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Are Some People Genetically Destined for Divorce?

Are Some People Genetically Destined for Divorce?

Some surmise that children of divorce may experience a greater chance of divorce when they grow up because of their environment. Recent studies and news reports suggest that when it comes to divorce history may indeed repeat itself but not for the reasons you may think.

Studies and prior literature emphasized that divorce was transmitted across generations psychologically and as a result of environmental factors.

However, recent studies  “contradict that, suggesting that genetic factors are more important.”

Jessica Salvatore, Ph.D. reports that:

The study’s findings are notable because they diverge from the predominant narrative in divorce literature, which suggests that the offspring of divorced parents are more likely to get divorced themselves because they see their parents struggling to manage conflict or lacking the necessary commitment, and they grow up to internalize that behavior and replicate it in their own relationships.

[The study] analyzed Swedish population registries and found that people who were adopted resembled their biological — but not adoptive — parents and siblings in their histories of divorce.

By recognizing the role that genetics plays in the intergenerational transmission of divorce, therapists may be able to better identify more appropriate targets when helping distressed couples, Salvatore states:

“At present, the bulk of evidence on why divorce runs in families points to the idea that growing up with divorced parents weakens your commitment to and the interpersonal skills needed for marriage. So, if a distressed couple shows up in a therapist’s office and finds, as part of learning about the partners’ family histories, that one partner comes from a divorced family, then the therapist may make boosting commitment or strengthening interpersonal skills a focus of their clinical efforts.”

So how does free will and fault play into divorce in light of these findings?

In Ontario, we operate a no-fault divorce process:

Under the Divorce Act, you do not need to prove that your spouse was at fault in order to get a divorce. If the reason you are asking for a divorce is marriage breakdown, shown by one year of living apart, either of you can request a divorce. It does not matter which one of you decided to leave. In fact, the law gives you the choice of applying to the court together to ask for a divorce.
However, if the reason you are asking for a divorce is marriage breakdown because of adultery or mental or physical cruelty, you will have to have proof of what happened.

As a result, someone’s genetic disposition, as it relates divorce, will not shape the outcome of the divorce proceeding. But as Dr Salvatore’s study suggest, this information would be helpful in therapy and focusing clinical efforts on boosting commitment or strengthening interpersonal skills.

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders.  For more information, visit us at

Arizona may soon decide what happens to embryos after divorce

Arizona May Soon Decide What Happens To Embryos After Divorce

Senate Bill 1393 would require courts to give frozen embryos to the spouse who “intends to allow the embryos to develop to birth.”

It was reported that “If both adults want to use the embryos to have a baby, the court would have to give them to the one who “provides the best chance” of successfully doing so. … [and that] the spouse who does not receive the embryos would not have parental rights or responsibilities to any resulting children unless they agree to them.”

“Opponents say it would interfere in infertility treatment, could force exes to become parents against their will, and is a back-door way to change the legal definition of personhood in Arizona.”

It was also reported that “The influential Center for Arizona Policy, an anti-abortion advocacy group, is pushing the legislation.”

In Canada, Do Sperm Cells Constitute “Property” Subject to Division After Separation?

We previously reviewed a British Columbia Court decision that reviewed whether the sperm straws were “property”, and whether the best interests of the existing children, plus any future offspring from the same donor, should be considered in determining what should be done with them.

Ultimately – and while noting that “the court is ill-equipped to handle moral and philosophical arguments – it ruled that the 13 sperm straws were indeed “property”, and that they should be divided equally between the former partners. However, the best interests of the children that had already been born from the particular donor’s sperm straws, as well as any future children that might be born, were not part of the consideration. Trying to analyze (and potentially place limits on) the use to which a couple could use the sperms straws would be “borderline discriminatory”. Moreover, identifying the best interests of a child yet unborn would be merely speculation.

What is Ontario doing?

We previously reviewed the the All Families Are Equal Act (Parentage and Related Registrations Statute Law Amendment), 2016 proposes some important government-initiated changes designed to provide “greater clarity to parenting laws in Ontario”. As for November 2, 2016, the Bill has been ordered for Third Reading, which means it’s one step closer to being enacted into a law.

The Bill makes various changes to existing legislation, most notably the Children’s Law Reform Act where it sets out new rules of “parentage” for the purposes of all Ontario laws; it also clarifies the interplay of those new laws with existing ones. In particular, new provisions are aimed specifically at rights relating to children born through assisted reproduction, as follows:

• The mere fact that a person provides reproductive materials (i.e. sperm or an ovum) or an embryo for use in assisted reproduction is not in itself sufficient to make that person a parent (except of course where those items are provided for the person’s own reproductive use).

• A child’s birth parent, meaning the person who gives birth to the child, is considered a parent of the child; the only exception is a surrogate (who under normal circumstances is not considered to be the child’s parent).

• If the child is conceived without assisted reproduction, then the child’s biological father is also considered to be a parent, although this is subject to rebuttable presumptions (expressly set out in the new law) as to how the biological father may be determined. There are special rules for insemination by a sperm donor.

• If a child is conceived through sexual intercourse, then the person who provided sperm is also a parent of the child. Rebuttable presumptions are set out respecting how that person may be determined; the biological parents may agree in advance in writing that the person providing the sperm does not intend to be a parent of the child.

• A birth parent’s spouse at the time a child is conceived – either through assisted reproduction or through insemination by a sperm donor – is presumed to be a parent of the child. This is also subject to a rebuttable presumption, and there are also exceptions.

• A birth parent may enter into a pre-conception parentage agreement, involving one or more persons, in which they agree together to be the parents of a child who has not yet been conceived. To be valid, the agreement must involve no more than four parties.

Obviously this is an evolving area of law for many jurisdictions with different governments and Courts having quite different approaches to the difficult question: What happens to embryos after divorce?

What do you think?

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders.  For more information, visit us at

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