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In a divorce, a spouse's behaviour likely won't impact settlement

In an ideal world, when a husband and wife choose to separate, they will do so via moderation, or some form of alternative dispute resolution, for a peaceful and civil dissolution of the union. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, especially if the divorce is the result of one partner's unacceptable behaviour. For some, it may come as a surprise to learn that this behaviour is not likely to change the financial details of a litigated separation in Ontario.

The province of Ontario uses a no-fault system for divorce settlements. This means that, except in extreme situations, no amount of poor personal conduct on the part of either spouse will change the settlement from an even 50-50 split. A recent example came out in a decision handed down by the Ontario Court of Appeal, where a woman sought more than half the assets due to her ex-husband's activities.

The court heard that the man had engaged in an affair with another woman and was known to hire escorts over the course of a 10-year marriage. He also purportedly maintained memberships to adult content websites. The wife sought an uneven split of their assets to compensate for his expenditures. The court denied her request and decried the woman's testimony as inflammatory. 

In extreme cases, where it can be shown that large sums of money were secretly diverted from a couples' assets to outside activities, or if substantial assets were hidden, the courts may award an uneven settlement as compensation. Ordinarily, however, no matter how offensive the behaviour may have seemed, a spouse is unlikely to collect more than half the assets of the marriage. For a man or woman ready to divorce in Ontario, it would be wise to speak with a family law lawyer for guidance, especially if there are extenuating circumstances he or she believes to be relevant.

Source: canoe.com, "In Ontario divorces, heartache doesn't mean more money", Michele Mandel, Nov. 9, 2016

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