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Ottawa Mediation Law Blog

True predictors of Ontario separation and divorce remain elusive

Experts insist that key predictors of divorce do, in fact, exist even though there is evidence that marriages dissolve for myriad reasons. Indeed, many Ontario marriages endure a lifetime, defying statistics based exclusively on behaviour identified as not constructive. The level and intensity of commitment and communication as well as basic character come into play in every one-on-one relationship. When separation and divorce are contemplated, these less measurable elements as well as behaviour will play crucial roles in how the path forward taps out.

A social psychology institute which has conducted extensive research into the causes of divorce has identified contempt, criticism, defensiveness and stonewalling as behavioral choices that may be primordial markers of potential divorce. These researchers claim that these demonstrate disengagement from pursuing resolution to marital problems. However, such markers fail to account for how profound an undertaking marriage is, for one or both spouses.

Ontario separation and divorce view hearth and home differently

Timing and status are paramount in the eyes of the law. The legal status of men and women in Ontario changes according to their marital status -- whether single, common-law, married, separated or divorced. When separation and divorce are contemplated, the courts follow laws governing the division of assets that may seem, to the layman, like a maze constructed of one technicality atop another.

It can be particularly challenging because agreements made at the time of separation do not necessarily apply when divorce is in the offing. In a formal separation, the matrimonial home continues to bear a somewhat protected status relative to each spouse. As divorce proceedings commence, it can come as a shock to learn that the right to possession for one spouse or the other may no longer pertain.

Stay or leave: How mediation lends a hand to Ontario couples

Deciding to unite in marriage is not to be taken lightly, to paraphrase words invoked at the moment of commitment. The same may be said of the moment the decision to dissolve a marriage is made. Each in their own way signifies a dramatic life change for Ontario spouses, and the leave-taking transition may be the optimum time to seek mediation with the help of an experienced family law practitioner.

Recently, two noted universities teamed up to study the reasons that drive relationship satisfaction and those that promote the ending of relationships. Conducted in two phases, the focus groups were comprised of both unmarried and married couples who were contemplating breaking up or divorce. The results showed a marked difference in responses from married couples when it came to remaining together.

How separation and divorce in Ontario affects pet-loving couples

Part of the extreme distress that often characterizes the dissolution of a marriage is realizing that virtually everything that made up the warp and woof of one's daily life will now be legally viewed as divisible. Furniture that one spouse may regard as a sentimental keepsake and the other spouse views indifferently tallies up as a shared asset. As such, it may unexpectedly create a potentially fractious scenario. Ontario couples embarking on separation and divorce may encounter one dismaying discovery after another.

Without adequate preparation and appropriate legal advice, dismantling a marriage may be the cause of misperceptions and highly charged emotions. Previously agreed-upon decisions about assets acquired during the union or brought into the marriage may now elicit intense disagreement. Even with the best intentions to move forward cooperatively, a couple may find that the process of separation and divorce evokes memories and emotions that can thwart their progress.

A happy divorce: An oxymoron no more

Divorce has never been synonymous with happiness, but the process has undergone some evolution over the last few years. After saying their "I do's", few couples ever anticipate that one day they'll be calling it quits and finding themselves fighting over who gets the Martini glasses and who gets the microwave. Yet, when it's over, it's over. Fortunately, in the legal landscape of divorce, there is an alternative that can make the separation process if not happifying, then at least more smooth and amicable.

When you're on the same page as your soon-to-be former partner, you can both look at the situation realistically even though volatile emotions may still be a part of the equation. And when you really think about it, the unhappiness that was likely a part of the relationship for some time is also coming to an end, and you and your ex can hopefully now move forward positively. An important part of coming to that realization is pursuing an alternative means of divorce rather than litigation.

Divorce in Ontario excludes compensation for adultery

There is no question that the loss of trust in any relationship leads to feelings ranging from sadness and anger to a deep sense of betrayal. What once was the mainstay of a marriage is gone forever, leaving one or both partners bereft of that element so crucial to maintaining ongoing intimacy. Bitterness may overwhelm a partner in his or her pursuit of separation and divorce and cloud their understanding of the legal perception of divorce in Ontario.

Retribution has no place in Ontario law courts, which take little account of egregious behaviour unless it has impacted the shared family assets. In a case recently adjudicated, even the Appeals Court made clear that the spouse's adulterous affair and salacious activities had no bearing on the litigation. The laws governing separation and divorce in Ontario do not allow for a disproportionate distribution of assets held in common based on bad behaviour alone. 

Mediation useful for Ontario couples seeking amicable separation

Couples who have decided to part ways can find themselves, individually and together, in unfamiliar territory. Even if they are in agreement about making the process as amicable as possible, there may be concerns or issues that need to be resolved before they can go forward. They could consider mediation as a light guiding them through terrain, which, despite their best intentions, can cause stress and strain.

Most family law practitioners are experienced in mediation as a means of providing a safe and secure working forum in which couples can cooperate towards wholesome and rewarding resolutions. A mediator takes a neutral stance, and he or she facilitates discussions which respect the perspectives and needs of both parties. Whether together for decades or for a few years, Ontario couples who wish to work things out reasonably and with dignity may benefit from mediation.

Separation and divorce may follow discovery of adultery

Applying for divorce in Ontario requires at least one of three elements stipulated by Canadian law. The spouses must be living separately for a year or more, there is a history of physical or mental abuse or one spouse has committed adultery. Adulterous affairs often lead to separation and divorce, but the law is clear about what counts as adultery and what does not.

For example, the Divorce Act states that the affair must include physical contact with someone other than a spouse. In other words, internet relationships, phone sex and emotional affairs may not form the foundation of a divorce. Instead, spouses in such situations may be encouraged to work toward a resolution to their problems. However, if there is a physical relationship, it need only occur once for the other spouse to have grounds to file for divorce.

Proper groundwork can ease the process of separation and divorce

There is no doubt that it is tough to face the facts when a marriage comes to an end. Even if an Ontario couple can keep their separation and divorce amicable, there will be challenges -- both financial and emotional. Using alternative dispute resolution such as mediation may further ease the process, but certain steps in preparation might help. It will help to have a basic knowledge of the family assets, income, expenses and debts before filing for divorce.

An often forgotten task during this difficult time is updating estate plans -- including the will. t may also be necessary to refinance joint assets, open separate bank accounts and more. Setting aside an emergency fund may also prove helpful when continued access to funds may be jeopardised. If there is any reason to suspect the other spouse may get rid of valuables, it might be wise to arrange safe storage.

Is mediation the reason behind some divorce selfies?

Yes, the title really does say, "divorce selfies." It's a relatively recent phenomenon: newly divorced couples in Ontario and abroad are taking and posting selfies right after signing the papers. Some of the pictures are going viral, and the trend has caught the attention of the media. So, why are some people smiling through their divorce, while other spouses can barely stand to look at each other? Maybe the social media couples took advantage of mediation, or another non-confrontational divorce option.

Nobody wants to feel anger, confusion or stress, but they're difficult to avoid during a divorce. It may be possible to minimize those feelings, however, by avoiding litigation and working in a more collaborative manner. This is a healthy approach to divorce not just for men and women, but also for their children, as a study seems to indicate.

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