Many couples may have lived together as romantic life partners for years before agreeing to tie the knot. Once formally married, a new layer of meaning is added to the relationship whence the urban legend that "marriage changes everything." This ineffable element may strengthen the trust between spouses, or erode it.
It may or may not be true that, once married, people change. Perhaps only perceptions change. There are cases, however, in which the habits and actions of one spouse may become so pernicious to the health and welfare of the other that family law will take notice. Still, accountability under the law is complex and falls under many headings. Legal definitions of what constitutes harm are best understood by experienced family law lawyers.
Moreover, the law, like the society it mirrors, evolves over time, in different ways and in different provinces. In a recent case, an Ontario court recognized trust as a factor implicit in the undertaking of marriage. The judge held the erring spouse accountable for civil damages regardless of whether criminal charges had been laid or not.
Such decisions have not been made readily by Ontario family law courts. It is often difficult to provide sufficient evidence of harm to justify awarding civil damages of any kind. Nevertheless, when separation and divorce are being considered, the advice and insights of a family law lawyer might be most valuable.
Source: Financial Post, "Damages for spousal abuse are on the rise after several years of neglect in family court", Laurie H. Pawlitza Special, Feb. 22, 2018