Separation Agreements Must Be More Than An Email
Separation agreements are one of the more important steps a couple takes upon deciding to end their relationship. They can be used to address a number of important issues such as division of property, what happens to the matrimonial home, spousal and child support issues, and more. It’s Important to keep in mind that while the parties to a separation might be eager to close the book on their relationship, a separation agreement is still a contract and has to be entered into properly. This was the issue in a recent decision from Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice.
The separation agreement
The couple began to litigate their separation in May 2012. They were dealing primarily with issues related to spousal support, equalization, the matrimonial home, and the contents of the home.
They entered a settlement meeting on October 22, 2018. While the woman was self-represented, the man had a lawyer. The met in the lawyer’s office. The results of the meeting were in dispute. The man alleged that the parties resolved the details of their settlement during the meeting, and a follow-up email was sent to the women outlining these details. The email also said that a draft of the agreement would be provided to the woman in order to finalize the it. The woman agreed to this process.
Following that email, the woman, on two occasions, asked the man’s lawyer to provide a draft of the agreement, but the agreement was never sent. However, that did not stop the man from brining a motion to court seeking summary judgment to enforce the details of the agreement.
Not so fast
The court began its analysis by explaining that for a domestic contract to be valid under Ontario’s Family Law Act, it must be in writing, signed by both parties, and signed by a witness. The agreement also has to be a final document, meaning an email confirming what was discussed in a meeting does not suffice.
The court concluded that there was no binding agreement between the parties. The court described the email’s details as vague, adding that it left some of the issues unresolved. It also made no account of what a lump sum payment from the woman to the man amounting to $106,000 was for. The court also made note that the woman had not been given the opportunity to consult with a lawyer before responding to the email.
At Jason P. Howie, Professional Corporation in Windsor, we provide knowledgeable advice and skilled representation to separated spouses and families in Ontario. With more than 25 years of experience helping clients with all types of family issues, from divorce to custody, we can help guide you through the process of amending the terms of your separation agreement and resolving related issues. To speak with us about child custody and support modifications, call 519.973.1500 or contact us online.