Toronto Estate Lawyers

TO DIVORCE OR NOT DIVORCE:that is the question

You are very unhappy. You know your marriage is at an end. You want to separate. Perhaps you have separated. You are worried about the cost and the consequences of starting the divorce process. Lawyers, courtrooms, judges, accountants, mediators, financial trauma, nighmares, juggling your children, your job, your lawyer and your bank account. Is there another solution?

Perhaps. You have the option of living apart but not divorcing. As long as you can maintain an ongoing financial partnership, deal with child related issues, and work out the orderly division of your joint property over a reasonable period of time, you can then avoid the high emotional and financial cost of divorce.

There are advantages and disadvantages to following this path. The decision about whether this might work for you should be carefully made. It should be clear that a ‘no divorce’ relationship will work only if you and your ex are able to maintain a high level of civility.

The advantages include:  No outlay of large amounts of money for lawyers, accountants, etc. You avoid the war zone mentality. You can maintain joint properties, joint activities with your children, family medical and health insurance plans. You can plan the orderly division of assets over a time frame that accomodates economic considerations such as the state of the economy, the stock market and your own bank accounts. You can maintain new relationships and plan the eventual divorce after you have resolved financial and child related issues over an extended period. Neither one of you will be trying to demolish the other.

The disadvantages include: The absolute need to supress your emotional trauma which has sprung from the marriage breakdown (something that many find impossible to accomplish). The difficulty of knowing that you may not have and may never receive full disclosure of your spouse’s assets. The possibility that your ex may be able to maintain a claim on your estate. No formal structure in your child sharing arrangements including issues of custody and decision making. No dispute resolution process in place. No ability to remarry when you want. The difficulty of moving on with your life.

I do favour the formal termination of the marriage if it is in fact over and cannot be revived. Certainly there are those who are indeed capable of being civil to each other after separation and who would be perfectly capable of making a “separate and apart but still married relationship” work. In my experience those couples are rare.

It is just a fact that marriage termination generally carries with it a huge emotional component that is almost impossible to moderate let alone supress. Most people need to end the relationship by way of divorce and final settlement of their financial and child related disputes in order to simply move on with their lives.

I have witnessed many, many separated people who are consumed with anger and worry. They are completely incapable of putting those feelings behind them until they have a final resolution. Only then do I see them capable of refocusing.

Yes there are a few out there who can stay married but live separate. If you think that may be the right decision for you then I encourage you to speak to an experienced family lawyer to review the benefits and problems that may result for doing that.

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