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Group lays down the law for lovers

TORONTO - No one wants to think about the law when they're in love.

TORONTO - No one wants to think about the law when they're in love.

But that is just what an Ontario group looking to improve the family justice system is recommending.

A group from The Law Commission of Ontario said giving people a lesson in the law before they marry may prevent marriage breakdowns.

"They need more information about what the consequences are of living with someone. What am I getting into if I get married, what are my legal obligations?" said Julie Lassonde, a research lawyer with the commission.

The group released results Thursday of its consultations with people involved in the family law process.

Lassonde said the resonating theme among couples embroiled in the legal process is that many of them wished they had more information before they tied the knot.

Family law is focused on marriage failure and there are scant resources to discuss family formation, she added.

"These are all kind of taboo topics," said Lassonde. "No one wants to talk about the law when they're in love, but it would avoid, we believe, a lot of difficulties at breakdown."

The group has brainstormed ideas about offering resources, such as information sessions before a couple receives a marriage certificate or after they have a child, when they register the birth.

"I think with a touch of humour people could benefit from those sessions," said Lassonde.

But learning about love can also come earlier. High schools already teach sex ed, but perhaps lessons could incorporate the practical elements of marriage and relationships, Lassonde said.

"It's to introduce some broad concepts, some ideas so young people are better equipped to build relationships that make sense to them," she said.

During the consultations some participants told the group that education and testing, similar to that for a driver's licence, should be required before marriage.

"It would be ludicrous to allow individuals free rein to drive without training and education, and following an accident bring them to task for failing to meet the requirements of the laws of driving," the Ontario Native Women's Association told the group.

After consultations, Lassonde said recommendations will be made available to the public in early 2011.

She said it may be difficult for people to shift their thinking about marriage and family, but she wants couples to realize there is a legal dimension to marriage.

"It is a contract," Lassonde added.

 
 
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