve it. If you have any children, you and your spouse will likely need to give the court current financial information about yourselves so the judge can make sure the child support to be paid meets the Federal Child Support Guidelines.
One reason spouses may register their separation agreement is so that child support and spousal support can be enforced by the Maintenance Enforcement Program. You can find more information about registering a separation agreement here.