The Jewish Response to Marriage and Separation During COVID

By JOHN SYRTASH

During COVID, we are either getting closer to our spouses and loved ones, or are ready to kill them. If you have “had it” with your spouse or kids and are seriously considering separation and divorce, consider the following.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov taught that if you have a negative thought, like resentment or annoyance, then force yourself to think positively. For those facing the break-up up of their marriage, being positive will go a long way to reconcile or to make the divorce process go more smoothly and less costly.

So, learn the following strategies on how to resolve potential conflicts. This is especially true with the change in the Canadian Divorce Act coming into effect on July 1, 2020.

General Rules of Self-control:

• If you’re a victim of physical violence and constant verbal abuse, go your separate ways.

• Otherwise, in the absence of abuse, a bitter financial or parenting dispute can be costly. It can bankrupt you.

• If you feel that a nasty argument is about to happen, then it’s better to be smart than right. Leave your differences to when both of you are in a better place.

• Never raise your voice for any reason, no matter how bad the behaviour of your partner. 

• Ever say something you later regret? Stop. Convince yourself that someone else you respect is in the room listening to your angry outburst, and you will feel embarrassed. Embarrassment is a good thing and could stop you. It could be anyone: Your kids, your employer, your friend, a parent, even God, if you are so inclined. So, don’t lash out if provoked and politely excuse yourself. Cool down, go for a nice long walk, play a musical instrument. Go to a place of joy and distract yourself.

• When your partner grabs the remote for the sixth straight time, make a joke of it. Then lie, if necessary. Explain how much you enjoy that Serbian cooking show rather than the reruns of your favourite Raptors games.

• Stop worrying about the little things and soon you will realize that there are no big things.

Legal Information about separation during COVID, up to July 1, 2020:

• If you are determined to separate or your spouse initiates separation, please don’t leave your kids behind with the other parent without a legally binding written parenting agreement. If you do, you’ll likely be spending far less time with your kids than if you’d had an agreement, and you will undoubtedly lose any hope of having a significant parenting role, in most cases.

If negotiations fail, the courts will resolve the issue, but in the absence of violence, don’t leave. You should try and resolve when the home is sold, the split of other property, and the question of spousal and child support are determined. Get help from competent counsel.

• If you’ve separated and you have a parenting dispute, the courts are still open if these disputes are urgent. During COVID, Family Courts in Ontario are using virtual methods to conduct urgent hearings, whether in writing, by telephone, or Zoom video conferencing. Also, your lawyer can now file your court papers online. However, to get quick results, the issue must be pressing, such as in the case of denial of access to your children, the unfair retention of them, child abduction, or the need for money for immediate child and spousal support when warranted.

• If you can’t or won’t be permitted to see your kids because of COVID, insist on other forms of access a few times a week. You can still bless your children on Erev Shabbat by video or phone, according to certain authorities. If your spouse is against exposing your kids to any medical danger, then ask for virtual access such as Skype, WhatsApp or Zoom, and if you fail, the courts will likely order at least such access if you have an existing court order.

• If you fear that your spouse will lie about your interactions with him or her, communicate via Family Wizard Canada by downloading its app (there is a small fee). This communication service for separated parents monitors all emails the parties have sent to each other. They can’t be altered when using the app.


John Syrtash is an associate and family law lawyer with the Toronto firm of Garfin Zeindenberg LLP. He is the author of Religion and Culture in Canadian Family Law (Butterworths).

Neither Garfin Zeidenberg nor John Syrtash are liable for any consequences arising from anyone’s reliance on this material, which is presented as general information and not as a legal opinion.