After holiday season comes annual divorce rush

Jennifer Campbell, CanWest News Service 

Sunday, January 13, 2008


OTTAWA--After the season to be jolly comes, for some, the season to be single.


And for divorce lawyers, it means bracing for January and a deluge of calls from married folk who have made it through Christmas and New Year -- but just can't take it anymore.


By 11 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 7, the day family lawyer Leonard Levencrown returned from his holidays, he had received two cold calls -- both requesting divorce consultations.


In the first few days of 2008, Ottawa's Carol Cochrane received about four divorce-related calls from prospective new clients each day. In a typical week, she might receive four calls from new clients in total -- so there was a definite post-holiday increase, she said.


Mr. Levencrown said many couples contemplating separation won't do it over the holidays. "The calls start to come afterward," said the 34-year veteran of family law. He says he sees the same surge in September after the summer holidays are over.  "If they have a cottage, they wait until the kids are back to school before they do it," he said. "It's basically a cycle."


Divorces are on the rise across the country and in the national capital region, where 66,440 people defined themselves as divorced in the 2001 census. By 2006, that number jumped to 75,550 divorced people.


Other cities of similar size have seen comparable increases in the number of divorced residents -- in Edmonton the number rose from 59,445 to 67,700 in five years. In Calgary, it rose from 60,330 to 69,035. For Canada as a whole, 1,854,770 people identified themselves as divorced in 2001. By 2006, the total reached 2,087,385.


Mary Jane Binks, a partner with Gowlings, says she always gets more calls this time of year."I find Christmas is often a defining moment for a marriage," Ms. Binks said. She said she gets divorce-request calls around other defining moments -- even the wedding anniversary.


During family vacations and Christmas couples are thrown together, willingly or otherwise, and have to endure not only each other, but also each other's relatives. They might be able to live quite separate lives much of the time, but holidays and vacations change that.


"In periods where people have to have quite a bit of time with their partner, that can often be the straw that breaks the back of the marriage," Ms. Binks said. "Maybe it's the dismal proposition of another year with someone."


Ottawa Citizen