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Separation and Divorce

Both married and common-law partners may separate. Only married couples may divorce. Information about family law that uses the term spouses will usually apply to common-law partners as well. However, the legal term in Manitoba for two unmarried persons in a common-law relationship is common-law partner, so it is important to be aware of the different terms.


Spouses who have separated are still legally married, even if there is a court order of separation. Manitoba law covers separation matters between spouses or between common-law partners, such as:

  • parenting arrangements (custody and access)
  • financial support for separated spouses and common-law partners or their children; and
  • division of property

A court order or formal separation agreement is not required for spouses to separate — they may simply live separate and apart. However, particularly when there are children or issues relating to property or financial support, it is wise for separating spouses to have a written separation agreement, family arbitration award, or court order.


Federal law applies to married spouses who are seeking a divorce and is the same throughout Canada. When a court grants a divorce, the marriage is ended. The Divorce Act sets out how a divorce can be obtained. It also deals with matters related to divorce, such as parenting arrangements and financial (child and spousal) support. The Divorce Act provisions on parenting arrangements and support are currently very similar to the provincial laws in these matters.