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Unmanageable support settlement makes case for collaborative law

Settling any aspect of a divorce in a British Columbia court adds an unwelcome degree of uncertainty. Once a judge has made a ruling, it can be very difficult to make any adjustments. One unfortunate father found this out after choosing to represent himself during a support hearing. Had there been an opportunity to try collaborative law, the outcome may have been better, but as it was, the final ruling drastically changed his life.

A man and woman divorced and went to court to settle the matters of child and spousal support in June 2012. The man worked as a flooring salesperson at a company of which he formerly owned half. In his ruling, the judge determined the man was performing the same functions as before, but deliberately chose to earn less money. As such, an imputed salary was the basis for the awards for child and spousal support.

The judge dismissed the man's claim to a monthly salary of approximately $5,400, and awarded $4,000 in spousal support and $2,866 in child support each month. Since that ruling, the man has tried repeatedly to have that figure reduced in light of his changed financial situation. His ex-wife filed motions to dismiss his claims each time. In late Nov. 2016, a judge finally ruled in his favour and dismissed the woman's motion. Unfortunately, the gentleman is $500,000 behind on payments, living with his new wife with his parents, and is at risk of losing his driver's licence for nonpayment.

With or without representation, going to court is a difficult way to work out a divorce settlement. A better option may be to try collaborative law. By each working with their own lawyer, two parties can have a chance to discuss their needs and wants and work together toward a solution, rather than let an outside party dictate the outcome. An experienced British Columbia lawyer will work alongside a client to help ensure a positive ending.

Source: National Post, "Ontario father paying twice his after-tax monthly income to his ex-wife", Christie Blatchford, April 4, 2017

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