Actor James Caan filed for divorce from his fourth wife, Linda Stokes, on November 19, 2009. The parties were married for 14 years and have two children together. Caan filed for divorce from Stokes back in 2005, but the parties reconciled.
The parties appear to have maintained an amicable relationship. When asked about the divorce, Caan stated: "We have two beautiful kids together and will remain great friends. Everything will be fine."
Caan is seeking joint custody of the parties' two children, aged 10 and 13, as well as a ruling that the court has no jurisdiction to award spousal support.
How would Ontario Courts react to Caan's divorce application?
Ontario Family Law is focused on encouraging the parties to resolve their disputes as amicably as possible. Although litigation is necessary under certain circumstances, parties are encouraged to resolve as many issues as possible via mediation, negotiation, and other non-adversarial methods before heading to court.
As such, Ontario Family Courts would approve of Caan's statement regarding his friendship with his wife, provided that it is true, and would encourage the parties to resolve all issues related to their separation, such as support payments and custody of children, between themselves and their counsel.
Ontario Courts often award primary residency of children to the parent who primarily cared for the children during and after separation. This means that if Stokes was the children's primary caregiver while she was married to Caan, the children would most likely reside primarily with her.
This does not mean that Ontario courts would not award Caan the joint custody he seeks. Even though Stokes may be awarded primary residency of the children, joint custody is still an option. Ontario courts are likely to award joint custody where parents have an amicable relationship because such a relationship will allow to the parties to make key decisions about the children's lives, (such as decisions regarding non-emergency healthcare and schooling), together.
Stokes and Caan were married for 14 years. The amount and duration of spousal support depend upon:
- the means of each spouse;
- the needs and other circumstances of each spouse;
- the length the spouses cohabited;
- the functions performed by each spouse during cohabitation;
- any order, agreement or arrangement relating to support of either spouse; and
- any other factors that a court deems relevant.
However, before the duration and amount of spousal support is determined, entitlement to spousal support must first be shown.
Ontario Family Courts would likely not award Stokes spousal support unless she can show that:
- she and Caan entered into a contract stating that Caan would pay her spousal support;
- she is in need of spousal support in order to maintain a lifestyle similar to the lifestyle she enjoyed while married to Caan; OR
- she contributed to Caan's career or other accomplishments during the marriage.
Whether Stokes will be able to prove any of these points depends entirely on the facts of the case.