Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Reconciliation Definition:

The act of separated spouses returning to family cohabitation.

The term is particularly relevant to family or divorce law where reconciliation interrupts a period of separation which might otherwise be accruing for the purposes of a divorce.

Under Canada’s Divorce Act, lawyers have a duty to explore reconciliation with their client and the Court, to further ascertain whether there is any possibility of reconciliation.

That same statute, in requiring a one year period of separation in granting a divorce, specifies, at §8(3):

“A period during which spouses have lived separate and apart shall not be considered to have been interrupted or terminated ... by reason only that either spouse has become incapable of forming or having an intention to continue to live separate and apart or of continuing to live separate and apart of the spouse’s own volition, if it appears to the court that the separation would probably have continued if the spouse had not become so incapable, or ... by reason only that the spouses have resumed cohabitation during a period of, or periods totaling, not more than ninety days with reconciliation as its primary purpose.”

In Mackrell, Lord Denning said that: “reconciliation does not take place unless and until mutual trust and confidence are restored.”

In Harthauer, the Ontario judge was clear on the difference between a resumption of cohabitation for convenience purposes, and a genuine reconciliation:

“I cannot categorize any part of the rather sterile relationship between the spouses after the ... separation as a reconciliation.

“The respondent for the most part treated the applicant as she did the other men in her life who also were not allowed to sleep over in her house (in deference to the sensibilities of the children). They engaged in no joint social ventures, and I heard no evidence of any communication and discussion of family problems. The resumed relationships consisted of periodically going out together and the occasional act of sexual intercourse. Otherwise they related much as friendly neighbours.

“Above all, there was, on the part of the respondent, no intention of forgiving the applicant for his past misconduct relating to his excessive drinking, which continued after separation. Her expression to the court that she would never again 'live under his boot' is most appropriate to mention at this point.”


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