Though each circumstance is unique, the typical course of events following a separation is for the parties to proceed through a dispute resolution process before a divorce is sought and granted. It is usually the dispute resolution process, whether negotiation, mediation, arbitration, collaborative, or court, which requires your time, energy, and money, not the ‘divorce’ per se. The divorce is often the final step in the process.
This may result in-part from the fact that the most often claimed ground for divorce in Ontario, namely that the couple has been separated for one year, requires the parties to wait to complete the divorce. Note there are a couple circumstances, namely adultery and cruelty, which allow divorce applications to be brought before one year. However, nowadays few parties claim these grounds as the basis for the divorce. See Jodi Armstrong’s post “Adultery: Finding the Proverbial Lipstick on His Collar” for further information regarding the three grounds for divorce.
There are also circumstances where parties may choose to sever the divorce from the other matters being resolved, such that the divorce precedes the determination of the final terms of the settlement or court order. This is also a relatively rare occurrence, but may take place when the settlement process or court proceedings are taking particularly long, or one or the other party wishes to remarry.
Thus for the majority of couples the divorce is the Grand Finale. Yet, in Ontario the reality is that a final uncontested divorce is usually relatively administrative in nature. Having practiced family law now for almost five years I have observed that this final step can feel quite anti-climatic to some clients. You may have spent years in the dispute resolution process leading up to The Divorce, only to find that to have the divorce completed requires just the signing of a couple basic forms. I have had more than a few clients respond to this situation by asking me somewhat perplexed, “That’s it?”
I have joked to clients that perhaps our firm should be sending them some wine or flowers with the issued divorce, much as realtors do after the sale or purchase of a home. Though I acknowledge that for a myriad of reasons, and depending on the circumstances, such a gesture from a lawyer’s office would be entirely inappropriate.
Which is why I take such an interest in articles regarding ‘the Divorce Party’. The Divorce Party appears to be gaining in popularity. There is even a Wikipedia page explaining the phenomena. The Globe and Mail recently published an article regarding the Bronfmans’ Joint Divorce Party.
There are even Divorce Party Planners that suggest some quite ‘creative’ cakes and activities. Though, particularly where the terms of the settlement or order have yet to be fully and finally determined, I would caution against any behaviors that might be interpreted as threatening towards the ex-spouse or the destroying of joint property.
Perhaps, for some, this type of event will more satisfactorily mark their change in marital status, than any seal on a piece of paper.