Some people might believe the family law regime favours women. This is not true. In fact, it has historically disadvantaged women but this is changing. The Family Law Act was introduced in 2013 with sweeping changes to the law on separation that strive to improve equality rights for women, as well as non-traditional families such as those in the LGBTQ community and polyamorous families. In this article, “Marriage Separation Advice for Women” we look at some of the issues specifically faced by women during a divorce.
Am I Entitled to Spousal Support?
In relationships it is common for one partner to put their career on hold and prioritize taking care of the children, giving the other partner freedom to make strides in their career and become the principal breadwinner for the family. Often times it is the woman in the relationship who puts her career on hold.
The courts recognize that this puts women in a disadvantageous position following a separation. While their male partner may have had 10 or 20 years to advance in their careers, the woman’s career has essentially stagnated, significantly reducing her earning potential in comparison with her male partner.
Spousal support can help equalize the economic burden women face following a separation. The amount of spousal support you may be entitled to will depend on the length of your relationship, the difference between you and your ex’s incomes, and a number of other factors. For an estimate of how much spousal support you may be entitled to, please visit our Spousal Support Calculator. Remember that the law applies equally to men and women with respect to spousal support. If you earn more money than your spouse, he will be equally entitled to spousal support. For a more accurate figure that takes into consideration your unique circumstances, we encourage you to contact our firm for a consultation.
Caring for the Children after Separation
There is a common misconception that women are legally expected to take on more of the childcare responsibilities or are entitled to a greater share of parenting time following a separation. This may have been true at one time when women were seen as possessing an irreplaceable motherly touch, and the courts preferred that young children reside primarily with their mothers.
Today, however, men and women are expected to care for their children following a separation. The sole focus of the courts is the “best interests of the children” and in the court’s view, this means maximum involvement of both parents in the children’s lives where appropriate.
Unfortunately, despite advancements in the family law regime, women remain disproportionately victims of family violence. It is estimated that one in five Canadian women experience some form of violence in their relationships (source: Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2011, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada, page 5). It is important to seek help if there is family violence. Remember that if your partner has instigated violence against you, this is not your fault and if you have children, you have a duty to protect them from any further violence. Even when violence is not directed towards children, witnessing violence can have devastating effects on a child. Children tend to be more observant than we realize and will undoubtedly become aware of the violence, if not already.
Fortunately, there are legal remedies that can help protect you and your children from an abusive partner. You may wish to apply for a court order to get exclusive possession of your family home and a protection order preventing your spouse from communicating with you and your children and from visiting the children’s schools or daycare centres. For more information on legal remedies to protect your children, see our article “10 Divorce Tips to Protect Your Children”.
There are many support services available to women and children who are victims of family violence. Remember that you are not alone. Here are some additional resources:
Ending Violence Association of BC: http://endingviolence.org/need-help/
The BC Society of Transition Houses: http://bcsth.ca/content/compendium-0
We hope this article “Marriage Separation Advice for Women” helps answer your questions about divorce and separation. If you are a woman who is going through a divorce and would like to make sure that your specific needs are met or have concerns about domestic violence, please contact MJ O’Nions for legal assistance at 604-449-7779.