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Divorce no longer a social taboo | Steve Benmor

Tuesday, July 23, 2019 @ 11:11 AM | By Steve Benmor

Steve Benmor %>
Steve Benmor
There once was a time when divorce was considered shameful. Even the word was whispered quietly from one person to another. Divorce was an embarrassment; it was rare, avoided and considered a failure.

In fact, as a result of the news of a divorce being so tragic, many spouses decided to continue to cohabit like a married couple even though their relationship was over. In some cases, spouses carried on separate lives while residing together just to avoid the social stigma of divorce. The spouses slept in separate bedrooms or on separate floors. Some of these spouses led very separate lives: they did not dine together, travelled separately, maintained different social circles and even dated others while cohabiting.

That was then. Societal norms have changed significantly since those days. Until 1968, married spouses were not permitted to divorce unless they could prove that the other spouse committed cruelty or adultery. But after pressure from society, the government of Canada changed the grounds for divorce to include “no-fault divorce.”

Suddenly, spouses could be divorced if they had been separated for three years. No longer was one spouse required to prove that the other spouse committed an offence. As the law evolved, the required three years of separation became one year and the concept of separation could include spouses still living in the same home so long as they were “living separate and apart under the same roof.”

As with this change in societal norms, so too came other changes such as same-sex marriages, property rights in common law couples and assisted human reproduction and surrogacy. The law continues to try to keep up with the changes in Canadians’ moral values.

Over time, Canadian society changed its views on the subject of divorce. No longer did divorce carry the same social stigma that it once did. Although there are still many who will lament the breakdown of a marriage, often the disappointment is short-lived.

Now very few Canadian families have not experienced divorce, either by their parents, children, uncles, aunts or close family or friends. Divorce is one of the most common events that occur in family life, next to marriage, childbirth or death. Divorce is simply another milestone in the family life cycle.

Divorce does not have to be the bruise on one’s reputation as that it was in the past. In fact, for many people who divorce, the decision is mutual. They recognize that there was a time when they shared common values and a love for one another. But when that evaporated, spouses recognize the need to begin the next chapter of their lives.

For some, this is a moment of celebration. They celebrate what they had and what they will have in the next chapter of their lives. Some former spouses remain very close friends, especially those who have children together.

In fact, there are more stories being posted on social media of divorced couples travelling together and taking family vacations with their children to Disney World or to exotic locations. Some bring their new partners with them.

This is the new reality in Canada. People marry. People divorce. People go on with their lives. The modern family is no longer a couple who were married for 50-plus years.

Steve Benmor of Benmor Family Law Group is certified as a specialist in family law and is the founding chair of the elder law section of the Ontario Bar Association. E-mail him at
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