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October 04, 2012
It’s a good day at the gym when I can watch an episode of “Say yes to the dress” or “Four weddings.” Seeing optimistic young people play dress up and pledge their love for a lifetime makes me forget how much I hate doing cardio.
But over 40 per cent of the people in Ontario who say “I do” eventually say “I don’t.” Then they have to find a way to extricate themselves from the web of financial and personal relationships which evolved during their marriage.
New research from TD Canada Trust reveals how financially interdependent Canadian couples are. Of those Canadians currently in, or recently in, a relationship, 72 per cent own a home together, 68 per cent have a joint bank account, 64 per cent have a joint financial plan and 52 per cent have a joint credit card.
And, divorce proceedings are taking longer, with 21 per cent lasting more than two years, an increase of six per cent in the past five years.
If you are involved in a separation or a divorce, the financial and practical implications can be overwhelming, particularly if children are involved. It is important to understand your rights and not relinquish them when you are most vulnerable.
To help you understand your options, the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General has a great website where you can download “What You Should Know about Family Law in Ontario” in any one of nine languages. This free guide covers many aspects of divorce and separation, including mediation, choosing a lawyer, going to court, your rights and obligations.
However, a lawyer is in the best position to advise and to help you understand the legal consequences of any decisions relating to dividing up your assets, custody and support. You and your spouse/partner should each have independent legal advice.
Ontario family courts also have Family Law Information Centres where you can find relevant publications and information about legal services. At designated times you can speak to an Advice Lawyer from Legal Aid Ontario who can provide summary legal advice.
Settling out of court is obviously preferable but not always possible. Mediation, arbitration and collaborative family law are all possible strategies that can help couples resolve disputes respectfully without going before a judge.
Even in the most amicable family break ups, you and your children may suffer significant emotional trauma. If your employer offers an Employee Assistance Program as part of your benefit plan, take full advantage of the available services. EAPs typically offer a myriad of free resources including web-based information, personal, financial and credit counselling.