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  • Writer's pictureMichael Coristine

Did your marriage survive National Divorce Day?

You don't have to be Larry King, Zsa Zsa Gabor, or Elizabeth Taylor to recognize clear signs that your marriage might be in trouble. Maybe you just spent another holiday season sitting on opposite ends of the couch from your partner, both of you scrolling through Instagram on your phone, dreading visits with your in-laws, or just generally pondering another year of feeling unfulfilled in your marriage.

If that's you, you are definitely not alone.

As any family lawyer will tell you, the period between Christmas and New Year's Day is one of the busiest times of the year for divorce-related inquiries. Some speculate that this may be due to the added stress and conflict that can arise during the holiday season, or because people may want to start the new year with a clean slate. It makes sense that every year on the first Monday in January, many people in Canada and around the world recognize National Divorce Day. This day marks the official beginning of the new year and is often seen as a time for fresh starts and new beginnings. For some, this may mean starting the process of getting a divorce. Google “National Divorce Day” and you can read more – it is definitely a thing.

Separation vs Divorce

It is critical to not make any rash decisions if you feel like your marriage is heading in the wrong direction, but it might be prudent to start considering the first step in the divorce process – separation. So, what is the difference between separation and divorce? In Ontario, separation refers to the process of separating from your spouse or partner, either physically or emotionally, while remaining legally married or in a common-law relationship. Separation can occur if you and your spouse or partner are no longer living together as a couple, but have not yet taken steps to legally end your marriage or common-law relationship. Divorce, on the other hand, is the legal process of ending a marriage or common-law relationship. In Ontario, you can get a divorce if you and your spouse or partner have been separated for at least one year and you both agree to the divorce. If you and your spouse or partner do not agree to the divorce, you can still get a divorce, but you will need to prove to the court that you have been separated for at least one year and that there are grounds for the divorce.

It bears mentioning that separation and divorce can both have significant legal consequences, including the division of property and debts, spousal support, and child custody and support. It is important to get legal advice if you are considering separating or divorcing in Ontario.

Divorce Rate in Ontario is Declining…Technically

According to statistics compiled by The Vanier Institute, the divorce rate in Ontario has been steadily declining over the past few decades.

There are several factors that may contribute to the declining divorce rate in Ontario. One possible explanation is that more couples are choosing to cohabit instead of getting married, in which case a break-up does not count towards the stats. Another factor that may contribute to the declining divorce rate is the increased availability of alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation and arbitration, which can help couples resolve conflicts and make decisions about their separation or divorce without going to court.

Note as well that the divorce rate in Ontario varies significantly by age group – it is highest among couples in their mid-40s, and it decreases as people get older. This may be due to the fact that couples who have been married for a longer period of time may be more likely to have developed coping strategies or may be more financially secure and therefore less likely to divorce. It could also reflect the reality that older people are far less likely to end a marriage where the other dating options are slim (something my mother regularly reminds me of) and/or where it does not make financial sense to separate all property and income.

Bottom Line – Try Your Best to Avoid Divorce

As a child of divorce who also deals with divorced in-laws, I can personally tell you that having multiple families means more unhealthy drama and more people to fit into a busy schedule as you get older. No marriage survives in the long run without its share of bumps in the road and, especially where children are involved, it usually pays to work on your marriage and hang in there for as long as possible.

That said, we all know what it’s like to be in a relationship where you reach the point of no return. If that describes your marriage, it’s a good idea to be proactive and speak to a family lawyer about what lies ahead before taking any steps to separate. You are welcome to contact me with any further questions you might have.

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