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Financial conversations can help prevent divorce conflict

Finances are one of the most contentious issues couples face. However, there are many things couples can do to make financial decisions easier at every step in the relationship. While no marriage in Alberta begins with the intention of ending in divorce, key conversations early in a relationship can help ease the financial stress if a break up does take place.

Clarifying a partner's financial situation and sharing one's own before co-habiting or getting engaged is a good idea for any couple. Marital issues can arise if there is a lack of information, while a misunderstanding about a spouse's assets can cause much more stress in a divorce. Once the details of debt, credit scores and assets have been shared, couples should set up a plan for how they will share financial obligations.

Divorce through mediation may help diminish conflict

By the time some couples have firmly decided to dissolve their marriages, they are often already emotionally exhausted. Still, they recognize that divorce, like marriage, involves a legal process which must be formalized in and by the family courts. In Alberta, mediation is an option that encourages a spirit of collaboration towards re-configuring a new and affirming path forward for each party.

As an alternative to the extensive court time associated with traditional divorce proceedings, mediation occurs largely outside the court room under the neutral guidance of a mediator. The mediator, who ideally is also an experienced family law lawyer, helps identify the issues and concerns on each side and facilitates discussion in a discreet and secure exchange. Even when concluded, matters of concern remain confidential, which can be so important to one or both partners intent on safeguarding their privacy.

How to handle the first holiday season after a divorce

The holidays are often considered a joyful time for Canadian families, but for newly divorced parents, it can be a challenging time of year. Children and parents in Alberta can have trouble adjusting to the new holiday routine after a divorce. While this might lead to stress and sadness, parents should set a good example for children and remain positive in light of the changes.

Those who have children around for some or all of the holidays should be aware of their attitude and be as compassionate as possible to everyone involved. Alberta parents should try to be patient and kind, even if they are hurt or lonely. One great strategy is to establish new traditions with the children. This can give everyone something new to look forward to in years to come and help them move past any nostalgia and loss.

Marriage insurance may help with the price tag of divorce

Divorce can come with a hefty price tag, especially if a large amount of assets or child custody are involved. Alberta couples looking to get married may wonder how to protect themselves from the costs and subsequent stress of an expensive divorce should the marriage dissolve. One entrepreneur is offering divorce insurance as an option for these couples.

The insurance industry has discussed the possibility of a divorce insurance since 1970, but the product has not yet been brought to market. Part of the reason is that "divorce insurance" is not a very palatable concept for couples in love. The entrepreneur has thus dubbed his product "marriage insurance," which may be an easier sell for Alberta couples.

Family law may order wealthier spouse to pay legal expenses

Divorce can be a challenging legal process, especially if one spouse has significantly more resources than the other. Alberta divorcees may be concerned about obtaining the same level of legal counsel as their wealthier exes. Under Canadian family law, the spouse with more money can be asked to pay the legal expenses for the spouse in need to ensure a fairer trial. This is referred to as interim disbursements.

Divorces can be complicated, and many experts may be needed on both sides to work out a divorce agreement under Alberta family law. Besides lawyers, chartered business valuators, accountants and actuaries may be used to vet the financial situation of the separating couple. When parties are not in an equal financial position, the wealthier one may be required to cover these costs in the interim.

Science shows several risk factors for divorce

While break-ups cannot always be predicted, there are some risk factors that make a marriage less likely to succeed. Social scientists have reviewed data from long-term studies and censuses to find trends related to divorce. Those seeking to get married or considering divorce in Alberta may find these findings interesting and applicable to their own lives. 

Age can be a risk factor in a marriage. Those who marry under age 25 may not have the maturity needed for marriage. Those over 32 may find compromises and lifestyle adjustments challenging, which is why the odds of divorce increase by 5 percent for every year after age 32. Age gaps can also be a challenge for married couples. Those with an age difference of five years are 18 percent more likely to split up, while a 10-year age gap increases the likelihood by 39 percent.

Common-law couples may have less rights in separation agreements

Across Canada, an increasing number of couples are choosing to co-habit and start families without legally marrying. While common-law couples in Alberta have similar rights to their married counterparts, some legal rights are not extended to these couples. Those working toward separation agreements with a common-law partner should be aware of how Alberta treats these cases.

Property rights are just one of the several issues affected by marital status during an Alberta break-up. One woman noted that, after separating from her partner of 20 years, she had no property rights to the couple's two houses. The houses were in her partner's name, and she would only be entitled to 50% if the couple had been married.

Gifts and inheritance can be tricky in separation agreements

Rising housing costs and economic changes have caused an increase in parental gifts to adult children. Many contribute large sums towards down payments or pass property on to their children before they pass away. For Alberta couples preparing a pre-nuptial agreement or drafting separation agreements, this money can be a point of contention.

If a break-up takes place, an Alberta court will generally declare that both spouses have half ownership of the matrimonial home. This remains true whether the the home was given to a child by his or her parents or if it was purchased with a financial gift to one spouse. In order to avoid challenges with this issue later on, many couples choose to draft marriage contracts specifying how possible future separation agreements will treat marital assets. Similar contracts can be set up between common-law couples. 

How are NHL seasons tickets divided in separation agreements?

Dividing assets during a divorce or separation can be challenging. While there is a great deal of case law regarding typical disputes related to separation agreements, some situations may be more unique than others. This was certainly the case for an Alberta couple who recently battled over NHL season tickets in family court.

The couple, who had two season tickets for the Edmonton team, were in a dispute over who should retain the tickets. The issue was time sensitive given the pending start of the season. The Alberta justice who ruled on the case divided the tickets evenly between the couple. This included any playoff games, if applicable.

What makes couples more likely to divorce?

Many people wonder if there is a way to foresee whether a marriage will end in divorce. These concerns are among the reasons why so many Alberta couples draft pre-nuptial agreements, attend premarital counselling and keep family lawyers available in case of a breakup. New research suggests that, among the environmental reasons for divorce, there may be a genetic reason that certain people struggle to maintain their marriages.

The research was commissioned after a stream of studies showed that children of divorce were more likely to have a divorce themselves. According to those studies, daughters of divorced parents are 60 percent more likely to separate from their own spouses. Sons have a 35 percent higher rate.