A fresh perspective on divorce, spousal support, child support, parenting after separation and everything family law

Wedding: a Christmas gift

Last week a former homeless couple in Calgary got married with the help of donations.  As reported by Global Calgary:

Dolly Sutherland and her partner Mark fell on hard times and ended up homeless for several years. They spent many nights at the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre, but through it all there was one constant.

“I have someone that he’s there to hold my hand, when I fall down he’ll pick me up again,” Dolly says of Mark.

The feeling is mutual.

“To me she’s everything,” Mark says. “She’s family, friendship and love to me, one big package.”

It’s no wonder the couple wants to make it official, but weddings are pricey these days. So when the Drop-In Centre asked Dolly what she wanted for Christmas, one thing immediately came to mind—and incredibly, her wish was granted.

“I couldn’t believe when I had that phone call, my wish came true,” Dolly says.

A stranger offered to pay for the couple’s marriage license, and soon others stepped up to pay for flowers, a cake, dress and all the other little details.

For more information about the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Center you can check out the website.

“D” is for Divorce

I was watching my favorite video on the internet right now when I came across this video about an episode of Sesame Street called “D” is for Divorce:

As described by the Daily Mail:

Sesame Street has aired an episode which deals with the sensitive issue of divorce for the first time.

A scene on the issue had been originally written for the show in 1992 – but was a disaster when tested before an audience of pre-schoolers who misunderstood and became upset.

The idea was shelved until this year – when writers came up with a slot featuring a fairy called Abby Cadabby whose parents have been divorced for a while. The 13-minute segment will be aired online today. 

Check out the online article and the above video describing the making of the episode.  You can also find a summary of the 1992 episode, that was never aired, on Wikipedia.

Divorce: how long does it take?

Kim Kardashian separated from Kris Humphries after 72 days of marriage, but 365 days later, the divorce proceedings are still inching towards trial.

As reported in the Vancouver Sun:

Superior Court Judge Stephen Moloney told attorneys for Kardashian and NBA player Kris Humphries to return to court in mid-February to set a trial date to either dissolve or annul the couple’s 72-day marriage. He didn’t set a deadline for depositions and other pre-trial investigation to be completed, but indicated a trial could be held early next year if it is ready by Feb. 15.

 So how long does it take to get a divorce?

Legal time requirements for divorce are different in different countries.  In Canada, the Divorce Act sets out that a court can grant a divorce if there has been a breakdown of the marriage.    A breakdown of a marriage is described in Section 8 of the Divorce Act as:

8(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.

So, in Canada, you have to have lived separate and apart from your estranged spouse for one year prior to a divorce being granted unless there has been adultery or cruelty (as a note, if you are proceeding on adultery or cruelty there are specific evidentiary requirements that must be met).  After the year of separation, the process of getting the actual divorce usually between a couple of weeks and a couple of months if it is uncontested.  A breakdown of the timeline and steps can be found on JP Boyd’s family law resource.

Also, the Divorce Act sets out that a court in a province may only grant a divorce if one of the spouses has been ordinarily residence in that province for one year immediately preceding the commencement of divorce proceedings.

If a divorce can be finalized after one year of separation, why are my divorce proceedings entering year three?

The answer is, quite simply, if you agree on everything, and you file all of the right paper work, correctly filled out, at the  correct time and in the correct place, your divorce will move along quickly.

As summarized by the Ministry of Justice:

A divorce is relatively easy to get if your reason for the divorce is that you have been separated for a year or more and:

  • you both agree that you want a divorce, and you are not asking the court to settle any other issues, such as custodyaccess or support (this is usually called an “uncontested” divorce), or
  • you both agree that you want a divorce and agree on all other details, such as custody and support (this is called a “joint divorce action”), or
  • you alone are asking for a divorce and for the court to settle other issues, such as custody and support, and your spouse does not dispute the divorce or any of the issues.

A divorce is more complicated to get if your reason for the divorce is cruelty or adultery or your spouse decides to dispute the divorce or any other issues. This is often called a “defended” divorce.

It is when there are issues of disagreement that a divorce can span out longer periods of time.  For example, in the 2008 British Columbia Court of Appeal decision, Laxton v. Coglon, deals with a case in which divorce proceedings had been ongoing since 2001.

New Yorker Cartoon by Tom Cheney

 

Each family is different.  The length of time it takes to resolve the issues involved in your divorce will vary from others you know.

Family Law Act: March 18, 2013

I am looking forward to lots of things in 2013…for example:

The Family Law Act is coming into force on March 18, 2012 – it has just been announced.  The new legislation will substantially change family law in British Columbia and it will replace the Family Relations Act.

Divorce: how do I pop the question?

Have you seen Issac’s lip-dub marriage proposal?

To date, over 13 million people have seen this choreographed lip-dub marriage proposal.

In response, the people at Second City have come up with the first ever live lip-dub divorce proposal.

What do you think of the lip-dub divorce proposal?

Generally, you should not broach the topic of divorce through a lip-dub divorce proposal (unless your spouse has a really, really, really great sense of humor).

So how do you broach the topic of divorce (if you do not think the YouTube musical theater approach is appropriate)?

In Harriet Lerner, Ph.D’s book “The Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You’re Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed, or Desperate” she provides some guidance:

To say, “If these things don’t change, I’m not sure I can stay in this relationship, ” is to voice the ultimate bottom line. People threaten to divorce or break up in the heat of anger, which isn’t helpful or fair. Nor should you bring up divorce as an attempt to punish, scare, shape up, or shake up the other person. And surely you shouldn’t feel compelled to mention divorce simply because it passes through your head now and then. Many married folks entertain fantasies about divorce yet are far from acting on it.

That said, talking about divorce is important if you’re thinking seriously about it — even ambivalently. If you’re going back and forth about it in your mind, you need to consider sharing your struggle with your partner. If you do eventually terminate the marriage, a partner will be better able to handle a loss that can be anticipated and planned for. Everyone has the right to know just how high the stakes are if they choose to continue to behave as usual. You owe your partner honesty about a matter that so deeply affects both of you.

The book gives some food for thought about how to deal with difficult conversations, and also a few important caveats:

Obviously , we should never mention divorce (or anything else for that matter) if there is any possibility that a partner will become violent or out of control. In such a case, we first need to seek appropriate help and ensure our physical safety. Nor is it wise to begin a serious talk about divorce if we suspect that a partner might do something sneaky with money that would jeopardize a fair and equitable financial settlement. In such a case, it’s wise to first consult an attorney. Finally, if you’ve already made up your mind to leave, it’s not fair to involve your partner in conversations that imply you’re still willing to work on the marriage.

In terms of serving a partner with a Notice of Family Claim (a.k.a. divorce papers) the same goes – it is generally best to broach the subject of the court action prior to serving your spouse with the documents (unless the above caveats apply).

Divorce: how much are the Vancouver Canucks worth?

The answer is – we may never find out.

As reported by Neal Hall in the Vancouver Sun:

Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini has filed an application in court to keep the team’s financial information private during his divorce case.

A little background…

Francesco Aquilini is involved in divorce proceedings with his wife, Taliah Aquilini, in a Supreme Court of British Columbia file opened on February 22, 2012.

The Aquilini family has substantial assets, including an ownership interest in the Vancouver Canucks.  The team was valued at $300 million dollars by Forbes (calculated in November 2011).

Of course a valuation in Forbes is not adequate information to rely upon in dividing family assets upon marital breakdown.

What documents and information can I get about family assets in my divorce proceedings?

In divorce proceedings, a spouse is entitled to substantial financial disclosure – far more financial information than an estimate of value from Forbes.

A spouse is entitled to a Financial Statement, in Form F8 – which is a sworn statement setting out the income, assets and liabilities of the the other spouse, along with supporting documentation (such as tax returns and property assessments).

A spouse can also employ the Supreme Court Family Rules to gain more in depth access to information regarding both family assets, and other assets of the spouse.

Some of the methods to get financial information in a divorce proceeding include (but are not limited to):

  • Examinations for discovery;
  • Demands for production of documents (including demanding documents directly from the corporation/ business in which the spouse has an interest);
  • Examination and inspection of documents;
  • Discovery by interrogatories;
  • Examination of witnesses; and
  • Expert reports on financial issues.
You wrote in a previous blog that divorce files are only accessible to specific people…why does Francesco Aquilini need a further court order?

Divorce files are generally only accessible by the spouses and their respective legal counsel.

However, court proceedings are usually opened to the public, and court decisions are also made public.

Pursuant to Rule 5-1 of the Supreme Court Family Rules, the Supreme Court of British Columbia can make an order sealing financial information, if:

 the court considers that public disclosure of any information filed under this rule would be a hardship on the person in respect of whom the information is filed

Court documents, filed in the above noted application, set out:

One very prominent business owned by the Aquilini family is the Vancouver Canucks. Serious harm would flow to that business if its financial information were made publicly available.

The application brought by Mr. Aquilini should be heard in the Supreme Court of British Columbia (Vancouver Registry) on Tuesday, June 12, 2012, according to NBC Sports.

NOTE – If you need to find a courtroom or hearing time, daily lists can be found on Court Services Online.