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It may or may not surprise you that the divorce rate in Canada was almost half of what it was in the United States according to a 2004 survey. Regardless of what Canadians might be able to teach us about marriage, divorce law in Canada echoes United States law in terms of division of wealth, child custody, and the dissolution of marriage. Differences in these areas are slight. One area in which Canadian law differs greatly is how the law is enforced.
Here are some areas in which the Canadian divorce differently:
Canadian federal law generally regulates divorce. The Divorce Act of 1986 outlines the legal definition of dissolution of marriage and the rules involved. All Canadian provinces have their own acts, but can implement only slight variations in their divorce law to accommodate jurisdictional requirements. Canadian federal law encompasses all aspects of divorce, including custody, alimony, child support, and modifying child or support orders. The Federal Department of Justice observed that with the exception of Quebec, support guidelines in most Canadian territories are parallel to the mechanisms of the federal Divorce Act.
On the other hand, the United States leaves the details up to the states. The United States has fifty different sets of divorce laws with significant variations. Some federal legislation does dictate the rights of divorcing spouses, such as child support guidelines and IRS provisions governing deductions for alimony. Additionally, the United States federal government might occasionally intervene to ensure states are complying with American human rights. Otherwise, there is no particular federal legislature that guides the states in the area of divorce law.
- Types of Divorce
There are two main types of divorce in Canada: contested and uncontested, with the potential grounds for each case being the same. Few American states offer such clear-cut options. The choices are slightly more extensive in Massachusetts. A divorce may be filed as “no-fault” or “fault” in Massachusetts, and can be either contested or uncontested. Most people file for “no fault” divorce on the grounds of “irretrievable breakdown of marriage”. On the other hand, there are seven grounds for a “fault” divorce, in which a single spouse is considered at fault for causing a breakdown of the marriage, including adultery, desertion, habits of intoxication, abuse, non-support, impotency, and a prison sentence of five or more years. Like in Canada, a contested divorce proceeding is more lengthy and expensive than an uncontested divorce.
- Residency Requirements
The Canadian rule on who may file for divorce in the country outlines three criteria: (1) the spouses must be legally married — whether in Canada or in another country, (2) one or both spouse must have lived in a Canadian territory for at least one year immediately prior to filing for divorce, and (3) one or both spouses intend to separate permanently with no hope for reconciliation, or have already separated. In Massachusetts, one of the spouses must merely be a resident of the state if the grounds for divorce occurred within the state. If the grounds for divorce occurred elsewhere, then one spouse must be a resident of Massachusetts for one year.
Which country has it better?