Divorce statistics would suggest that divorce is part of the fabric of our society. Divorce is a social issue. My intentions are to shed some light on the divorce process in Canada, and how it’s impacted me personally. My hope is that the government can make sweeping and dramatic changes to the Divorce Act to help families who are suffering needlessly.

The first federal Divorce Act was passed in 1968, introducing the concept of the permanent breakdown of marriage as grounds for divorce. A number of proposed amendments to the Divorce Act were considered by Parliament. Notably, two versions of the Act was passed in 1968 and 1985.The drafting of the 1985 Act is commonly attributed to Professor Julien Payne. It lists the primary objectives of sound divorce law, as being able to facilitate the legal termination of marriages that have irretrievably broken down, to ensure reasonable arrangements are made for the upbringing of children of divorcing parents and to promote an equitable disposition of the economic consequences of the marriage breakdown.

The divorce act in Canada, for the most part is largely archaic and hasn’t changed much to reflect; the diverse demographic of Canada’s immigrant population. I am an immigrant and also part of Canada’s minority. I felt I would have been better served if the process was less hostile and more inclusive. Each case is unique as each individual family.The generic model that exists today is pretentious,careless and assumes certain preconceived notions about Canadian families. Families come from all walks of life,they share different beliefs,cultural implications and different socio-economic backgrounds.Generic and band-aid solutions to divorce don’t serve the most dependent strata of our society.

I am a single mother of two, and very little support existed for me.The system says since you have a house or the ‘matrimonial home’ you have enough resources to hire a lawyer.I guess the policy makers never realised you could have a home and be broke.I have walked a very difficult road these last three and some years. I am not looking for pity, I am aware that there are many who have experienced this difficult process. Changes need to be made throughout the court system to alleviate some of the suffering.

Divorce is one of the most humiliating, lonely, emotionally and financially exhaustive time, of one’s life. Imagine trying to set up two homes on one salary and pay the lawyers at the same time. The system has failed families, and allowed lawyers to take unfair advantage of their clients. I had two terminate my lawyer twice because I could not afford his services. One of my friends paid thousands of dollars, yet years later she is not divorced and there is no end in sight. If there are two of us, I can just imagine the number of families in the same predicament. Getting divorced is way too expensive and complicated.

The Divorce Act of 1985, stated that there should be a ‘minimum of hurt humiliation and hardship’ during the divorce process. The lawyers I encountered cared little about my financial or emotional state. My case was a sensitive one, yet the same band-aid solution was applied. The system has failed me and my children, like so many others. I felt I was being punished for trying to leave a bad situation. So many times, I despaired. Many doors were closed in my face; even government agencies turned me away. My faith, spirituality and my will to live for my children has kept me holding on. My story is the sad reality for many Canadian families.

Government has a responsibility to mandate and regulate fees charged by lawyers,I feel the government has been to lax in this regard.Most lawyers, I spoke to won’t even take your case unless you can provide a five thousand dollar retainer.I have no issue with lawyers charging money for their services. Families who are separating can’t afford the exorbitant fees though. Especially when there are kids involved, working with one income, setting up two homes. My kids changed cities and schools, there were moving expenses and the list goes on and on.

Divorce entails a lot, your whole way of life suddenly changes. In Canada divorce is not for the faint of heart.If there is no hope of reconciliation, the divorce should be processed sooner, rather than three years done the road.The emotional turmoil is devastating to say the least.People say divorce is like a death in the family, it is so true.Having to work through all the issues, the legal aspect should be less painful,and time consuming.People should be able to heal and move on, not prolong the pain.The government must implement changes that will cut down the time it takes to process a divorce.

Going through a divorce is like having a dark storm cloud stalking you, and hanging onto your shoulder, never knowing when it’s going to descend and leave you desolate, until you can shore up some courage to face another day.The right of the child going through divorce is important.Does anyone care about the mental and emotional state of the primary caregiver? The parent’s ability to care for his or her children under the added stress is of paramount importance also. An unhappy, sad, broken and defeated caregiver is no good to any child.

The divorce process has been dis-empowering so say the least. I am writing for the dis-enfranchised, the marginalized, for the countless voices of the voiceless women of my society. My dream is that government and their agencies will implement sweeping changes,and quickly.Changes that would make divorce less alienating for families but less so for women, in Canada.Divorce, is difficult by its very nature,keeping one’s humanity intact should be the yardstick whereby we measure its success.

By Joszann St John

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