Divorce in Canada. How do?
April 6, 2018 8:48 AM   Subscribe

I am considering leaving my marriage of 14 years. I’m not sure how to go about it.

I have divorced friends and will also ask them. I just...don’t know anything right now.

Partner and I have been married almost 15 years, two kids. I do a lot of partner-caretaking and emotional labour. I’m also the primary parent, and (much) lower earner. I’ve come to to conclusion that we are sexually incompatible, and the things partner is asking me to do are never going to be ok with me. I am not good at putting my needs first so please read through that lense.

If I were talking about wine, the issue would be that partner would like to watch me consume several varieties of wine while partner looked on. I adamantly do not want this. I tried to want this, and put on my game face for some experimentation, then came to the conclusion that I’m designed to just drink monogamous wine, if you get my meaning. We have been having the same conversation for 7 years. We have been to three couples therapists, two in relation to this specific issue, and partner declines to continue once they feel the therapist is “siding with me”.

Aside from this one issue, which causes me considerable pain, we have an amicable and loving relationship. I am very good at making peace, though. I suspect I kind of dug my own grave in that respect. Partner has a habit of hurting my feelings and then forgetting that it happened, which is distressing to me.

This is too much detail. Ok. The question.

We have kids. I don’t want to ruin their lives.

What do I do first? I feel like I’m lying to partner. I’ve only been remotely secure in this decision for a couple of days, and it’s a particularly hectic time at partner’s work. I have been worried that this would happen eventually, though. Do I really need to see a lawyer first? I suspect partner will be very surprised. Partner had a habit of hearing criticism in neutral statements, so I suspect the conversation will not go well.

I don’t have reliable income. I put my career on the back burner to raise kids.

I feel strongly that I should continue to be the primary parent. We are decent co-parents. How do I navigate this? Is there an easier option that minimizes disruption for the kids?

These are a lot of questions, and I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel very very scared.

I am in Ontario.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
These are a lot of questions, and I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel very very scared.

This is why you absolutely need to see a lawyer first: to know your rights.

I am very good at making peace, though.

This is another reason you absolutely need a lawyer. Otherwise, you're going to end up with a *really* amicable split that he's really amicable about because he's got all the assets and you've got the house with a mortgage you can't pay.

Please, please see a divorce attorney before you open this topic with your spouse.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:58 AM on April 6, 2018 [28 favorites]

I recommend a book called Surviving Your Divorce - A Guide to Canadian Family Law

I wish you all the strength and courage you will need for the process.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 9:02 AM on April 6, 2018


One of the tough things about divorce is that TV and movies and stuff we've heard from people has built up a sense of what will happen. In actuality most jurisdictions have a goal of equality. As far as money, if you make less than your partner, they will most likely be required to transfer you some money every month so that the kids' two homes are roughly equivalent. Similarly, daycare and other kid costs will be paid for relative to your incomes. Ontario surely has an online calculator that will give you a rough estimate of how it will be divided.

Most jurisdictions want the two parents to have equal time for the kids to reside with them. Depending on the age of your kids this might be every other week or half of the week. And kids adjust to this! Your partner will adjust too. They might not be used to getting the kids off to school or making dinner but they will learn.

I am not familiar with how it would work outside of paying for kid stuff. But there are laws about spousal support, splitting assets, splitting retirement savings, etc.

You need to educate yourself about all of this, how it works, and anything unusual about your situation, and a family attorney will be a better source of information than friends or the internet. This doesn't mean that you will go to court. Many divorces are settled outside of courts and within different legal settings. Getting a lawyer is to help you understand the law and your rights. Ask in your local parenting social media groups for recommendations (even 'for a friend'). Lawyers are expensive though so don't treat your lawyer like your therapist.

The lawyer can also help you think through the housing situation. Can one of you continue to afford the house you're currently in? If not, Also put on your to do list some time to figure out what the typical rental prices are where you live and how intense the market is for rentals.

While this is going on, quietly prepare. Log into any and all financial things (bank accounts, credit cards, investments, taxes, mortgage) and download absolutely everything and keep it on Dropbox or Google drive in an account that your partner doesn't have access to. This is in case they do anything rash when you tell them you're leaving them. Hopefully they aren't monitoring your technology use. But change your passwords on your stuff regardless.

Also start quietly assembling your team - your parents and siblings in particular. You may have sudden needs for cash in the process (rental deposit, legal fees) as well as last minute helpers for babysitting or packing. Getting your team prepared for this can help.

You can do this! And it will be okay!
posted by k8t at 9:06 AM on April 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm going through this right now, in Ontario. Divorce is pretty much by-the-book here. There isn't a lot of wiggle room. In my experience, you don't need to spend a lot to talk to a lawyer because there are a lot of free resources to guide people along the process. I think a better investment is a therapist, for you alone, so you can make calm, rational decisions. After you have gotten comfortable with your therapist you may want to invite your husband in for a session where you tell them you are divorcing (the therapist should be able to role play this for you beforehand). Before this happens though, get legal advice and get together the documentation you need.

First, go to FLIC. Family Law Information Centres are free, all they deal with is Family Law and they will push for mediation (free or low cost) to keep you out of the court system. You can also get Legal Aid to get your own lawyer for free but honestly, they wait times are ridiculous and IMHO you don't need a lawyer unless your partner is being either obstinate or an ass (yay me, I have one of those). You can see their lawyers for free but the wait times can be long basically I spend a day at the courthouse every once in a while, so a trade off for paying a lawyer is at least you have an appointment that is convent to you. It depends on your time/money availability.

You are entitled to child support and spousal support according to guidelines. The child support has NO wiggle room. What your partner is earning now then tells you exactly what you get. The spousal support guidelines do have a little wiggle room but mediation will help you walk though that. Mediation has been free for several hours for me, and then will be $5 an hour. I have had to go to court and all my court filing are free (my ex was actually the one who filed for divorce and I believe they had to pay for that).

Get a good picture of your financial lives before marriage and at the date of separation. You are going to split all debts and assets as of the date of separation minus what you brought into the marriage, again there is not a lot of wiggle room on this. If you are low-income, you will most likely be eligible for additional government help like increased CCB, GST rebate etc.

Good luck, you can get through this. I really regret I didn't start a divorce years ago, my life is much, much better and we are much better co-parents now we are not partners. I am better able to put the children's needs first without my partner's wants always trumping theirs. This is NOT a fast process by any means, be patient. Build up your support network and information NOW so that when you tell your partner it is fait accompli and not some weird negotiation around their needs.
posted by saucysault at 10:04 AM on April 6, 2018 [6 favorites]

Bedrockdivorce.com has books and workbooks to help you to "think financially, not emotionally"
posted by Sophont at 5:00 PM on April 6, 2018

That reminds me, there is a Canadian version of bedrock. .from Gail Vaz-Oxlade.
posted by saucysault at 6:06 PM on April 6, 2018

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