"Dexter" Divorce

"Dexter" star, Michael C. Hall and his onscreen sister, Jennifer Carpenter are divorcing after almost two years of marriage. Jennifer filed for divorce last week and cited "irreconcilable differences" as the reason for divorce after the couple has been separated since August 9, 2010. Jennifer is also seeking spousal support.

What would happen if these two lived in Ontario?

In Ontario, pursuant to the Divorce Act, when parties wish to obtain a divorce they must show that there has been a breakdown of the marriage, which can only be establish if:

  1. the spouses have lived separate and apart for at least one year immediately preceding the determination of the divorce proceeding and were living separate and apart at the commencement of the proceeding; or
  2. the spouse against whom the divorce proceeding is brought has, since celebration of the marriage:
    1. committed adultery; or
    2. treated the other spouse with physical or mental cruelty.

As Michael and Jennifer have only been separated since August 2010, they will have to show a court that from that time until August 2011, they had actually been living separate and apart, or that either of them had the intention to live separate and apart from the other. If they are able to demonstrate this, they would able to be granted a Divorce Order in August 2011, and same would take effect thirty days from the date of the Order. The period of one year would not be considered to be interrupted where Michael or Jennifer became incapable of forming or having an intention to live separate and apart or where the spouses resume living together for the purposes of reconciliation as long as this period does not amount to more than a total of ninety days.

Therefore, if Michael and Jennifer decided to attempt reconciliation as long as the total cumulative amount of time that they attempt to do so does not amount to more than ninety days, they would still be able to obtain their Divorce Order in August 2011 if they chose to do so.

It is reported that Jennifer's Petition (known as an Application in Ontario), cited irreconcilable differences as the reason for divorce. In Ontario this would be akin to paragraph A above whereby the parties establish a breakdown of the marriage based on the parties living separate and apart. There have been rumors that Michael cheated on Jennifer with "Dexter" co-star, Julia Stiles. If this were the case, and if Jennifer had claimed "adultery" as the reason for the breakdown of the marriage in Ontario, the one-year period would be relaxed and she may be able to obtain a Divorce Order before the one-year period expired. As the adultery rumors have been vehemently denied and as Jennifer did not cite this as part of her Petition to the Los Angeles Court, we can assume that the reason claimed for breakdown of the marriage in Ontario would likely not be adultery, and therefore, the couple would have to wait the one-year period as discussed above.

Spousal Support

If Jennifer were to bring this claim in Ontario, the Court would first consider whether she was entitled to support. In order to determine this is entitlement the Court would look at such factors as whether she is in need of support, or if she had made a contribution to the marriage that requires she be compensated for.

Based on the known facts of this case, as actors on a successful TV series, both parties are likely high income earners. While Michael is a well known actor who has been on other successful TV series such as "Six Feet Under," based on the assumption that they are both making a very good living as actors, it would be difficult to prove that Jennifer is in need of support. However, if she is able to show that she contributed to the marriage in a way that she should be compensated for, then a Court may determine that she is entitled to support from Michael. In this case, as the parties were only married for 19 months when they separated, and Michael was an award-winning actor before the marriage, it would likely be difficult to show that Jennifer contributed to the marriage in such a way that she should be compensated. Some may argue that because she stood by his side last year while he battled Hodkins Lymphoma that should be taken into account when considering whether she should receive compensatory support. While it was noble of her, it is most likely not something that the Court would consider compensating her for. Therefore, based on what is known about the facts of this matter at this time, it would be unlikely that Jennifer would be entitled to spousal support.

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