Gemma Arterton, Bond girl from the film Quantum of Solace and princess from Prince of Persia, was finally granted a divorce from her now former husband, Stefano Catelli, after more than two years of waiting.
Arterton and Catelli were married in 2010 by way of an intimate ceremony held in a small Spanish village in Andalucia. It was not long thereafter that the couple's romantic adventure wound down and they eventually began living separate and apart.
Despite having separated in November of 2012, the couple remained legally married until August 21st, 2015, when the Central Family Court in High Holborn (London, England) was finally able to grant their divorce. Even though there were no contentious issues that could delay the divorce between Ms. Arterton and Mr. Catelli and they were leading separate lives, the couple was not eligible to obtain a divorce under English law until they could establish the legal grounds for the divorce.
Had this same set of facts arisen before a Canadian court, this process could have been much shorter.
Important Differences between Divorce Laws in Canada and England
Much like Canadian divorce law, English divorce law requires Applicants to establish grounds for obtaining a divorce. In Canada, the sole ground for divorce is breakdown of the marriage. Similarly in England, spouses can obtain a divorce on the ground that their marriage has irretrievably broken down.
Section 8 of Canada's Divorce Act reads as follows:
8.(1) A court of competent jurisdiction may, on application by either or both spouses, grant a divorce to the spouse or spouses on the ground that there has been a breakdown of their marriage.
Section 1 of England's UK Statute 1973 c. 18 Pt. reads as follows:
1. (1) Subject to section 3 below, a petition for divorce may be presented to the court by either party to a marriage on the ground that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
One of the differences between Canadian and English divorce law lies in the requirements that must be met in order to establish the requisite breakdown in the marriage. In Canada, there is a one-year separation period required before a divorce can be granted and the Respondent need not consent to the separation, whereas English law requires a two-year separation even if with the Respondent's consent and a five-year separation if the Respondent does not consent.
Section 8.(2) of Canada's Divorce Act states that the breakdown of a marriage is only established if one of the following is proven:
(a) 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
(b) the spouse against whom the divorce proceeding is brought has, since celebration of the marriage,
(i) committed adultery, or
(ii) treated the other spouse with physical or mental cruelty of such a kind as to render intolerable the continued cohabitation of the spouses.
Section 8.(3) of Canada's Divorce Act further clarifies that, for the purposes of section 8.(2)(a), the separation period is determined based on the following:
(a) spouses shall be deemed to have lived separate and apart for any period during which they lived apart and either of them had the intention to live separate and apart from the other; and
Section 1.(2) of England's UK Statute 1973 c. 18 Pt. states that a marriage cannot be found to have broken down irretrievably unless the petitioner satisfies the court of at least one of the following:
(a) that the respondent has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent;
(b) that the respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent;
(c) that the respondent has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition;
(d) that the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition (hereafter in this Act referred to as "two years’ separation") and the respondent consents to a decree being granted;
(e) that the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition (hereafter in this Act referred to as "five years’ separation").
It is due to England's two-year separation requirement that Ms. Arterton had to wait so long to obtain her divorce. Thankfully for Ms. Arterton, her former husband consented to the divorce and she was not subject to the five-year separation requirement.
The important thing to note is that, if a similar case arose in Canada, the Applicant would only be required to establish one year of separation before becoming eligible for a divorce and the Respondent would not need to agree to separate in order to begin counting that one-year separation period. Separation can be a unilateral decision so long as at least one of the parties takes steps to begin living separate and apart.
If Canadian law applied to Ms. Arterton's matter, she could have been eligible to obtain her divorce much earlier.