Analysis of Data from the Federal Justice Divorce File Review Study: Report on Findings for Alberta, 2011

This latest report from the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family (CRILF) looks at data collected from the Calgary registry of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench by the federal Department of Justice in 2011. The Report is authored by Sibyl Kleiner, Lorne Bertrand, Joanne Paetsch and John-Paul E. Boyd.

Highlights from the Report include:
  • Two-thirds of divorce claims were initiated by women, and three-quarters of plaintiffs were either represented by or had the assistance of a lawyer at some point in the case. Just under one-half of defendants had legal representation at some point in the case.
  • Almost 15% of the court files reviewed included a reference to family violence somewhere in the file.
  • Mental or physical cruelty was given as a reason for marriage breakdown in only 2.7% of files. Separation for not less than one year was given as a reason for marriage breakdown in 98.6% of cases.
  • On average, spouses had been separated for approximately 2.5 years before the start of proceedings in the Court of Queen’s Bench. The least amount of time passing between these dates was zero years, and the most time passing was 16.4 years.
  • The average length of time from the start of proceedings to the making of the final divorce order was 1.3 years. The least amount of time passing between these dates was 0.1 years, and the most time passing was 6.4 years.
  • Interim orders were more likely to be made in cases mentioning family violence (27%) than in cases where there was no mention of violence (3%).
  • In cases mentioning family violence, a larger proportion of plaintiffs were women than in cases where there was no mention of family violence. Plaintiffs and defendants were also, on average, younger in cases involving family violence.
  • In just over two-thirds of the first orders made in the files reviewed, mothers and stepmothers had the primary residence of the eldest child. Fathers and stepfathers had the primary residence of the eldest child in 10.6% of initial orders, and the primary residence of the eldest child was shared in 14.2% of initial orders.
  • In 30.8% of the first orders made in the files reviewed, mothers and stepmothers had the sole responsibility for decision-making in respect of the eldest child. Fathers and stepfathers had sole responsibility for decision-making for the eldest child in 6.9% of initial orders, and responsibility for decision-making for the eldest child was shared in 62.3% of initial orders.
  • Orders on parenting arrangements were made more frequently in cases mentioning family violence (42.6% of cases included two or more orders on parenting arrangements) than in cases not mentioning violence (9.4% of cases included two or more such orders).

Recommendations in this Report encourage the provincial and federal governments to do more work with the data already collected and to undertake a new round of data collection using the materials prepared for 2011.

CRILF acknowledges the ongoing financial support of the Alberta Law Foundation, without which this Report could not have been completed. The complete Report is available on the CRILF website.

Details in this post were taken from information circulated by the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family.

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