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Canadian Divorce Glossary
If you're considering ending your marriage, learning to speak the "language" of divorce in Canada is an important first step. Below you will find a brief glossary of terms related to the separation process. These definitions are overviews, provided to help you begin to understand what is involved in ending a marriage.
Debts Incurred After Separation or Divorce - Generally, you will not be found liable for any debts your spouse incurred after separation or divorce (nor will you need to share with your spouse the value of any assets you acquire after separation or divorce).
Defined Benefit Plan - A defined benefit plan is a type of pension plan. A defined benefit plan promises that upon your retirement, you will collect a pre-determined monthly income for life. This amount is sometimes indexed for inflation, particularly in government plans. A defined benefit plan is often one of the most valuable assets in a divorce. It must be included in the division of your property. Normally, an actuary must appraise the value of your defined benefit pension.
Defined Contribution Plan - A defined contribution plan is another type of pension plan. A defined contribution plan is one in which your contributions to a retirement plan are known (defined). The amount of money to be distributed upon your retirement is unknown and depends upon the manner in which the yearly contributions have been invested, and the investment growth experienced over the years. Normally, for divorce purposes, a defined contribution plan is only worth the contributions you’ve made and accumulated growth, less any tax consequences.
Dependant - Dependant is a legal term for someone who is owed support. You have a legal obligation to support your children, your spouse, and even your parents.
Depression - Divorce may bring on depression about a variety of issues from the loss of day-to-day contact with your children to sorrow over "what might have been" with a spouse. Depression can be dangerous and is difficult to deal with without professional help.
Disbursements - Disbursements are the out-of-pocket expenses of your divorce lawyer. This includes expenses such as court fees, couriers, faxes, photocopies, appraisals and valuations of assets, and process servers.
Discovery - The discovery process is the legal procedure for gathering information. Either you or your divorce lawyer will collect as much detail as possible regarding your spouse, particularly your spouse’s financial situation. The discovery process involves requests for documents and questioning of your spouse under oath.
Division of Property - The exact rules for the division of property vary from province to province, but the court generally divides equally the assets accumulated during your marriage. However, a judge can order an unequal division of property based on facts such as whether the marriage was of a short duration, or whether one spouse recklessly depleted property.
Divorce - Divorce is what ends a marriage. If you are living as a common law couple, no divorce is necessary to end your relationship.
Domestic Violence - Domestic violence refers to abusive behaviors used by one person in a relationship to control or simply injure another. Violence is criminal and includes physical assault (hitting, pushing, shoving, etc.), sexual abuse (unwanted or forced sexual activity), and stalking. Although emotional, psychological and financial abuse are not criminal behaviors, they are forms of abuse.
Double Dipping - Double dipping describes the unfairness that results when property is awarded to a spouse in the division of property during a divorce, but is also treated as a source of income for purposes of calculating spousal support.
The most common example of double dipping is a pension, which is both an asset and a stream of income. In a divorce, the value of a pension gets divided between the spouses. Then, when the pension holder retires, he or she may need to pay spousal support based on the income from the pension.
The newest form of double dipping is receiving child support for one child from two fathers: both the biological father and a step-father.