Section 198 of the Family Law Act says this:

Section 198 of the Family Law Act says this:

Time limits

One thing that’s really different between married relationships and unmarried relationships is that married relationships don’t end without a divorce order, no matter how long the spouses have been separated from each other. Unmarried relationships end when people separate, and that can be critically important for people thinking about making claims for spousal support or the division of property and debt.

(2) A spouse may start a proceeding for an order under Part 5 [Property Division] to divide property or family debt, Part 6 [Pension Division] to divide a pension, or Part 7 [Child and Spousal Support] for spousal support, no later than 2 years after,

(3) Despite subsection (2), a spouse may make an application for an order to set aside or replace with an order made under Part 5, 6 or 7, as applicable, all or part of an agreement respecting property or spousal support no later than 2 years after the spouse first discovered, or reasonably ought to have discovered, the grounds for making the application.

(4) The time limits set out in subsection (2) do not apply to a review under section 168 [review of spousal support] or 169 [review of spousal support if pension benefits].

(5) The running of the time limits set out in subsection (2) is suspended during any period in which persons are engaged in

The effect of time limits

All of that boils down to this. If you were an unily Law Act), you have two years from the date you separated to:

  1. make a claim for spousal support (that’s the reference to Part 7 in section 198(3) above),
  2. make a claim for the division of property, including pensions, and debt (that’s the reference to Parts 5 and 6), and
  3. ask for an order for the protection of property (which are made under Part 5).

(There are no time limits for claims about parenting children and the payment of child support in section 198. However, for claims about parenting, the child must be under the age of 19, and for claims about child support, the child must still be qualified to benefit from the payment support. See the Child Support chapter for more information.)

The date of separation is the date when one or both spouses realize that their relationship is over, says so, and ends the “marriage-like” quality of the relationship. As a result, the “marriage-like” quality of a relationship can terminate before a couple physically separates, and the time limits will usually begin to run from that date rather than the date someone moves out.

Delaying the time limits

The two-year time limit is suspended – it stops running – while you are working with a qualified “family dispute resolution professional” in one of the “family dispute resolution” processes the Family Law Act names. Under section 1 of the act, “family dispute resolution professional” includes:

  • family justice counsellors,
  • parenting coordinators,
  • lawyers,
  • mediators mediating a family law dispute, and
  • arbitrators arbitrating a family law dispute.
  • getting help from a family justice counsellor,

There are three things to know about the suspension of time limits under section 198(5). First, the court won’t let you get away with starting mediation, for example, and then walking away from the table for a couple of months or a couple of years. You can do that if you want, of course, but it’s not going to suspend the running of the two-year time limit. You need to be actively participating in one of the identified family dispute resolution processes if you’re going to count on the time limit being suspended.