A fair bit of time has passed since I first posted this article and things have changed, most importantly the replacement of the old Family Relations Act with the new Family Law Act. If I haven't answered your question, post a comment. People in a relationship separate when one or both of them decides to end the relationship. Normally, we think of married couples or couples who are living together as separating when their relationships end, probably because most of the time someone winds up moving out.
Under that act, separation will be what gives each spouse a one-half share of family property. A couple is separated once or or both of them has made the decision to end the relationship, said so, and then done something to carry through the intention...
like stopping sleeping together, stopping doing chores for the other person's benefit and so on.
Often the decision to separate is made by both people, but it only takes one person decide to end a relationship, and a decision to separate doesn't require the other person's agreement.
Everyone is entitled to separate if they wish to end a marriage or common-law relationship. Although many people move out when they separate, others separate and remain living under the same roof.
Frankly, it's a lot cheaper to stay in the same home, as long as you can stand living in such close quarters with each other. The job of the family law lawyer is to help you resolve any legal issues resulting from the end of your relationship.
A physical separation is not necessary to separate, there must simply be an intention to end the spousal relationship and the intimacies that usually involves. The decision to separate can have legal consequences, and you might consider meeting with a lawyer to talk about those consequences, but separation itself is nothing we can help with. There's no such thing as a "legal separation." There used to be something called a "judicial separation," but that hasn't been available for a long time now.
For more information about that, see my post "Little Known Family Law Facts #4".
Once you or your spouse or partner has left the family home or announced that the relationship is at an end, you're separated.
There are no special legal documents to sign or file in court to become separated, and there is no such thing as a legal separation in British Columbia. What people often mean by legal separation is a separation agreement. A separation agreement is a contract that people use to record their agreement about issues like how the children will be cared for, how their assets and debts will be divided and so forth.