There may be a lot about a separation or divorce that feels unfair, from the way your ex may be treating you to having to leave your home.
But when it comes to fairness in a divorce settlement, common law break-up, parenting agreements and support orders, it is crucial to understand more about what is and is not “fair” in the context of the family law legal system.
Fairness is about more than money
People thinking of a fair divorce often think of one where both parties get a certain amount of money. However, there is much more that should be fair throughout the divorce.
For instance, we discussed the all important issue of procedural fairness at our website quite extensively. All litigants should be given the time and opportunity to speak up and make their case. Both parties should be treated equally by judges, mediators and others involved in the family law legal system. Both parties should be permitted to participate effectively in the process.
Fair does not always mean equal
Dividing everything in half might be equal, but that does not necessarily mean it is fair.
For instance, in Ontario we don’t just divide in half everything that the couple has at the end of the marriage. Rather, we generally share equally the wealth accumulated during the marriage. We call this ‘equalization of net family property’. This exercise is designed to be “fair” but it does not always quite work out like that. Click here for a basic explanation of equalization payments.
And splitting parenting time precisely in half can most certainly be quite beneficial for a child. We have written extensively in our blog about that.
However, there are exceptions to these scenarios. Short marriages and bad economic behaviours can warrant unequal division of net family property. And splitting parenting time 50/50 may be logistically impossible or contrary to what is in a child’s best interests.
Fair is not a fixed concept
Fairness in a divorce can mean different things to different people. And it can change as you navigate this complicated system.
Keeping this in mind can help people be more flexible and cooperative during negotiations, allowing them to avoid litigation. Leaving the decision about what is fair for your case in the hands of a judge who does not know you can be a costly mistake.
Thus, even though you may be battling hurt feelings and anger in the wake of your separation, making decisions yourself and with an understanding of legal fairness can help you secure the best outcome for your situation. Believe it or not, securing the assistance of a competent family law lawyer can actually help!