Be prepared, civilized and on the same page: Manitoba author shares lessons from his own divorce

Be prepared, civilized and on the same page: Manitoba author shares lessons from his own divorce

The goal may be a love and marriage that lasts forever, but a new book says people need to prepare for divorce to avoid financial and emotional disaster.

The Best Years Wasted: The disconnect between law and economics in divorce in Canada by retired University of Manitoba professor Al Loyns explores the costs of divorce, using his own as an example.

"Enormous amounts of our retirement assets and our son and granddaughter's inheritance were wasted as well as our own retirement and pleasure and probably some health," Loyns said on CBC's Weekend Morning Show.

After 43 years of marriage, Loyns said the divorce came out of the blue and he wasn't prepared. The process lasted seven years and Loyns said it "destroyed a lot of our retirement."

Unfortunately, Loyns said his scenario isn't particularly unique. There has been a dramatic increase in divorce among people over 50 — and much older. According to 2011 census data, in 2008 there were 1,237 divorces among women 65 and older, 2,486 among men and 852 where both partners were over that age.

While going through his own divorce, Lyons said he put on his economist hat and saw a process not meeting the standards that Canadians expect and deserve.

"I tend to get my professional and productive juices rolling and try to do something about it," he said.

 The first problem is the large cost of the actual divorce process, and not just the lawyer fees, Loyns said.

"The liquidation of assets, the inability to manage money over years, seven years of a company that was frozen and all of those activities had many kinds of influences but as an economist I tend to dwell on the business and the economic sides," he said.

When a person gets "trapped in the legal process" they lose control of managing their own activities, he said.

It can lead to animosity, conflict and a loss of family and friends.

Loyns said there needs to be frank conversations about divorce long before talks about divorce are even on the table.

"The book goes through the kinds of things that the couple needs to put together to anticipate, and this has to be done early and not later," he said. "When you get into a divorcing situation it's too late — the horse is out of the door."

Lawyers also need to be removed from divorce, Loyns said.

"If anything the adversarial part of law minimizes the civility that goes on between two people," he said.

While that may not change anytime soon in Canada, Loyns said there is one more piece of advice he has for couples, older or younger, who are heading for divorce: be prepared, be civilized in the process and be on the same page.

"That's not easy."