Nearly Three-Quarters of Divorcing Couples Use Lawyers

Cristin Schmitz for The Lawyers Weekly

June 4, 2010

Divorce is declining in Canada but nearly three-quarters of couples still use lawyers to help them go their separate ways, Statistics Canada says in a new report on divorce.

According to the agency's most recent general social survey of respondents in the 10 provinces, nearly 600,000 Canadians divorced between 2001 and 2006. The services of a lawyer were used by 72 per cent of divorced persons, while 35 per cent used counseling services for either themselves or their children. Conciliation, mediation or other alternative dispute resolution services were used by 18 per cent of respondents.

Almost one-half of recently divorced individuals had at least one child with a former spouse, Statistics Canada says in the report "The processing of divorce cases through civil court in seven provinces and territories."

Released May 18, the report indicates that in 2008/2009, there were just over 56,100 new divorce cases initiated in the seven provinces and territories which reported data to the agency - Ontario, B.C., Alberta, Nova Scotia, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

The total number of new divorce cases declined six per cent in Ontario, B.C. and Nova Scotia in the four-year period ending in 2008/2009, while the territories experienced some year-to-year fluctuations. (Data from Alberta and the Northwest Territories were not available on this point.)

Most divorce cases proceeding through court were uncontested. In the seven reporting provinces and territories, an answer had been filed in just 19 per cent of all active divorce cases in 2008/2009. Contested cases ranged considerably, from lows of zero per cent in Nunavut and two per cent in Yukon to a high of 26 per cent in Alberta. Of the approximately 53,000 active divorce cases in Ontario, 18 per cent had a statement of defence on file. Of nearly 21,000 active divorce cases in B.C., 16 per cent had a statement of defence on file.

The findings from the agency's civil court survey indicate that one or more of the issues of access, custody, property and support were identified in at least 34 per cent of all active divorce cases in 2008/2009. The most common issues were support and property, each identified in about 80 per cent of cases where an issue was reported. Custody was an issue in at least 39 per cent of cases, while access was identified in at least one-third of divorce cases with an issue.

At least one-quarter of all divorce cases with issues dealt with the three issues of access, custody and support. At least 19 per cent dealt with property in addition to these three issues.

Statistics Canada said few divorce cases go to trial. In Nova Scotia and B.C., for example, two per cent of cases had a trial in 2008/2009.

In 2008/2009, one-half of active divorce cases were new cases started that year. Another 26 per cent were initiated the year before and continued into 2008/2009. Eleven per cent of all active cases were more than four years old.

However, the length of divorce cases does vary by jurisdiction. In Ontario, for example, almost 60 per cent of the active divorce cases in 2008/2009 were initiated that year, with just four per cent older than four years In Alberta and Yukon 24 per cent of cases were more than four years old.

Three-quarters of all divorce cases in the reporting provinces and territories were no more than two years old.

Like the divorce rate, the marriage rate is also declining. Since the 1970s common-law unions have grown and fewer people are choosing legal marriage. In 2006, married-couple families accounted for 69 per cent of all families in the census, down from 80 per cent two decades earlier. During that time, the proportion of common-law couple families rose to 16 per cent from 7 per cent.

A great way to start your search for a local Canadian Divorce lawyer is at Go to the 'Find a Lawyer' search box that appears on the right hand side of this screen to start your lawyer search. Type in Divorce or the name of the law firm, the city and the province that you are looking to hire a lawyer from, and click on the 'Search Now' button. This will generate a list of local Canadian Divorce lawyers.

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