Although an engagement ring is a symbol of a couple’s love and commitment, it is also a piece of property and can be intertwined with many legalities. If you and your fiancé cannot come to a decision about who should keep the ring, you may have to turn to the law for help.
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You’ve probably heard these phrases before: “many couples who went through quarantine together are now engaged”, “the pandemic has increased incidents of domestic violence”, “married couples are realizing they can’t stand being stuck at home together”, “with nothing to do during the lockdown, there’s going to be an increase in the number of pregnancies”. Despite conflicting data and reports, one thing is clear, COVID-19 impact on marriage and divorce had been significant.
If you were to ask a family lawyer, they would point to one trend that has emerged over the past year; there has been a 30-40% increase in inquiries about divorce. According to Statistics Canada, most marriages last an average of 14 years. The pandemic has accelerated that timeline. Of the number of separations or divorces since March of 2020, most of them have been shorter than the average 14 years. So not only have more marriages been falling apart since the pandemic started, but they’ve also been falling apart faster as a result.
Why Are Marriages Breaking Down During COVID?
While no two marriages are the same, several emerging factors have contributed to the rise in ruptures.
- First, city-wide lockdowns have increased the number of families dealing with job loss or a business closure. According to the American Family Survey of July 2020, more families who faced economic hardship since COVID have reported an increased strain on their marriages than families whose economic situations have remained the same or improved. Financial stress, whether large or small, contributes to rising concerns about the near future.
- Second, catching coronavirus or dealing with a passing of a loved one have been huge, unanticipated sources of stress this past year.
- Third, one comparatively less serious impact of the lockdowns and quarantines on couples has been having to get used to unfamiliar daily routines. More couples have been working from home, some have invited their parents to live with them and their children have been attending school virtually. In a nutshell, spouses have been seeing more of each other than they normally would. Without the usual physical distance brought on by work and other out-of-the-house activities, couples have been confined in the same house without the usual distance or breaks from one another. One family lawyer told CBC News that couples in these situations “are seeing a different side of their spouse that they didn’t know existed” which is causing some people to “decide their partner is not right for them”.
These are just some of the new sources of stress brought on by the pandemic. If there were any pre-existing strains on the relationships, these three COVID byproducts would have served to amplify them.
Is COVID Entirely To Blame?
No. There are often spikes in divorces during economic downturns, even before COVID. In fact, any change in a couple’s economic situation, whether that be for better or for worse can cause trouble with the marriage. While a lack of money is an obvious source of stress, couples can also split due to a lack of agreement about how to spend money. Also, not every couple who has suffered job loss as a result of the pandemic has experienced a relationship strain. Financial experts report that such struggles have actually made some relationships stronger. Half of the American couples polled in the summer of 2020 have reported stronger feelings of commitment and appreciation for their spouse. As a family lawyer told Global News, divorces are “rarely triggered by one specific event that comes out of the blue”. Most of the recent new marriage breakdowns are the result of a culmination of “underlying issues” on top of an already “shaky foundation”. It certainly doesn’t help that access to marriage counseling or couples therapy has been reduced by the pandemic, and it certainly increases the COVID-19 impact on marriage and divorce.
While undergoing lockdown together has given some couples the time to discover that they are fundamentally incompatible, this side-effect of mutual confinement is nothing new. One interesting, pre-pandemic trend was the “grey divorce”. Retired couples with empty nests faced with the reality of spending more time than ever only in the company of their spouse has led to a lot of seniors seeking a divorce. Statistics Canada reported in 2008 that over 16% of divorces occurred with marriages longer than 25 years. Marriages that lasted over 10 years made up 42% of divorces. The pandemic seems to have forced younger couples to live through the conditions experienced by “grey” divorcees.
COVID Challenges To Divorce Procedures
To get a divorce in Canada, you must submit a divorce application to the court. Unless you can prove you were the victim of adultery or cruelty, you will need to be separated from your spouse for at least 1 year before the courts can grant the divorce. Even before the pandemic, court proceedings were slow. Simple divorces where the court doesn’t have to make orders for child and spousal support, custody or property division used to take between 4 to 6 months.
However, in response to the pandemic, civil courts closed their doors and announced they would handle urgent matters only. Many court procedures that took place in person before pandemic, e.g. testimonies, moved online now. The delay in obtaining a court decision was extended. It is estimated that the average case processing time may double or triple as the courts work through the excessive backlog and the rush of new divorce applications since the onset of the pandemic.
How To Settle Cheaper And Faster?
One of the easiest and fastest ways to obtain separation and eventual divorce is to work out a separation agreement between spouses prior to filing for divorce. It is important to settle everything from parenting arrangements, asset, and property division, and child and spousal support beforehand so the application to court will only be for an uncontested divorce. If spouses cannot agree on these matters and they choose to rely on the court to settle things for them, their divorce process will take much longer and will be more costly and stressful.
However, if peaceful discussions don’t work, alternatives family dispute resolution options may be used. These include negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. In negotiation and mediation, spouses can work with family lawyers, financial advisors, health professionals, and other specialized third parties to reach a compromise. Arbitration, which involves hiring a neutral arbitrator to decide the family dispute, is somewhat closer to the court process than the other options, yet less formal.
Family Dispute Resolution options are less expensive, less stressful, and less formal than relying on a judge’s decision. This is because negotiation or mediation is part of the resolution process, whereas when using the court, parties must obey all court orders and follow exactly judge’s instructions.
In our family law practice at BeffaLaw we help our clients negotiate and finalize a separation agreement. We believe that in most cases it is in the interest of all parties to save time, money and get a faster start of a new chapter in their life.
A divorce is a stressful experienceto go through, even when there is an understanding between the parties. Couples must divide fairly the matrimonial assets that they have accumulated in the time spent together, such as joint bank accounts, real estate properties, and pensions. They also have to settle on matters related to their children.
If one of the parties does not agree on how assets should be split, the process will become even more costly, time-consuming, and arduous. No one wants to be involved in a stressful trial that will make their life after the separation harder than necessary.
A good solution for this problem can be a separation agreement drafted by a professional lawyer.
A separation agreement is a written, private, legally binding contract that covers each spouse’s rights and responsibilities after the separation. This type of contract covers the important matters that need to be settled in a divorce, such as child support, alimony, investments, inheritances, life insurance, or matters regarding child custody, parenting schedule, and child’s education. Anything important for the family can be sorted out by the separation agreement.
There are many advantages of getting a separation agreement negotiated by a lawyer out of the court system. If the divorce follows, the separation agreement will generally make the process less stressful and less expensive for everyone involved.
So, what are are the benefits of signing a separation agreement versus suing your spouse in Family law Court?
COST. The cost of negotiating and drafting a separation agreement with a help of a lawyer is much lower than litigation. Going on trial and letting the court settle things between you and your spouse can easily cost between 10K and 70K.
CONTROL. Spouses can negotiate each issue and find solutions that suit their specific needs. They can tackle every single concern they have, no matter how big or how small. In a negotiated separation agreement couples can stipulate their own terms as opposed to following a judge’s ruling.
PRIVACY. A separation agreement is not a public record, unlike court documents. So, your coworkers, friends, or employer will not have access to your separation’s terms without your consent. In contrast, the judge’s decision and entire court file is a public record and anyone can read it.
TIME. Going on trial is a long and time-consuming process. Reaching a settlement is much faster and easier. The negotiations of the separation agreement could last 1 to 2 months, depending on the spouses’ willingness to cooperate in the process.
These are some of the advantages of a separation agreement compared to court litigation, and for most couples anything that makes separation easier, faster, cheaper, less traumatic, and private is welcomed.
The Risks of Verbal Agreements
Some couples are tempted to end their marriage as fast as possible and with the least amount of friction. Therefore, they sometimes choose to make verbal agreements when it comes to their assets or child custody. This brings up the risk of people changing their minds or conveniently forgetting things that they do not like anymore.
At the time of separation, couples may agree on the separation terms, but in time people may change their minds and after a while refuse to perform the obligations.
If your spouse will not honor the verbal agreement in the future, there is not much you can do to legally enforce it or take any action against it. So, there is a great risk for both spouses if the terms they have agreed upon are not written down and signed.
But when you have a separation agreement drafted by a lawyer in compliance with all the legal requirements and executed by both spouses, the courts will recognize its legality.
In most cases, having an agreement drafted by a lawyer that covers all the important details of your separation is enough to keep you both out of court. The simple idea that the contract exists and can be referenced in times of dispute is enough to convince each spouse to live up to the responsibilities they agreed with.
The separation is too important to be agreed upon verbally, so having a legal contract will ensure the security and well-being of all the people involved.
The Importance of Using a Lawyer
It is always a good idea to have an experienced lawyer draft and advise you on the separation agreement, even if you and your spouse are on good terms and agree on everything. Any small mistake or poorly worded provisions can create major problems in the future.
Both spouses must be represented fairly in the separation’s negotiations, not only for ethical reasons but also to avoid the risk of being considered invalid. Your separation lawyer from Beffa Law will draft the separation agreement, however, the lawyer may only represent one spouse in the process. The other spouse will need to seek independent legal advice from a separate lawyer.
Our vast experience will assist you in your negotiations with your spouse since there are many aspects that you might inadvertently miss. We will make sure that no important matters are left out since that could lead to expensive conflicts in the future.
We will use our expertise in family law to make sure that your separation agreement is complete, accurate, and dispute-free.
A separation agreement is a powerful tool to enforce the decisions made at the time of separation, and to make sure that the process is done privately, with minimum stress and costs. Make sure you contact our Oakville lawyers and get assistance with your legal needs. We will come up with quick and cost-effective solutions to your problems, so you will enjoy a worry-free and fair separation.