A recent family law blog post out of California on the topic of “bifurcation” (which allows a court to separate aspects of a family law case and grant a divorce before other issues are resolved) brought to mind the concept of a “quickie” divorce, and why such an option may not be possible or necessary in British Columbia.
For clients who are keen to divorce their spouses as soon as possible, the first thing to know is that, unless one of you is claiming adultery or mental cruelty, BC requires you to live separate and apart from your spouse for at least one year before you can obtain a divorce. Even after the one-year mark has passed, it is difficult to obtain a divorce before all aspects of your family law court proceeding are resolved. In fact, if you have children, a judge will likely not grant you a divorce until issues relating to parenting and child support have been settled or agreed to.
While this may cause concern for clients who are anxious to gain some financial certainty following their separation, the other key point to keep in mind is that there may not be an advantage to speeding up the process. On separation, each spouse has a right to an undivided half interest in all family property as a tenant in common, and is equally responsible for family debt. Plus, there can even be some financial disadvantages to divorce. For example, a divorce changes your spousal status and may affect entitlement to employer benefit plans, insurance policies, and government benefit plans, as well as other matters such as tax and testamentary issues.
So, even if our Californian colleagues’ blog post doesn’t apply to those of us living in BC, it’s a good reminder to slow down and take a breath, since being in a rush won’t help your case (and might hurt your mental health).