Vanilla Ice, legendary musician turned reality TV star, has separated from his wife of 14 years Laura Giaritta. Despite amazing rhymes which no doubt filled their household; their marriage has not been without its problems. In 2001 Vanilla plead guilty to assaulting his wife, and was charged again in 2008, though the charges were later dropped. We would never care to speculate on what is going on inside the house that Ice built;this does present itself as an opportunity to discuss one of the rarely used grounds of divorce. If there is in fact abuse going on and Laura sought to divorce Vanilla in Ontario, would that qualify as a ground for divorce?
In order to be granted a divorce the Divorce Act requires there be a breakdown of the marriage; demonstrated by one of three things:
Breakdown of marriage
(2) Breakdown of a marriage is established only if
(a) the spouses have lived separate and apart for at least one year immediately preceding the determination of the divorce proceeding and were living separate and apart at the commencement of the proceeding; or
(b) the spouse against whom the divorce proceeding is brought has, since celebration of the marriage,
(i) committed adultery, or
(ii) treated the other spouse with physical or mental cruelty of such a kind as to render intolerable the continued cohabitation of the spouses.
Claiming physical or mental cruelty for the reason for the breakdown of the marriage has several consequences. First unlike the most common ground for divorce, having lived separate and apart for one year, a divorce due to cruelty is granted immediately. There is no need to wait one year. Secondly, cruelty is not just something the court will grant automatically. The person claiming it must prove to the court that there was mental or physical cruelty and it was so bad that it made living with the spouse intolerable. This is not something the court takes lightly.
We wish Ice and Laura all the best in this difficult time and hope this can serve as a lesson to others as well. Even if you’re married to Vanilla; marriage can still be a Rocky Road.