Larry King, the 76 year old CNN host and his wife Shawn Southwick have announced their reconciliation. The parties initially began their divorce proceedings in Los Angeles approximately three months ago. They have two children together, Chance who is 11 years old and Cannon who is 9 years old. Larry King told the press "We shall go through this difficult time intact as a family.”
How is reconciliation of the parties dealt with in Ontario?
Duty of Legal Adviser
In Ontario, under the Divorce Act, the lawyers for the parties have a duty to discuss reconciliation with their clients. The lawyer must confirm with their client the possibility of reconciliation. The lawyer has a duty to inform the spouses of the marriage counseling or guidance facilities known to him/her that might be able to assist the spouses to achieve reconciliation unless the circumstances of the case are such a nature that it would clearly not be appropriate to do so. If for example, the Larry or Shawn had experienced cruelty and abuse by his/her spouse during the marriage, it may not be appropriate for the lawyer to suggest reconciliation to him or her. This may be a judgment call on the lawyers' part.
When commencing a divorce proceeding it should contain a statement by the lawyer certifying that they have complied with this section in the Divorce Act and that they have advised the parties of this section in the Act. If the reconciliation does not last longer than ninety (90) days, then the parties can resume their divorce proceedings again. This means that the parties may obtain the divorce without taking into account the reconciliation.
For the strict purpose of dividing family property however, the Family Law Act states that the date the spouses separate with no reasonable prospect that they will resume cohabitation is the date that the court will consider as the valuation date. Therefore, if Larry and Shawn decide to separate once again then for the purposes of property division the ninety (90) day rule in the Divorce Act will not apply. Instead, the court will use the subsequent date of separation as opposed to the date when the parties separated before reconciliation to divide assets and equalize the net family property. Consequently, it may be possible in certain circumstances to have two different dates of separation: one pertaining to the divorce and one for the division of the net family property. Bear in mind that the aforementioned may be deviated from if a specific provision is included in a binding and enforceable Separation Agreement.
Duty of the court
It is also the duty of the court, before considering the evidence, to satisfy itself that there is no possibility of the reconciliation of the spouses, unless the circumstances of the case are of such a nature that it would clearly not be appropriate to do so. Where at any stage in a divorce proceeding it appears to the court from the nature of the case, the evidence or the attitude of either or both spouses that there is a possibility of the reconciliation of the spouses, the court may either adjourn the proceeding to afford the spouses an opportunity to achieve reconciliation. With the consent of the spouses or in the discretion of the court, the parties can then nominate that a person with experience or training in marriage counseling or guidance or in special circumstances, some other suitable person assist the spouses to achieve reconciliation. Therefore, if the matter proceeds to court, the judge also has a duty to facilitate reconciliation between the parties, if applicable in the circumstances.