Valentine’s Day Series, Part 1: Secrets Between Spouses


In the current age of technology, privacy is frequently on everyone’s mind. But how does this impact spousal relationships? People generally have a natural reaction to hide certain things and keep them private, even from their spouses. How does this intersect with Family Law? We’ve broken down the most common secrets into three categories:

  1. Hopeless Romantic Hush-hush

Surprise proposal; hidden birthday presents; secret love letters.

These are common secrets that spouses keep for the benefit of their spouse. So long as your spouse generally likes surprises, these won’t have you running to call your family law lawyer.

  1. Little White Lies

Hiding the junk food you promised your spouse you wouldn’t eat; the smut stash saved as “Tax Documents” on the computer; or the flirtatious interaction with a co-worker.

Similar to the first category, while your spouse may not be very happy with you, these are likely not a reason to call your family law lawyer. Carving out personal space in relationships does not require intervention from the courts, but sharing honestly about these things may bring you and your spouse closer and prevent you from ending up in front of a judge in the future.

In Canada, we have a no-fault divorce system. This means that the personal behaviour of your spouse leading to your separation does not affect your family law position.  Unless that behaviour causes a dissipation of family assets or is contrary to the best interests of the children, the conduct of a spouse does not matter to a judge.

  1. Hidden Hazard

Discovering photos of your spouse in a compromising position with another; drug paraphernalia behind the toilet tank; romantic messages that aren’t for you; a property tax bill for a home you weren’t aware of in your spouse’s name; or a Visa bill for a romantic getaway for two that you never went on.

Some secrets, when uncovered, make it difficult to continue your relationship.  While the decision to leave your spouse is a significant one and completely your own, you need not have come to a final decision before contacting a family law lawyer to discuss your options:

  1. if you and your spouse have children, and the uncovered secret affects your spouses’ ability to parent, this may be a reason to seek legal advice;
  2. if your spouse has hidden assets, these may be family property as defined by the Family Law Act and subject to division.  You should keep a copy or photograph of the documents;
  3. if your spouse has been dissipating family assets (an expensive affair, a second family, or a large amount of debt without your knowledge), you may be able seek to have family property reapportioned in your favour, or family debt reapportioned to your spouse.

This Valentine’s Day, we hope yours is filled with Hopeless Romantic Hush-hushs and not Hidden Hazards. However, if you or your spouse decides to open up about (or stumbles upon) any Hidden Hazards, contact our office for legal advice.