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Separation, Divorce Proceedings, and Reconciliation

Reality TV star Khloé Kardashian married NBA basketball player Lamar Odom September 27, 2009 and separated in mid-2013. Kardashian filed for divorce December 13, 2013, and was reportedly dating other people throughout 2014 and 2015.

The couple finally signed their divorce papers in July of 2015 and submit them to a Judge in order to obtain a divorce. However, due to a backlog in the court, Kardashian and Odom's divorce had still not been finalized by October of 2015 when Odom was found unconscious and admitted to a Nevada hospital as a result of an overdose.

On October 21, 2015, two days after the Los Angeles Lakers player was flown back to Los Angeles, Kardashian's lawyer withdrew the couple's divorce petition and the couple is now said to be attempting to reconcile.

Impact of Reconciliation Attempts on Canadian Divorce Proceedings

Like Kardashian and Odom, many Canadian couples attempt to reconcile after initiating divorce proceedings. Since, the Divorce Act governs Canadian divorce law, it is important for divorcing Canadians to understand the relevant provisions of the Act in order to make informed choices about whether to attempt reconciliation.

Section 8(1) of the Divorce Act requires divorcing couples to establish that there has been a "breakdown of their marriage", which is the sole ground for obtaining a divorce. Since the most common way of establishing a breakdown of the marriage is by living separate and apart for a period of at least one year, divorcing couples might be concerned that any reconciliation attempt might restart the clock and prevent a divorce if the reconciliation attempt is unsuccessful.

In an effort to encourage reconciliation, section 8(3)(ii) of the Divorce Act provides that the necessary separation period is not interrupted or terminated by a couple's resumption of cohabitation if said resumption is for the purpose of attempting to reconcile and it lasts ninety days or fewer. The ninety days may consist of a single attempt or multiple attempts, the total of which is not more than ninety days.

What does this mean for couples like Kardashian and Odom?

Without the risk of disrupting the separation period, divorcing couples are free to get back together and attempt to work out their marital problems without worry that doing so will result in discontinuation of their divorce proceedings unless the reconciliation lasts over ninety days.

Under Canadian law, Kardashian could sit by Odom's bedside during his recovery with no need to withdraw their divorce petition. The couple would only need to be mindful of the ninety-day limit and conclude any reconciliation attempts within a cumulative total of ninety days or fewer if they determine that they will ultimately divorce and wish to avoid having to restart their year of separation.

Different Treatment with Respect to Property Under Ontario's Family Law Act

It is important to note that under Ontario's Family Law Act, reconciliation attempts do change the separation date for the purpose of net family property. The separation date is important because that is the date as of which each spouse's net property value is calculated. The equalization of net family property will be based the wealth accrued during the marriage by each spouse as of the separation date.

Since, under the Family Law Act, the separation date is changed by attempts to reconcile, the net family property of each spouse will be determined as of the new separation date after the reconciliation attempt fails. This is important for separated couples to keep in mind when considering whether to attempt to reconcile is one or both of the spouses has experienced or might experience a change in his or her wealth after the initial date of separation but before the failure of a reconciliation attempt. Any such increases in wealth or financial losses that occur before the new separation date would be shared equally between the spouses.