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Old 04-20-2010, 04:19 PM
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Default Dilemma....

Hello: My dilemma is whether or not I should have a ‘legal’ separation agreement order or if I should go with our current arrangement. First some background. I have been married for 34 years of which I worked mid term off and on for a period of approximately 10 years. We waited 4 years to have our daughter after we were married (I stayed home as my husband preferred me to be there to have meals prepared, house cleaned, etc during first four years.). After our daughter was born we thought it best for me to be home for her so I waited until she was in grade 7 or 8 before I went out to work. Even then I only worked intermittently as at that time companies were “downsizing”. I think I closed about half of the plants in our community. So I probably worked about 5 full years with the other 5 years spent either looking for work or collecting UI. Six years ago after another lay off, my husband told me to just stay home as he preferred me to be there anyway and since then I’ve developed arthritis in my right hand, knees and feet. Meanwhile during the last 4 or 5 years we’ve been having marital problems. In 2009 we were separated for 3 months but after much persuasion I went back to try again. Only 1 year later, I’ve determined that nothing has or will change so here we are again. This time I’m fairly sure that he knows it’s over. He has agreed to pay me 200.00 per week, keep me on his benefits at work and to leave me as his beneficiary with his profit sharing pension plan and RRSP. I’ve been to see a couple of lawyers and they’ve advised me to get this looked after by having him sign an agreement. I approached him on this issue and he said that he wasn’t signing anything. He also stated that if I go that route he would cut off everything and remove me from benefits and as beneficiary. He said he would even quit his job if he has to, as he isn’t going to be my “cash cow” as he calls it. I don’t understand what his opposition to signing the agreement might be. He’s giving me the money now so if he were to make it official it would only benefit him in that he could claim what he is paying me. Am I missing something here? What are your opinions of my situation? Any insight would be greatly appreciated. I’m not much of a gambler and I don’t know what to do.
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Old 04-20-2010, 05:12 PM
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If you don't have an agreement, he could change his mind at any time. Without knowing his income level or your full financial assets, etc it's impossible to say if this is a reasonable deal.

The courts would award spousal support for the rest of your life after that length of marriage, whether he likes it or not. $800 per month does not sound like much but I don't know his income.

His "cash cow" remark was ignorant and offensive, and you are right, it would be the same situation either way. If he sees a difference, then the difference is that he could change his mind. It is a control issue.

If it were me, I would say that I wanted a signed agreement or a good, legal and ethical reason why not (there isn't one). Then I would suggest mediation, which could be as little as three sessions if you are both reasonable. There's no need to drag this out or spend so much money on lawyers, but I wouldn't just sit on his word if there is so much underlying anger and bitterness.

You are entitled to half of the family assets in any case, which includes the pension plan and RRSPs. If he spends all the RRSPs before he passes, then having you as beneficiary doesn't mean much.
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Old 04-20-2010, 05:27 PM
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Also, if it's a court-recognised spousal support agreement, he can deduct it from his income and you have to add it to yours, so he would get a tax savings and you, presumably, would pay very little tax on it.
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Old 04-20-2010, 05:47 PM
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His earnings last year were 54000.00. Mine nil. Upon doing a finacial statement to bring to the meeting with the lawyer it was determined that if we were to equalize, he would owe me about 50,000.00. I don't know what advantage it would be for me to force him to get a loan (investments are locked in) thereby making it harder for him to make support payments. My payments would be lowered due to his financial hardship. I'm aware that I should receive at least $300 per week to a maximum of 400.00 week, but if I put him in the position where he is working two weeks in order to earn 1 weeks pay for himself, he'll say to hell with it. I think you're right...it is a control issue (but when asked, he says I'm trying to control his finances by filing with the court..my response...court has control...neither of us would have control....taking it out of both of our hands). When it comes right down to it, he does have the control. If he follows through with his threats.....even if it does land him in jail.....I won't be getting anything. Hypothetically, what would my options be if I were to go through with this, get the support order, he doesn't comply, quits his job, ends up in jail. Would I have any avenue of getting any funds from the pensions that are all in his name and locked in? Aside from all of this, I don't have funds to pay a lawyer, I'll have to do it myself. I investigated legal aid and as children are not involved, I don't qualify. I anticipate that he won't even respond to being served. All of his response will come in the form of reaction to the court order. Thanks for your quick response. It has added another stone on the side of the scale that leans toward proceeding with this although I'm very scared of the prospect of being left with less that I have now.
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Old 04-20-2010, 06:44 PM
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RRSPs can be transfered between spouses with no penalty.

That includes if you are separated, it is a common and easy way to do equalization before the final divorce.

You are about to agree to take nothing, and leave him with $100,000, just because he says so.

I do appreciate what you say about the spousal support, and that is probably a wise compromise. But you should not let him just keep the assets.

He can either transfer the RRSPs ("locked in" would mean at worst you lose a few percent of interest for 1 or 2 years if it is all in one GIC or similar) or he can take out the loan. If he takes out the loan, then he is paying you what he owes you monthly.

If he wants to wait until the investment matures (isn't "locked in") which would be sometime within the next couple of years, then he can put it in writing.

He is setting things up to be in his control, and it's more than just emotional control, he can just keep the money.

What would your options be if he just keeps all the RRSPs and pension and gives you nothing?
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Old 04-20-2010, 10:59 PM
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Put that way, I don't think I have any options but to take this before the courts. There is a misunderstanding regarding the pensions though unless I'm wrong in my assessment of the situation. The largest 'profit sharing pension plan' is locked in until retirement or until he ceases working where he is now. Even at that point, those funds are locked into another fund until he retires or can prove financial hardship. The other one (smaller) is in a LIF and funds are already being released from it once a year (since he is over the age of 55), but can not be cashed out unless, again, there is proof of financial hardship. We tried to access some of those funds a few years ago to put into a major purchase, but were denied as those monies were company paid and are deemed for retirement funds only. The only other exceptions are if my husband were to be diagnosed with a terminal illness, he could access the funds should he be given a specific number of months to live and finally, the funds would be released to the beneficiary were he to die. That's why my concern is to remain as beneficiary but now you've made me realize that if I don't do something, if and when he retires, he may choose not to continue paying me as he will probably consider himself no longer working thereby deducing he no longer needs to pay me. I see that I have to change my mind set on this matter. Maybe if I become totally unreasonable, he'll settle for something that I'd have been happy with in the first place. Reach for the stars will have to be my new motto. This really goes against the type of person I am but he's being so unreasonable. I hate having to appear as if I'm trying to "take him" for everything he's got but it seems that's my only option. I guess I'll just have to wait and see if he quits working and then see what can be done at that point. One day at a time applies to many situations and I guess this is one of them. Thanks again for all of your replies. It helps a lot to have opinions from impartial people who don't know you or who have nothing to gain from your situation.
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Old 04-20-2010, 11:23 PM
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OK, you are not "taking him for everything he's got". The assets and pensions are family assets. They have been considered that for generations, and pension plans have been set up with this understanding (that they could and would be split if a couple divorced.) This is nothing new, and as old as you feel, this predates you.

As far as splitting them goes, the equalization process would determine a value (and pensions are nearly impossible for an amateur to put a value on) and everything would be totaled. What would be more likely is that he keeps his pensions but you get all the RRSPs. Do you own a home? This has to be equalized as well, and perhaps it would work out that you get the entire home in exchange for the pensions.

The way assets are split can be flexible, but they have to be split, this is part of what you sign up for when you get married. The laws were thought out and written and constantly improved precisely with someone like you in mind.

This doesn't have to go all the way to trial, if he gets served, gets decent legal advice and you go to the first case conference he will see he has no choice.
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Old 04-21-2010, 12:40 AM
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No, we don't own a home. We don't have any debts either. Equalization should be fairly simple except for the pension part, like you said. Neither of us brought anything into the marriage either. We started with nothing. He had a motorcycle and I had a few pieces of second hand furniture my parents gave me to start with. Back then, we're probably talking about 700.00 for his bike and maybe 300.00 for my furniture. Our car is a 2006 that was paid for in full upon purchase so there are no liens on it. I wish he would go seek legal advise. Then maybe he would see that I'm not asking for so much. He's old school and of the frame of mind that he supported me all of those years and if I left him then he owes me absolutely nothing....his words. He doesn't take into consideration that it was his actions that brought about my "desertion of our home". I left with basically my personal items plus 1/2 of the kitchen supplies and my dog (which is another real big issue with him). Don't mean to side track, but this will demonstrate his thought process: He gave me the dog for a Christmas present 6 years ago. She is a purebred german shepherd. As it turned out, she has multiple health issues and has cost us on the average of 3000.00 a year for just regular care and all of her medications etc. He loves this dog as much as I do but knows that he can't care for her. He wouldn't consider leaving her home alone all day while he went to work. He had a hard time leaving her home alone for a few hours to go get groceries with me once a week. He has now put a value of 18,000.00 on this dog. Would he do the same if this were a child? The lawyer I spoke with laughed when I told him that my husband wanted to place this kind of value on the dog. I would consider the dog more of a liability than an asset although never a liability that I would consider giving up. I used to laugh when I heard of people fighting about animals in divorce court.....another lesson learned. Any way, that aside, if I could only get him to go talk to a lawyer, he might find out how things are handled instead of what he's picking up from other people who don't know any more than he does or I did for that matter until I spoke to a couple of lawyers, did a lot of research on line and got some information from the family law center. He doesn't believe anything I tell him. Understandable I guess considering I'm the enemy. After all of these years together, when I think of how it used to be, it's just unimaginable that we've come to this. Thanks again for taking the time to read my tales of woe. I will work on growing a back bone and start preparing myself for what ever happens. I just hope I have the strength to get through this. I have to keep reminding myself that he's not the same person I married 34 years ago because I could never interact with that man this way. That person disappeared about 5 years ago.
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Old 04-21-2010, 06:35 AM
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Rent "The Odd Couple" dvd. Between laughs, notice what they are all saying about their divorces. There is nothing "old school" about his not wanting to split the family assets. Splitting the assets and paying alimony goes back to before you and your husband were born. He is just being a jerk.
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Old 04-21-2010, 04:40 PM
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I"m sorry, but it think you've got a good handle on what you are up against. Good luck.
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