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Country music legend Reba McEntire recently opened up about her divorce from Narval Blackstock in a Country Music Television interview. The singer's divorce was finalized in October 2015, ending a 26 year marriage.

In the interview, McEntire stated that the divorce was Blackstock's idea and that she wanted to remain married to him. She did not want to separate at all.

McEntire's sentiments surely echo with the feelings and experiences of many spouses who are faced with an unwanted or unexpected separation or divorce.

If McEntire were an Ontario resident when Blackstock requested a divorce, could there have been any legal steps she could take to stop him?

Under section 8 of the Divorce Act, a spouse only needs to establish that there has been a breakdown of marriage to be eligible for a divorce. According to section 8(2), a breakdown of marriage can be established by:

  1. Living separate and apart for one year;
  2. One spouse committing adultery; or
  3. One spouse treating the other with intolerable physical or mental cruelty.

If Blackstock applied for a divorce on the basis of living separate and apart, he need only demonstrate that they lived apart for a full, uninterrupted year and that he had the intention to do so. Regardless of whether McEntire agreed that she and Blackstock were separating, her consent to the separation is not a legal necessity.

Blackstock, and others with a spouse who is reluctant to separate, can unilaterally make the decision to live separate and apart from their spouse in order to become eligible for a divorce. Having to live under the same roof does not prevent the year-long countdown from ticking.

A spouse can establish the fact of separation by their actions, conduct, or words. For example, a court is likely to find that spouses were separated despite living in the same home when the following circumstances are present:

  • The spouses occupy separate bedrooms;
  • An absence of sexual relations;
  • Minimal communication between the spouses;
  • The spouses are no longer providing domestic services for each other;
  • Meals are eaten separately; and
  • The spouses no longer socialize as a couple.

So long as Blackstock maintained a consistent intention to separate through his behaviour, McEntire's disagreement has little impact on his eligibility for divorce and ability to submit an Application.

Overall, there is no legal means by which the protesting spouse can stop the other's ability to obtain a divorce if that spouse has already made up their mind. The painful and legal reality is that when a spouse wants to end the marriage, it is usually over unless the parties are able to reconcile.