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Divorce at an Older Age

Let’s talk about……divorce…
I thought we could talk about divorce at an older age today. An odd topic it might seem, but a while ago I had a conversation with a lady in her early 80’s who voiced the opinion that some of her social set might benefit from a freeing of the marital yoke as it were. She spoke with joy about having freed herself from marital constraints and having the freedom to go where and when she pleased and with whom. It was pointed out to me in this conversation that while you can retire from a job you can’t retire from marriage unless you divorce or are widowed.

While there are indeed many happily married couples out there who couldn’t live without one another after so many years there are also many people who feel frustrated and stymied by their marital situation and who no doubt looked upon the retirement of their spouse with uncertainty if not full on dread? I have one elderly cousin who is deeply religious and felt divorce would be inappropriate but who often voiced the hopes that her teacher husband would move to China upon retirement to teach ESL and never come back. I did not make this up, it happened and my cousin, now widowed, is enjoying her 70’s as a single gale.

While I am not advocating divorce as such I do believe that if someone is not happy in their marriage and hasn’t been for a long time than it is never too late to get a divorce and be happy. Divorce these days is neither the social taboo it used to be nor the legal hassle. The days of having to be legally separated for years on end are gone. There are in fact some very simple and accessible resources that can help if you are interested in dissolving your union.

There is a society of lawyers dedicated to giving free legal assistance; it is called the Western Canadian Society to Access Justice. Each appointment is about 30 minutes long, and there will be follow ups when necessary. Written advice will be provided and thought they lawyers don’t go into court for you they do prepare you to represent yourself. If your household income is less that $2700 a month, plus an extra $100 for each dependent, you should qualify for this free legal service. To contact the Western Canadian Society to Access Justice toll free call1-877-762-6664. If you are on line and want more information go to www.accessjustic.ca or e-mail a question to help@accessjustic.ca. In Chilliwack this society works out of the Chilliwack Community Services offices, 45938 Wellington St, call 604-792-4267 to set up an appointment. In Abbotsford the clinic works out of the community services office located 2420 Montrose St., to get in touch with a lawyer call 604-659-7681 extension 206.

There are books available for specific target audiences, men, women parents etc, that you can order on line at Chapters, (simply type www.chapters.indigo.ca into your computer’s browser), and or access at the local library. Chilliwack’s library catalogue is available to search on line at www.fvrl.bc.ca. It is located at 45860 First Ave, call 604-792-1941. Also, if you are on line and feel comfortable with on line services you can go to www.divorceoptions.ca for a do it yourself divorce package that costs $149 plus taxes or for an additional $100 plus taxes this organization will file for you.

In BC divorce is a three step process. A divorce Action is filed, (this costs $218), and then a year later one of the parties files an Application of Divorce Order. This costs $62 and within eight weeks a judge should have granted the Divorce Order. If this is not contested by either party the divorce becomes final at the end of 31 days from the date the order was granted. The last step is optional and costs $31 you can apply for a Certificate of Divorce.

If you are considering leaving your spouse, seek out guidance and advice from people who have gone through this experience. Talk to your friends and relations and way the pros and cons carefully. After being married for a long time being single can be daunting and lonely. Also, your identity may be based in part on being someone’s spouse, and being single again can be disorienting and confusing.

Remember to look closely at your financial situation before going ahead with any action. If you rely on your spouses pension benefits make sure you have a legal right to them and that they are accessible to you after you separate. Conversely, if your spouse is relying on your pension benefits make sure you are able to support two households. Be prepared to change your standard of living if necessary. Be prepared for adverse reactions from friends and family members, especially your children. Even adult children may become distressed by the thought of their parents divorcing.

That’s it for this month,
Thanks for reading, Sharon Grant, LAD, BA, SAC, Media Phil Cert, PhD.

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