Roger writing the LAWmag
26
Oct 2013

Divorce In Quebec, 2013. Pareil Qu'ailleurs.

"Pareil qu'ailleurs" means "the same as elsewhere".

Because this article was generated in the province of Québec, which has strict language rules, it was felt prudent to utilize an equal amount of French language, at least in the title.

Step aside New York Times , Globe and Mail and other distinguished newspapers. The Journal de Montréal may be a beacon of ice hockey information, especially regarding the Montréal Canadiens. But it is also a thick daily that delivers news. Murders, the latest on organized crime (especially les Hells Angels), assaults and the occasional consumer complaint, seem to always grace the cover and the entire first half of the paper, day-in, day-out. There might be a page or two for whatever is trending on Reuters. You know, ... news.

On "dimanche, le 13 octobre, 2013", the Journal de Montreal published the first of a two-part series on divorces in Québec. We cannot vouch for the research of journalist Michael Nguyen but we need to show him some faith.

Some Statistics

Nguyen, like any good journalist, starts his reportage spécial with some statistics - the better to lull the reader before serving up the plat de résistance.

divorce in QuebecFor example, people in Québec do not tend to marry. They often live together in Roman Catholics sin, in a union de fait (common law marriage).

In 2011, some 4 million Quebecers lived within an intimate spousal relationship. Of those, only 63% were married, the rest were in union de fait relationships.

English Canada is paying heed to the wisdom of cohabitation before or instead of marriage. A recent StatsCan report:

"The proportion of married couples has been steadily decreasing over the past 20 years while common-law unions are becoming more numerous."1

In 2012, there were just under 25,000 marriages in Québec. Of those, only approximately 300 were same-sex marriages.

In 2008, 21% of the divorces were for marriages that had existed between 20 to 29 years.

The Fun of It

Family law is hard for lawyers and for judges and for pretty much anybody involved in the process from the court clerks to the trial coordinators. You find out things about human nature you'd probably just as soon not know.

There is little humour or fun in it but certainly, if one were to keep a close eye on the law reports, one most certainly could come across a regular stream of family law cases that just seem to boggle the mind. See, for example, Larry, Sam and Catherine: Paging Dr. Freud, [2010] USFJDO 1.

That is what Nguyen did, with the assistance of some of Montréal family law lawyers.

Anybody who has spent a chunk of time in family law as a lawyer, for example, would have a truckload of war stories, facts alleged in cases they were involved in that could be described as hilarious if they weren't, in most cases, downright sad and often involving children.

53.5135%, 53.5136% or 53.5137%

In one case in Chicoutimi, Justice Claude Larouche of the Supeior Court of Québec really took his job seriously, In the final calculation of proportionate contribution towards special and extraordinary expenses, he held the father to "53.5136%" of those expenses.

In that case, the parties agreed to shared custody in which the mother had the children for "55.89%" of the time.

See Droit de la famille 131394, 2013 QCCS 2760.

VCR and the Nintendo

The Journal de Montréal article relates the peculiar if not illogical disputes some couples have over the smallest of articles but still, potential matrimonial property.

nintendo divorceAgain, any family law lawyer (as could soooo many family court judges) could throw in their own examples here of stupid little items fought over in court at great expense.

One of the items refered to in the article as a real-life litigated family asset issue was representative of divorce action craziness: an old VCR  cassette of some sentimental value.

In another, the parties were deadlocked over ownership of a Nintendo game console. The Nintendo ownership issue had to go in front of the court and for the record, and perhaps for the purpose of stare decisis, it was given to the husband.

Time Is Of The Essence

In anticipation of his marriage in 2002 and the consequences that would immediately have in imposing a regime of shared ownership, one groom rushed to purchase an apartment building before his wedding so that it would remain his sole property in the unlikely event of divorce. Because of the workload of his Notary Public, the sale did not go through until after the marriage.

Ultimately, divorce happened and the judge did what judges do. He/she rendered judgment though the heavens may fall. The judge noted in his or her reasons for judgment that the groom could have chased down another notary to have the sale go through before the marriage, which he didn't do that the husband's lovely apartment building was subject to division.

If, When

If ... when you are coming out of law school and looking at family law as a potential area of employment, remember that it does not only represent one of the most fascinating areas of law and one with, arguably, the most lawyer responsibility for client relations and proper practice. It can also be fun.

And always expect the unexpected. Ça, c'est une promesse.

REFERENCES:

  • Nguyen, Michael, Divorces, Journal de Montréal, October 13 and 14, 2013
  • NOTE 1: Kelly, Mary Bess, Divorce cases in civil court, 2010/2011, Statistics Canada, 2012 (see http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2012001/article/11634-eng.htm)


 

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