August 23, 2002
I read in the paper that the Minister of
Justice is thinking about doing some tinkering with the language of
the Divorce Act.
One way or the other I don't think it will
personally have any effect on me. I've been married for twelve
years, and my wife says she doesn't believe in divorce. Murder yes,
but not divorce.
Besides, before making an honest living I
was a divorce lawyer for ten years. That doesn't frighten my wife,
though. She was a divorce lawyer too, and to be honest she was a
much better one than me. If push ever came to shove, I'd be lucky to
hang onto my Star Wars action figures.
Our friends thought that two divorce lawyers
getting married showed courage. I thought it was quite sensible,
since we both had a daily lesson in what not to do if you want to
keep your marriage together. One of the rules people seem to forget
is that once you get married, you're supposed to stop dating other
people. It seems pretty basic to me, but a lot of my former clients
appeared to have trouble with this one. You're also supposed to
marry people because you love them and can get along with them. Any
other reason just isn't good enough, and could land you on the
opposite side of my desk.
It never ceased to amaze me how bad people
could be to one another. For example, I had one woman who was
ordered to give her husband back all his suits that she kept locked
away after they split. When he showed up at the door to collect them
(with the local police in attendance), she gave them to him all
right - each one with the crotch neatly cut out of the pants. At
least he wasn't wearing them at the time.
Then there was the couple who couldn't
decide how to split up their stuff, so they tossed a coin to
determine who would get first pick. He won. What did he pick first?
Her sewing machine.
Finally, I think the low point was when a
client of mine attacked the other lawyer with an umbrella while we
were still in court. It didn't matter that the other lawyer had it
coming, I knew it was only a matter of time before someone came at
me with a parasol.
Happily I gave up the job of "putting
people asunder" years ago and now just have to wrestle with
words on a page. Even so, I couldn't help wondering when I saw that
the Minister of Justice is thinking about changing a couple of words
in the Divorce Act to make it seem less adversarial. Words like
"custody" and "access" are supposed to be
eliminated from Canada's divorce laws this fall, and are going to be
replaced with new terminology to make parents feel less like winners
and losers when fighting tooth and nail over their kids.
No one is quite sure what the new
replacement words are going to be yet, but they're supposed to
emphasize the idea that both parents are responsible for their kids'
upbringing. But whatever words they end up using, it's admitted that
it really won't change the law - just they way they hope people will
behave when mud wrestling over the kids.
Unfortunately I have to admit I'm a bit of a
cynic when it comes to expecting good faith from people who
frequently behave badly. To me it's a little too much like deciding
to stop using the word "arson", and hoping it will
convince people to stop setting fires.