Cruise Control

Protect your assets like a celebrity!

While Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini was recently successful in shielding his financial divorce documents from prying eyes, the same can’t be said for the financial terms surrounding the quickie divorce of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.

According to oneUSmedia source, Katie walked away with no spousal support from Tom, or any share in Tom’s assets, certainly noteworthy considering he’s worth approximately 250 million US dollars.

All of which is not so surprising since the pair apparently inked an ironclad pre-nup, which no doubt specified no support or asset division in the event of divorce.

But before anyone sheds any tears for Katie, she will repeatedly be receiving child support payments of approximately $33,300.00 per month for their daughter Suri, until she turns 18 years of age.

Here in BC, the amount of child support is calculated by using the income of the paying spouse, and the Federal Child Support Guidelines.  I have no way of knowing how they calculated this amount for Tom.  (However, for those curious souls like me, if Tom was here working in BC and paying child support of $33,300.00 for 1 child, he would need to have an income of approximately $4,500,000.00).

However, just like here in BC, Tom is also responsible for additional expenses, such as Suri’s tuition, ($40,000.00 per year), medical expenses, etc.  In BC, Tom and Katie would share such expenses in proportion to their respective incomes, (and adjust annually), or they could simply agree to share them 50/50.

According to the sameUSsource, one of the divorce terms also specifies that Suri not attend any sort of “ residential school,” which has been interpreted by some as meaning a residential school associated with theschoolofScientology.  Not sure if that’s the correct interpretation, although I am fairly certain the exact nature of the “residential school” to be avoided, is clarified in the divorce settlement, otherwise Suri would have a difficult time eventually attending any long distance educational institutions, (such as college or university), and residing in residence.

For those of us non-celebrities contemplating a pre-nup, (also called a Marriage Agreement), it can be an extremely advantageous document to have in your pocket, (or purse), saving you legal costs, stress, and delay, in the event of a separation or divorce.

So take my advice, make like a celebrity, and get one!  Did I mention, I’m a family lawyer who prepares pre-nups and Marriage Agreements……?

P.S.  The family law regarding division of property, (and other matters), on separation are changing in March of 2013.  It’s a good time to review your options!

Prepare To Be Scared!

 

For married or soon to be married couples, looking for a really great scare this Halloween, I have the answer, and it doesn’t require a costume. All courtesy of a recently released Report from the Vanier Institute of the Family, using 2006 Canadian census data.

So what’s so scary? Statistically speaking, your marriage has a forty percent (four couples out of ten) chance of crashing and burning! This news may not come as a revelation for those who have divorced once or twice (or more), but it’s a scary and sobering statistic for anyone planning a lifelong married future together.

Of course optimists, and incurable romantics, will undoubtedly point out these figures also mean that sixty percent of marriages survive. Unfortunately, there’s no way to guarantee whether your own marriage will become a forty, or sixty percent, statistic.

So based on the adage “hope for the best and prepare for the worst” I have two words of legal advice, namely “marriage agreement”. I’ll definitely not be passing on any relationship advice, since as my own experience has amply demonstrated, and my own daughter has remarked, why talk about a subject that you so obviously know nothing about?

Firstly, let me say, it remains rare in my own experience for newly married, or soon to me married couples, to contemplate entering into a legally binding marriage agreement. Call it the triumph of hope over reality, or in our case, statistics.

But in most cases it’s not a major deal, since young married couples haven’t yet acquired substantial assets to fight over, and any provisions regarding future children aren’t legally binding anyways.

However where a marriage agreement can be extremely advantageous is where more mature parties, typically previously divorced, wish to preserve substantial assets from the risk of equal division in the event of divorce, or to address and resolve issues involving step-children.

And what’s the really scary part? Telling your spouse, or spouse to be, that you want a marriage agreement in the first place!

Scary Statistics!

Two weeks ago Statistics Canada released a Report with some scary statistics for divorcing and separating couples. While the report did mention an overall decline in divorces for the period from 2005 to 2008, what caught my eye was the fact that 25% of divorce files took 2 years, or more, to conclude, which is downright scary!

Of that 25% there are no doubt spouses, already relieved to be living separate and apart, where there is little motivation to pursue a divorce. There will also be those who decide, for financial and/or emotional reasons, to put the divorce on hold.

But what about everybody else? And more importantly, if you are separating, or separated, what can you do to avoid becoming enmeshed in divorce proceedings for 2 years or more? Here are some helpful tips.

Firstly, you need to understand the divorce process, and your legal rights. Let me begin by dispelling one of the most common myths I hear in my family law practice. Namely, obtaining a divorce is easy, all that you and your ex need to do is (typically) wait a year, and then file for divorce, or have a divorce service file the papers. Since you both agree to a divorce, it’s no problem.

Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. You and your ex need to address, and resolve, all outstanding legal matters, ie custody, support, division of assets, etc, before, a judge will grant a divorce. So, the sooner you start this process, the better, and don’t schedule any marriage dates with your new partner in the meantime.

Although as I mention this, I did meet a client last week, who said he had been divorced for several years, without having matters finally settled. This is extremely rare in my experience, and while I don’t know for sure, it suggests that the divorce service which filed his divorce papers may not have followed proper procedures. In any event because these matters were not settled when they should have been settled, any possible legal impact on this client’s legal rights and responsibilities will need to be re-assessed, resulting in more legal costs and expenses.

Secondly, I encourage you to explore any one of several alternatives to legal action, which, if successful, can drastically reduce divorce time, and cost. Personally, I believe mediation, or my favorite, collaborative divorce can work wonders, even in situations which appear irresolvable.

Lastly, and most importantly, is to remember that any legal proceeding is not the appropriate forum to punish your ex for past misbehavior. In other words, you need to try and keep your emotions, separate and apart, from your legal rights and responsibilities.

If you disregard this last bit of advice any realistic hope of a negotiated, or mediated, settlement will disappear, and you will ultimately leave your future fate in the hands of a judge. And any judge will not decide your legal issues on the basis of a personality contest.

There you have it. Three tips to prevent you from becoming just another scary statistic!

KithchenTableTalk – Top Three Topics

In no particular order of importance (since they’re all important) over the next week or so I’ll be blogging about  three of the most common topics of conversation between you, and your separating or divorcing partner. Unfortunately, they are often also the most misunderstood. All of which can create significant legal and financial risk to you. So, to lessen your risk, let’s begin with topic number three.

#3

“I don’t need to pay child support once the kids turn 18 years old.” I hear this statement in my family law practice all the time.  I have no idea why the age of 18 is constantly mentioned during such discussions, apparently people believe the age of majority in BC is 18 years, (the same as Ontario). In fact the age of majority in BC is 19 years of age.

This means that you are required to pay, or to receive child support, to your child’s minimum age of 19 years. But there are also circumstances which could require you to continue paying, or receiving child support, well past your child turning 19.

The most common situation involves your child attending a post secondary educational institution, in which case child support could also include sharing your child’s educational expenses such as tuition, books, residence fees, etc. These expenses can either be shared equally, which makes sense if you and your spouse make the same income, or shared in proportion to your respective incomes.

So whether you receive or pay child support I recommend that you and your former spouse sit down at the kitchen table and discuss what your child’s post secondary educational plans are after graduation. This will obviously require some consultation with your child. Key variables include such things as whether your child will be attending full or part time, whether your child will (or can) work during the school year to offset costs, whether scholarships or loans are available, etc.

Once you’ve done your homework contact me for more helpful information and advice.

Hello, and Welcome!

Most women facing the unfamiliar legal intricacies, of separation and divorce, appreciate the need for effective legal advice and assistance. Yet, in my legal practice, I have found the need, and opportunity, for valuable emotional support, and encouragement, is frequently overlooked, or unavailable.

That’s why I’ve decided to start a Kitchen Table Divorce Support Group, specifically created for women either considering separation or divorce, or those experiencing those daunting challenges first hand. (In the future, I anticipate forming a similar, men’s only, support group.)

After all, what better way to find emotional support, and understanding, than in the company of other women, with shared life experiences, and stories?

Discovering that you’re not alone, that yes, you can, take steps to effectively represent yourself in court, and protect your interests, is an incredibly empowering experience. An experience which has the potential to positively impact the rest of your life! Just ask those clients of mine (some of whom I hope will be in attendance to share their stories), who have followed the Kitchen Table Divorce approach, and successfully represented themselves in court!

Uncovering your true potential and taking control of your life, by accessing all the “right ingredients”, is your recipe for success, and the solid foundation of Kitchen Table Divorce, (blog www. kitchentabledivorce.ca).

I anticipate inviting, from time to time, various professionals, (ie. counselors, etc), to address questions and issues, raised by the group. How often the group will meet, and other details, will be decided by the group.

The inaugural group meeting is scheduled for next Wednesday, March 10, 2010, from 7:00 pm to 8:15 pm at my office, located at #102 19610 64 Avenue in Langley. (For anyone unable to attend in person, I anticipate future arrangements to facilitate on-line attendance and participation.)

Please also feel free to invite any other women you think would benefit.

Because of limited seating, please RSVP by 5:00 pm Tuesday, March 9th.

Get ready to take your seat at the kitchen table!

Dream Divorce

 

Make sure your dream divorce doesn’t become your worst nightmare.

Sorry, to anyone experiencing or contemplating divorce, but there is no way for me, or anyone else, to guarantee that you will ever fondly refer to your divorce as a “dream divorce.”

In actual fact the opposite is more often the case. Just ask anyone who has previously suffered through the cost, and soul destroying trauma, of having their martial dispute dragged, (slowly and painfully), through the traditional court system.

But, since second, or third, (or more), timers should know by now, the futility of using court to resolve family disputes; this advice is for first timers. 

My first advice, oddly enough, since I make my living providing legal advice to separating and divorcing couples, is to explore whether there remains any possibility that the relationship can be saved.

In my experience, except in circumstances of abuse or other emergency situations, there is usually the time and opportunity to take a step back, take a deep breath, and take advantage of available marriage counseling options.  If you, or your spouse, work for a company, you should enquire as to whether the company will subsidize counseling appointments.

Assuming that you, or your spouse, aren’t prepared to commit to marriage counseling, or you have already tried it, unsuccessfully, it may be time to move on. Although it’s helpful to remember that you can always re-visit counseling anytime during the legal process, provided you and your spouse are in agreement. Be sure if you do however, you let your lawyer know your plans in advance.

Once you’ve decided that the relationship is definitely over, what are your legal options?  There are essentially two tracks to resolution, negotiation or litigation, although these options are not mutually exclusive.  This means you can start with one track, and eventually end with the other, or even employ a combination of negotiation and litigation.

Personally, and professionally, I always recommend, as the first option, the negotiation track, with what I, and others, refer to as the collaborative divorce approach.  Collaborative divorce lawyers are a combination of a specially trained mediator and family lawyer. Not every family law lawyer is qualified as a collaborative divorce lawyer, if you’re not sure yours is, be sure to ask.

The key difference between the collaborative process and the traditional legal process is that the collaborative focus is to attempt to resolve matters without the need of court intervention, usually by means of informal meetings between the parties with the assistance of their counsel.

In fact, one of the central tenants of the collaborative process inspires the parties to work towards a negotiated resolution. That’s because, if either party decides to commence, or continue, court action, both collaborative counsel are required to essentially “fire” themselves from the file.

Another vital advantage of the collaborative process is the potential involvement of various therapists and counsellors to work with the parties, and children, to address the inevitable emotional issues arising from the end of the relationship.

My final words of wisdom – take my advice and give collaborative divorce a chance, if you, or your spouse, are contemplating, or experiencing, divorce.  It’s the best way, I know of, to reduce the risk of your “dream divorce” becoming your worst nightmare.

The contents, opinions and observations contained in Scott Taylor’s Kitchen Table Divorce are strictly intended for general information and entertainment only, and not intended to be relied upon, or replace, legal advice.  It is recommended you obtain legal advice from a lawyer, with respect to your specific legal circumstances.

Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Three simple rules to help you get what you need.

Trust me, you don’t want to be receiving this bad news by mail from your spouse’s family lawyer.  Or worse yet, being tacked down and served with papers by a complete stranger.  Not that there’s any “good” way to receive notice from your spouse that the relationship is over.

While the news may, or may not, come as a surprise, or in fact be welcomed or not, it has a personal and emotional impact that cannot be overstated.  There’s also the sobering realization that the end of your relationship will trigger a multitude of legal consequences.

Whether you happen to be the party receiving, or sending, such news, I’ve devised three simple rules to help you through this stressful phase of your life.

Rule number one: remember you have options. 

Parties involved in the process of separation, or divorce, often believe that there is no other option than to go to court and litigate the issues.  Believe me when I say that court provides you, and your spouse, one of the most expensive, stressful, and least effective means, to resolve your differences.  It also involves relinquishing control of your fate, and that of any children, to a court.

So just what are your options?

First, if you, and your spouse, have not attempted counseling, now is the time to do so.  If that option is not available, you and your spouse can still discuss matters, and attempt to resolve your own differences, provided you obtain legal advice before signing anything.  You, and your spouse, can also enlist the support of a family law mediator to mediate a settlement.  Mediators however, do not provide legal advice, and you’ll still need to review any agreement reached through mediation with an experienced family lawyer.

If mediation is not an option, you can also enlist the services of a family lawyer to negotiate a settlement.  This process of negotiation could, for example, involve settlement meetings with you, and your spouse, and your respective lawyers.  I’ve found that such meetings can provide an excellent opportunity to resolve differences.  Again, if agreement can be reached, the terms can be incorporated into a Separation Agreement prepared by either your, or your spouse’s, lawyer.

Rule number two: remember you’re the boss.

This is a rule primarily directed at people who retain counsel to represent their interests.  It means that your lawyer works for you, you don’t work for your lawyer.  This also means however, that you have to take an active interest in your own legal matters.  If you feel that your lawyer is not keeping you informed, or worse yet, appears to have adopted a legal strategy that you disagree with, then it’s time to have a serious discussion with your lawyer.  If, after this discussion, you still don’t feel that you’re on the “same page” as your lawyer, then it’s time to look elsewhere for legal help.

Rule number three: if you’re a parent, think children first.

For any parents this is the most important rule of all.  Children need, and deserve, the parenting of two involved and loving parents.  Don’t allow any personal animosity between you, and your spouse, to negatively affect the best interests of your children. You may also consider retaining the services of a parenting co-ordinator to help you resolve any challenging parenting issues.

Will following these three simple rules guarantee that you’ll successfully get what you want?  Absolutely not, but at the very least, just like that popular vintage Rolling Stones refrain, you may just find that you, (and your children), get what you need.

And that, in my opinion, is the true definition of satisfaction.

The contents, opinions and observations contained in Scott Taylor’s Kitchen Table Divorce are strictly intended for general information and entertainment only, and not intended to be relied upon, or replace, legal advice.  It is recommended you obtain legal advice from a lawyer, with respect to your specific legal circumstances.

Give Peace a Chance!

How not to become another tragic casualty in your own dirty divorce war.

The weaponry in this particular conflict is purposely designed to cause maximum psychological, financial and emotional damage to it’s intended target.

The initial salvo of legal weapons, consisting of a Writ of Summons, Statement of Claim and various Demands usually begins late in the afternoon, in order to catch you off-guard, and create general shock and havoc. It works. But before you have any chance to regain your composure and dignity you find yourself a moving target for the dreaded bombardment of the heavier caliber legal weapons, consisting of Affidavits packed with accusations and allegations of all sorts, and Notice of Motions, targeting custody, property and everything else you hold dear.

In case there is any doubt in your mind, you have just become a new and unwilling recruit in a dirty war, otherwise known as divorce.

You immediately seek the advice and counsel of your own top commander, who recommends immediate evasive manoeuvres, combined with a vigorous counterattack. You launch your Statement of Defence, Counterclaim, cross application and other materials in the direction of your adversary in the hopes of stalling the attack and gaining the upper hand.

After all, as you’ve been told, the best defence is a good offence.

Months pass, punctuated by short, expensive and frustrating legal skirmishes. You assess the progress of the conflict. Your financial and emotional resources are stretched to breaking, personal relationships with children, family and friends have been destroyed or damaged beyond repair, and it doesn’t appear that any substantive gains have been made on the legal battlefield to achieve your objectives. In fact, you may not be clear or certain what are your objectives.

Then comes the final battle, and considering everything that you have suffered through, it is aptly named, it is called a trial. When the smoke clears and the final judgement is made, by someone who is a total stranger, you survey the carnage and ask yourself whether this was all really necessary.

The answer, my friends, is absolutely not.

Before firing your guns in your own divorce war, or anytime after hostilities have begun, you can make some smart choices. You can decide to call a truce, to give yourself and your “adversary” the time and opportunity to consider your options such as collaborative divorce.

In a collaborative divorce there is a team of professionals made up of divorce counsellors, collaborative family lawyers and child and property specialists, who all work together for the common good of the parties and the children.

One important feature of this process is that the parties and their lawyers agree that any and all discussions cannot be used for any future legal actions. This alone can often enhance more effective dialogue and the potential for resolution. It’s also far less costly than litigation, but most of all it’s a non-adversarial process which can create a lasting foundation for a family friendly future.

Don’t risk becoming another tragic casualty in your own dirty divorce war. My best advice to you, if you’re considering going on the legal attack or responding in kind, is to take the time to give peace a chance.

Kitchen Table Divorce

They say marriage is grand – sadly, divorce is twenty grand (or more).

But if you’re like most middle class taxpayers you don’t have twenty grand to spend on lawyers. So just what are your legal options?

After over 20 years of experience as a family lawyer, I recommend an approach, for all my clients, which I like to call the Kitchen Table Divorce Option. So what is it all about?

It’s all about learning the right ingredients to beat the high legal cost of divorce and separation by representing yourself, even if your spouse can afford his or her full time family lawyer. Knowing when to make use of legal advice, and legal alternatives ie mediation and collaborative divorce, is critical, and so is being properly prepared.

But is it really possible to represent yourself and survive? You bet! All you need to do is to ask one of my many clients.

So why the reference to the Kitchen Table? Because traditionally the kitchen is where you can find all the right tools and ingredients, while the kitchen table is where everything comes together to create a successful recipe, or in our case, your own self made divorce.

The Kitchen Table (or for that matter any other table) is also the place where I suggest the parties initially meet to discuss and attempt to resolve any differences. That’s, of course, only an option if there is not a history of abuse or violence.

Some helpfull tips to start. Firstly, create a checklist of items that you would like to discuss and be sure to exchange with your spouse beforehand, ( ask if there other items that your spouse would like to address). A very good idea before the meeting is to obtain some legal advice about your rights and responsibilities. The lawyer can also help with the checklist and explain common but often misunderstood legal expressions ie joint custody which can otherwise create huge problems.

Secondly, resist the urge to agree on any financial numbers ie the price to purchase your interest in the family home or for that matter any other value. That’s because your spouse will inevitably take the position (after you find out that you literally gave away the farm – before you got legal advice) that you are now breaking your “promise” to her. Believe me when I say this can also cause headaches.

Thirdly, resist the temptation to sign anything, before getting independent legal advice, even if it looks like a smokin deal!! If you ignore this advice, you may find that you are legally trapped into an arrangement which you can’t get out of!

Last words – in my future blogs I’ll share some of my other legal insight and tips to show you how to make kitchen table divorce work for you.