Divorce Disaster Recovery: Getting Relief to the Victims

The Fault Line. The Earthquake. The Fall Out

Using a natural disaster analogy to describe divorce may seem needlessly theatrical. The most fortunate couples who end their relationship will do so amicably, collaboratively and with minimal trauma.

However, many spouses indeed experience the ending of a relationship as an unmitigated personal and financial disaster. The analogy is offered as much for the pragmatic as the melodramatic. Practically speaking, separating couples can also allow this parallel to provide some vaguely relatable context and give some insight on what will be evaluated to adequately respond.

Risk assessment, prevention and preparedness was in the hands of the spouses. Now we are beyond that. With the event triggered, we are at the stage of disaster relief. Separating couples are not merely given license to arbitrarily decide their own personal metrics of adequacy and fairness in determining relief. Over decades, a response framework has been created, through divorce legislation, case law and guidelines, to mitigate, monitor and control the personal and financial fall out of divorce.

Ideally, the major consequences of a divorce will be triaged, assigned an appropriate level of urgency and analyzed with an aim towards an adequate response.

Like any major natural disaster or emergency, the impact of divorce resonates. It is not as much a seismic event as it is a process. It will affect people’s lives in every imaginable way, with aftershocks to their health, security, housing, assets and overall personal sustainability.

The People: Forced Displacement

Post-separation, one thing that we do know is that the spouses will not be living together. The children did not make this decision, but they will bear much of the impact. Where will the they live, short-term and long-term? Who will make decisions for them relating to vaccinations, major medical intervention, education and religious upbringing?

These issues of Parenting time and Decision-making are obviously of the utmost importance. Not surprisingly, this relief will be analyzed within the context of the children’s best interests.

The Resources: Reallocation of the Money

It was much simpler when one or more income stream funded one household. This localized earthquake has fractured one household into two. How do we get income into the right hands to ensure that day-to-day needs are being met in each household?

Child Support and Spousal Support are the means of relief by which income streams are reallocated, each with their own particular method of analysis.

The Property: Redistribution of Valuables

The dust is settling. The property that has been left in the disaster’s wake must be preserved and distributed judiciously. Each of the spouses should be permitted the opportunity to rebuild and restore some kind of financial foundation and infrastructure.

Matrimonial Property Division is the relief by which assets and liabilities are redistributed between the spouses in a fair and equitable fashion.

No one should ever mistake Family Lawyers and Judges for altruistic and selfless disaster relief workers, but ultimately, their objective is similar: responding to a crisis event such that people, resources and property are adequately protected, preserved and accounted for.

For more information on Parenting Time & Decision-making, Child Support & Spousal Support and Matrimonial Property Division, please register for the Kirk Montoute Dawson LLP Family Law Webinar Series at https://familyandestatelaw.ca/webinar-series

Written by Nigel Montoute

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