In 2011, The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family conducted the Federal Justice File Review Study to learn more about divorce and the family law system in Canada. This study was part of the Department of Justice Canada’s Family, Children and Youth Section which is responsible for policy development in the areas of marriage and divorce, child and spousal support, child custody and access, and family violence. The purpose of the study was to provide insight into Canadian divorce proceedings, and more specifically, cases involving children. Our team of Calgary divorce lawyers provide the top take-aways from the study and how they may impact you.
Reasons for Seeking Divorce in Alberta
In Calgary (and all of Alberta), the Divorce Act stipulates that there are three grounds for filing for divorce
- you and your spouse have been separated for one year,
- your spouse has committed adultery,
- your spouse treated you with intolerable mental or physical cruelty.
The study found that in 98.6% of the cases analyzed, the grounds for seeking divorce in Alberta was separation for not less than one year. It also found that on average, spouses had been separated for 2.5 years before starting the divorce proceedings. And, of those seeking divorce, two-thirds of the claims were initiated by women. Finally, the average age of spouses at the date of divorce is about 40 years.
Legal Representation in Divorce Cases
In Alberta, ¾ of plaintiffs had legal assistance or representation at some point during their matter. This is slightly higher than other provinces in Canada. As of recently, more parties are choosing to attempt to navigate the legal processes on their own. As such, between 50% and 80% of parties in family actions are self represented at some point in the action. In the past five years this number has continued to grow. In fact, In Alberta, the number of self-represented litigants in divorce and family court has increased 121% since 2006. The reason that people choose to be self-represented is multifaceted but include economics (lawyer’s hourly rates are difficult to afford), a mistrust of the legal system, and the need for control over the outcome.
Parenting Time and Decision-Making Responsibilities
For the majority of cases, there were one or two children of the marriage. In the Calgary courts, parenting time and decision-making responsibilities are typically dealt with through Parenting Agreements and Parenting Orders. If parties are able to reach an agreement and create their own parenting plan it’s recommended they be filed as Consent Orders with the court to ensure that they are legally binding and enforceable. If both parties cannot agree on a parenting plan, the Courts can impose a Parenting Order. The study found that 30.8% of the first orders made in the files reviewed, mothers and stepmothers had the sole responsibility for decision-making. Fathers and stepfathers had sole responsibility for decision-making in 6.9% of initial orders, and responsibility for decision-making was shared in 62.3% of initial orders.
If you are considering separation or divorce and need legal advice, connect with us. One of our skilled Calgary divorce lawyers will be happy to assist you.