The internet and other forms of instant electronic communication make the world seem smaller than ever. For Canadians, online dating and other digital matchmaking platforms have opened up a vast pool of potential romantic partners outside the local community to the entire world.
If you met your spouse online and they moved to your community from another part of Ontario, Canada, or a completely different country to marry you or live with you, these circumstances may have legal implications on separation.
The first question I am going to answer is; how can a relationship started over the internet affect custody and access?
If your spouse has no family in your community and wants to move back home when the relationship ends, this can impact child custody and access issues. To be clear, custody refers specifically to decision making authority regarding a child on issues such as health, education, and religion.
In cases where parents live in different communities and the child lives primarily with one parent, that parent will likely have sole decision making authority for the child. The logic behind this kind of arrangement is that, practically speaking, the distance of the parent who lives in another community than the child likely means they may not have enough information to contribute meaningfully to the decision making process.
When one parent decides to return to their home town, there may be disagreement regarding access and residency of the child. Sometimes, children will come out worse off in these situations when they do not get to see both parents regularly. Regardless of where a child ends up living, large distances between parental homes means that access for one parent is more likely to be complicated and occur irregularly. The common result in these situations is that the non-custodial parents may only see their child once a month or a few times a year, i.e. during the Christmas school break, all the March Break, and the summer.
The next question I am going to discuss is; how can a relationship started over the internet affect spousal support?
If your former spouse gave up a successful career in their home community to be with you, then the negative effect that this had on their earning power may be a basis for them to claim spousal support if you are the higher income earner. If your former spouse came from somewhere far away, leaving behind family, friends, and the culture they know, this can also strengthen a potential spousal support claim. These factors can create a compensatory element to a spousal support claim. Essentially, if your spouse sacrificed a great deal to be in a relationship with you, there is a chance they may have a claim to spousal support.
What can you do next?
Well, if you are in the early stages of an internet romance, then think carefully about the information in this video and discuss it with your future spouse. If you are already in a relationship, where distance may play a role in relationship break down, consult with a family lawyer about your options.