1. Learn about your legal rights and responsibilities

How do I legally separate from my partner?
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1. Learn about your legal rights and responsibilities

Family law is mostly about the rights and responsibilities of partners, parents, and children. Rights are what the law says you can get. Responsibilities are what the law says you have to do.

If you're married or live together in a common-law relationship, the law gives you certain rights and responsibilities towards each other, both while you're together and if your relationship ends.

Some of the legal issues you have to think about depend on whether you’re married or in a common-law relationship, like:

Other legal issues don't depend on whether you're married or in a common-law relationship, like:

The rights and responsibilities you have after your relationship ends depends on the facts of your situation. And for common-law partners, it can depend on how long they lived together.

For example, the amount of spousal support you get or pay depends on things like the length of your relationship, your responsibilities during the relationship, and your income. And if you get divorced, you're no longer spouses, and may not qualify for benefits under your partner's medical plan if they have one.

You can talk to a lawyer who can help you understand what the law says you have to do after you separate or divorce and what you can get.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer for your whole case, you can still speak with one for general advice. Some lawyers also provide "unbundled services" or "limited scope retainer" services. This means you pay them to help you with part of your case.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer at all, you may be able to find legal help in other places.

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Reviewed: July 31, 2017

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