TMZ has reported that Nicholas Sparks did not suddenly decide to end his twenty-five year marriage. In fact, TMZ has reported that Nicholas Sparks and his wife, Catherine, filed a "post-marital agreement" in August. TMZ reported that the "post-marital agreement" worked out a property settlement between the parties.
As a result of the breakdown of a marriage a number of legal issues arise that may be addressed through the negotiation of a Separation Agreement. If both parties are able to co-operate with one another and exchange financial disclosure, the parties can negotiate toward mutually-acceptable settlement terms. A Separation Agreement may address legal issues including, but not limited to, custody, access, property division, life insurance, child support and spousal support.
In the case of Nicholas Sparks and his wife Catherine, it appears that the parties agreed to mutually acceptable terms with respect to property division. In Ontario, the division of property after the breakdown of a marriage is resolved through an "equalization payment". As such, former spouses do not actually decide "who gets the house and who gets the car", but rather the value of the property owned by the spouses is equalized by a money payment from one spouse to the other.
It is important to note that the issue of spousal support will be of great significance. As TMZ reported, Nicholas Sparks and Catherine decided to separate after a 25 year marriage. Given Nicholas Sparks wealth, it may be safe to presume that he will be the payor of spousal support. In Ontario, the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines provide that spousal support may be of an indefinite duration if the marriage between the parties was twenty (20) years or more in duration. This is often referred to as the "Rule of 20" in Ontario. However, the parties may have agreed to release each other of any claim for spousal support in exchange for a greater settlement with respect to the issue of property division.
The Separation Agreement between Nicholas Sparks and Catherine demonstrates one of the advantages of negotiating an Agreement in comparison to litigating. That is, the negotiation of a Separation Agreement will remain private, while any court proceedings are open to the public.