father showing daughter the sunset

Sample Situations

Emotional Readiness

Yesterday Steve arrived home to find Gloria’s closet empty and a note saying she had decided their marriage was over. He was in shock. He thought their 20-year marriage was fine and suspected that she was going through a mid-life crisis. He did not see this coming and is reeling from the impact.

Maybe she will change her mind. Maybe she needs to see a counsellor. She had suggested some time ago that they both see a counsellor together, but he thought it was her stress over her sister’s death. He was tired of hearing about it after 2 years and had suggested she see someone. She did and now she has walked out! What should he do? She was asking for a divorce and he was too upset to think straight.

Steve would likely benefit from seeing a counsellor before taking any action that might cause further grief. He needs to take some time, begin to understand what went wrong and how best to address her needs – and his own. This is not a time to plunge quickly into making serious legal decisions.

Unmarried Couples – Property Division

Adam and Eve are NOT married and have been living together for 10 years. They separated recently. They own a home with title in Eve’s name. They ask- who gets to live in the home after they separate? Who gets the value when it is sold?

Wife And Husband Splitting House And Car During Divorce Process

Many people are surprised to learn that if you are NOT married, the home belongs to the person whose name is on title – with some exceptions. The same rule applies to other property, such as pensions, cars, etc. The basic premise is that if you are NOT married, you are “Separate as to Property” claims.

In this case, the home belongs to Eve and she can continue to live in it, or sell it, and is entitled to its value.

Adam is surprised and upset. He asks: “What are some exceptions?”

This is where Adam and Eve likely need legal advice. Adam may be entitled to some share of the value if he:

  • made the down payment or regular mortgage payments on the home, or
  • added considerable value to the home by unpaid work, for example, building an extension on the home, or
  • both agreed to put the title in Eve’s name (to protect it from creditors), but they understood that the home really was intended to be Adam’s or to be shared.

When you have a question about an important legal issue, it is best to ask a lawyer.

Also, the amount that Adam is entitled to would depend on the facts. It would not necessarily be shared equally.

Married Couples: Property Division (Business Valuation)

Tom and Susie were married 15 years ago.  Tom owns an auto repair business. They are about to separate. Susie asks “Am I entitled to any value from Tom’s business?

When couples are married, the VALUE of the property they bought during the marriage and still have on the date of separation (called ‘V’ Day); less their debts, is shared. Susie likely needs a business valuator to determine the value of Tom’s business on the date of marriage and on the date of separation. Half of the increased value during the marriage will be counted as part of her net worth.

When there are important questions about the value of expensive property, such as a business or home, it is important to consult a lawyer and a financial professional to ensure a fair result.

Parenting Plan

Tom and Susie have 2 children, Mike age 9 and Betty, age 7 and they heard from a friend that you need a Parenting Plan. Why do we need a Parenting Plan and what is it?

When parents separate, children almost always want to maintain a close relationship with both parents. They don’t want to see their parents in conflict. A Parenting Plan helps parents to decide they will share caretaking responsibilities, make significant decisions and spend time with their children. The Parenting Plan gives children the security and predicable structure they need to lessen the impact of separation.

It is often helpful to get assistance from a mediator who is a parenting specialist. They focus the conversation on issues that are appropriate for the children’s age and personality and that work well for the parents. If parents design a plan that works for everyone, future conflict is minimized.

Child Support and Spousal Support

Mohammad and Hania are both working, they decided that their 3 children age 14, 12, and 9 will live with each parent on alternate weeks. Both are engineers and earn approximately the same income.

Does either parent have to pay child support to the other?

In this case, the parents have about the same income and the children are living with each parent equally. Mohammad and Hania are each responsible for the children’s expenses in their own home. Special expenses, such as private school, future university tuition, special medical expenses or significant extra curricular activity costs would be shared equally. Neither would have a spousal support obligation for the other… unless there were a significant change in their circumstances.

Child Support and Spousal Support

Li and Yasmin have 3 children age 8, 5, and 3. Li works as an engineer and Yasmin is a homemaker. The children reside primarily with Yasmin and spend time with Li on alternate weekends and for dinner one evening on alternate weeks. Yasmin asks whether Li has a child support obligation? Since the children are residing primarily with Yasmin AND she does not have an income.

Li’s support obligation can be found in the Child Support tables based on his income and the number of children. Li would have an additional spousal support obligation until their circumstances changed, for example, if Yasmin were to earn a good income or if she remarried.

Since the children are residing primarily with Yasmin AND she does not have an income. Li’s support obligation can be found in the Child Support tables based on his income and the number of children. Li would have an additional spousal support obligation until their circumstances changed, for example, if Yasmin were to earn a good income or if she remarried.

Domestic Violence, Power Imbalance & Control

Gina and Tony have 3 young children. There has been a history of physical and emotional abuse since Gina’s first pregnancy. Gina is afraid to ask for a separation. Her family are well known in their faith community and she does not want to shame them. Tony is well respected in their Church and she may not be believed if she reveals the abuse.

If she separates, Gina is worried about the children – they need a father, and she needs financial support. What should she do?

It takes courage to ensure everyone is safe. It is best to talk to a domestic violence advocate who understands your concerns and can support you and your family. Most important is that you and the children are safe. If your spouse is willing, he can be offered help to deal with his anger and prevent more serious problems.

Spousal Support

Ruth and David have been married for 15 years and separated recently. Ruth is the Principal of the local High School and David was a fitness trainer at a local Athletic Club that closed during much of the COVID crisis. They have 2 children, age 12 and 9 and they agreed that David will be the primary caregiver during the week and home school the children until life returned to “normal”. The children will spend weekends, and most school breaks and special holidays with Ruth.

David wonders if either parent must pay child support? What about Spousal Support?

Ruth would most likely pay child support to David. The basic amount can be found in the Federal Child Support Tables for 2 children. Any special expenses as defined in the Guidelines would be divided according to each parent’s income (not counting the child support).

With respect to Spousal Support, there are Advisory Guidelines that vary by the length of the marriage (between 10 and 20 years is an intermediate range) and the income of each parent after deducting any amount paid for the children. The duration of this support would depend on several factors – will David be able to return to work?   What did he earn? Did he remarry and what impact did that have on his finances?

This is a good question for a lawyer once you know the Parenting Arrangements and what everyone’s income is.

University Tuition

Shahid and Aliaa have separated and their 2 children, Cara age 22 and Kamal age 19 are in university. Cara has been accepted into Law School and Kamal is starting an undergrad program in another city. Both parents are working in government jobs. They have different views about whether they are obligated to pay their children’s tuition and residence costs. Shahid view is that a parent’s financial responsibility ends after high school. He paid his own way for any post secondary education. Aliaa believes that parents should do whatever they can to support their children’s education and her parents contributed what they could, and she got a part-time job to assist.

What is Shahid and Aliaa’s obligation for their children’s post secondary education expenses?

Today, at least one university/community college degree is considered a basic level of education. Both parents will likely be expected to share the cost of tuition, residence and basic school supplies. After the first degree, the answer is “it depends” on such factors as the parents’ income, education, what the family planned before separation, and whether the child could contribute by working part time or getting a scholarship. This would be a good question to ask a lawyer or financial advisor.

Dispute Resolution (DR) Options

Don and Jeff separated just before COVID and after a 12-year marriage. They own a restaurant together and need to decide what will happen with the business that was profitable until COVID. The pandemic and the changing government rules have made their decisions complicated. Both are sad that their relationship failed and do not want to end up as enemies. They want the business to continue, but do not know if or how this might be possible.

What are their options? They are familiar with court, but litigation would be costly, it could take several years until their case reaches trial, and they are worried that the process would be stressful and undermine any future cooperation.

Don and Jeff want assistance in reaching a fair and reasonable outcome that allows the business to continue and meets each of their financial needs.

Couples who are reasonably cooperative, are seeking a fair outcome that meets both their needs in a timely and cost-effective way have several alternatives to court.

  • One is Mediation where an impartial facilitator manages the conversation in a constructive way. The outcome is decided by the couple with the mediator acting as a guide – not a decision-maker. Refer to Mediation
  • Another option is a Collaborative process with a lawyer representing each of them during the discussions.  Collaboratively trained lawyers do not appear in court, so the goal is reaching an agreement. In this case a business valuator is likely needed in both options as a consultant hired jointly by both Don and Jeff to provide impartial accounting expertise. Refer to Collaborative Law