Volume 94, Issue 40

Thursday, November 9, 2000


What breaks a marriage can break a family - reasoning behind the breakup

The impact of divorce on kids

What breaks a marriage can break a family - reasoning behind the breakup

By Lindsay Satterthwaite
Gazette Staff

When did the significance and worth of marriage vows become as dispensable as they now seem to be?

The fairytale wedding may still exist, but the fairytale marriage is becoming less predominant in our society. Increasing divorce rates stand as annual reminders the saying "till death do us part," is no longer taken seriously by married couples.

The divorce rate in Canada is on the rise, according to numbers from Statistics Canada. In 1998, 69,088 divorces were completed, with 25,149 of those in Ontario alone, said information officer for Statistics Canada, Stephanie Bond.

Lorne Wolfson, a family law lawyer, said there is a two year lag period in statistics which accounts for the 1990-1993 recession. Statistics are based on when the divorce is final, he said, noting there has been a huge boom in divorces in the last few years. "When there are good economic times, there is a higher divorce rate," he said. "People tend not to fight over divorce, they fight over money and kids."

Wolfson added there was a big drop in the separation rate during the recession because of the difficulty in selling homes – often a couple's largest asset. When the economy is better, the house can be sold and the couple is more comfortable financially, which increases alternatives available to each partner.

Desmond Ellis, a sociology professor at York, agreed, saying there are a higher concentration of divorces in urban life because of the greater perception of alternatives. Urban life provides greater opportunity for employment, residence and money, all of which are important when a partner chooses to leave, explained Ellis. A large network of friends and family in close proximity, is also extremely important, he added.

"The divorce statistics are not credible though because of the increase in common-law marriages and cohabitiation, which are not included in the statistics," Wolfson said.

Ellis said the high rates of divorce are due to a high rate of less stable cohabitation, which leads to disruption and mobility in society. "There are not any necessary legal implications when a common-law relationship ends," he said. This is what stops these separations from becoming divorce statistics, he added.

"Where there are high rates of divorce, there are increasing rates of remarriage. The result of which is a less stable environment," Ellis said. Young people often prefer to live together instead of remarrying.

"Divorce rate is noticeably higher in second marriages," Ellis said. Remarrying however, leads to blended families, which leads again to unstable relationships, he added.

Ellis explained a blended family as one where children live with one biological parent and one step-parent. "Step-children are often victims of abuse," he said. Everytime you bring different families together, there is a higher chance for conflict, he said.

According to Statistics Canada, a current trend is that men and women are getting divorced at a later age. In 1998, men were calling it quits at an average age of 42.0 years, while women decided to make the split at an average age of 39.4 years, up 2.5 per cent from 1997.

The increase is partially due to the fact that couples get married later in life, Bond said.

Couples experiencing marital problems often stay together while their children are growing up and once the kids leave, the parents get divorced, Ellis explained.

Julie Harnum, a second-year Western political science student, witnessed her parents' 28-year-marriage come to an end. She explained her parents would have gotten divorced about five years ago, but waited until she and her brothers were older.

"I have less faith in relationships now," Harnum said, of her own experiences.

"Parental divorce is a good predictor of the eventual divorce of their children," Ellis said. He clarified children of divorced parents are more likely to have failed marriages than those whose parents remain married.

Wolfson said the divorce rate will eventually level off. "There has to be a percentage of the community that will work through their differences," he said.

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