It is pretty darn easy to get married. All you really need is a license and hey – it only costs $100! Of course some people have fancy weddings and yes, they take a lot to organize and can be costly. But you get a choice in doing that.
You don’t get the same choice when you are getting a divorce. It only takes one person to decide they want out of a marriage. Not so with marriage – you both have to say “I do.” In divorce, one person can file a claim for a divorce. If the other spouse does not deal with it, then it goes to the court and the court decides. The court does not always make the best decisions when it comes to families so I highly recommend that you try to work it out with your soon to be ex spouse before it gets to the courts. Court is darn expensive too – about $5000 a day. Ouch.
I looked up how much it costs to get a divorce too and it is actually cheaper at $80 for a desk order divorce (if you do all the paperwork yourself). That said, it is pretty impossible to do all the paperwork yourself. Here is a list of steps to getting a divorce in BC. The main sticking point is the Separation Agreement. Yes – that Separation Agreement. Mine was 149 pages long and each and every one of those pages described something that was contentious. Oh, except the signature page and there were two of those. So 147 pages. It’s no wonder it took us a year to get an agreement and felt like a full time job (and why I refer to our agreement as the “BEAST).”
This is just a start to what you have to have in your agreement in British Columbia:
You have to agree on the date your relationship started. You’d think this would be easy! But I have had clients arguing about this. In one instance, the woman traveled a lot and had a post office box as her address when she first started dating her spouse. She would stay with her boyfriend when she was in town, but she argued that they weren’t really living together yet at that time. In other instances, people just forget when they moved in together. There can be financial advantages/disadvantages to each person depending on the date the relationship started, so this is why it can lead to arguments.
On the flip side, you have to agree when the relationship ended (this is usually more tricky). Some people feel like the marriage ended years ago and some people still can’t believe it’s over. Again, there can be big financial consequences depending on what date is decided upon.
You have to figure out how you are going to support your children – both in terms of parenting time and in terms of money. This took a big chunk of time. A big chunk. Especially if one of the parties is the primary caregiver pre-separation. There is a lot of work to be done to build the trust necessary to start parenting the kids on a equal basis. There is also a lot of learning to be done. For example, did you know, that if you have a fifty-fifty parenting arrangement, one parent may still have to pay child support to the other person? I’ve explained that in another blog post.
Then you have to start separating financial assets and debts. You may discover you have assets you didn’t even know about or debt (which is more often the case). In almost every file I’ve worked on, one person had racked up some debt and hadn’t told their spouse. That usually takes some time to sort out. I did just work on one file where an asset turned up at the last minute. How does that happen? You’d be surprised. Of course – both parties had different ideas about how to treat that asset.
Essentially a Separation Agreement is an agreement that details every piece of how your life will be going forward. And you have to make this agreement with someone you probably don’t really like at the moment. It takes time and a lot of emotional energy because you are usually in a pretty dark place when you are building it.
Wouldn’t it be great if you had to have a Marriage Agreement before you get married? How dumb is our society that allows people to go off and get married with a $100 license (that you can order online) when they are in the happy blissful state called love? It’s super dumb. I can’t think of a fancier word to call it right now because my brain is fried trying to help clients figure out the numbers to put in their Separation Agreement. And I get to forget about it every day and go to sleep. They don’t.
Our current systems allows anyone to get married but there are so many rules before you can get divorced and you have to follow them. If you don’t agree to them yourself, the courts will make you.
What if you made your Marriage Agreement when you were in that happy blissful state of soon to be married?
Well, it might just save your marriage or save you from marrying the wrong person.
It would certainly make your divorce a lot easier. Ask anyone who has gotten a divorce. I’m sure all divorced people wish they had made a Marriage Agreement. They are convinced, but what is that called? “Preaching to the converted.”
How do we get the word out to those uninitiated to the Divorce Club? Those happy blissful people that just want to get married?
I don’t know. I only ever see the aftermath of those without a Marriage Agreement. How about you? Can you help spread the word?