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Old 07-05-2012, 06:49 PM
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Hi -

Wanted to do an intro and get some advice.

I am late 30s father of two, seperated for 2+ years. We split custody of two kids 11 + 14 50/50. We were together ~12 years. Wife initiated the seperation, but in retrospect I am much happier and hopeful now that we are seperated. I know it does not matter in the eyes of the law, or in many peoples assesment, but there were fidelity issues and that was really hard for me to deal with in the marriage, and during the initial seperation. As I said, I am better now, learned a lot through the pain!

We own two houses, each live in one, and I pay the mortgages on both, as well as other expenses. We get along pretty well, and there is no active animosity. The kids are doing really well, student council / president / honour roll etc...

We have been ostriching a bit on the divorce proceedings for all the normal reasons (fear, uncertainty, etc...). We have made some initial progress, and I am hopeful it will not be a battle zone. We intend to use a mediator to help us through the process.

In the last couple of years the finances have taken a hit, but I am in a decent position now. I do have a bunch of backlog (taxes, etc...) to deal with that I am having trouble finding the time and energy to get to. I want to deal with it soon though, as it is getting ridiculous and I am stressing about it a bit. I think I was able to not be too stressed about it during the initial chaos of seperation, but things are more normal now, and I need to deal.

I am open to any advice, and will appreciate and consider it all. I am looking for support from others who have gone through the process and survived. At times I am scared.

I am trying to come to terms with the "system". On one hand, so much of it seems ridiculous and unfair, but on the other hand I do want my kids to be in a stable environment and if I won the lottery tomorrow I would gladly share with my XW... and clearly I know I am on the hook for something, possibly a lot!

One thing I am wondering is has anyone worked out an arrangement that is "outside" the system but works better for both parties. I do know some couples who have seperated who have agreed to terms that seem more fair than what the the system dictates, and I wonder how prevalent that is, and how to do it. I would imagine there would always be an ongoing liability for both parties in that anything agreed to could be undone at any time by the other party and then it could be a real can of worms. I think the risk might be worth it, as I do think we care for each other, and do not intend any harm or injustice on the other.

I am possibly naive, but I do think my XW will be reasonable and open to an arrangement that is more fair than unfair. I just do not know where to start with that, as it seems all of the actors in the "system" as commited to the "system", even while acknowledging that is often unfair.

And my wife is not that financially sophisticated, which sucks, because she will need help from others throughout the process, and they may not be open to alternatives. She is reasonably frugal and responsible though.

I want to be clear that I do not want to be unfair to my XW or children. I value most of the time we had together as a couple, the kids are great, and I really value (I think we both do) not being in an hateful / fighting situation.

So that is my sad, honest state / story.

Thanks in advance for words of support or 2x4s that I need to be hit with. I want to clean up this mess and move on, I really do, and I need help.

Thanks,
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Old 07-05-2012, 07:14 PM
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You have the children 50/50, you have two homes and are each in possession of one, so far so good.

I'm not sure what you mean in terms of an agreement that is "more fair."

If there is an imbalance, then agreements can be made to be fair, that is ideal. Most often that is when one party earns a lot more, has a more successful career, so the balance is called "spousal support."

The situation with marital property is that you split what you acquired during the marriage 50/50. That should be fair in any circumstance.

The situation with the children, for you two having the children equally with you both is about as fair as it gets, and it's not an uncommon arrangement these days.

For child support, it is the right of the children and it is to help equalize their standard of living in each home. That should be fair, however the calculation is not always perfect. In your case, you take what your ex should pay in child support at her income level and subtract it from what you should pay at your income level, and you pay the difference. That should be fair.

Your ex should be expected to work and help support herself, even if she has been out of the workforce for a while. That is fair. She should support herself at least at the level of her training, education, and employability - in other words, she shouldn't be working part-time if she is able to work full-time; she should be working at the best job she is capable of getting. That would be fair.

If she chooses to work below that level, then she should be "imputed" a wage that she is capable of earning, and support payments should be based on that amount. That would be fair.

If she has been out of the workforce for some years and her skills are out of date, she should certainly have an opportunity to refresh her skills in a college program. That would fair, and should take no more than two years.

If she never completed post-secondary, if she has the ability to do more than a college diploma, it might be fair for her to go to university. It would be fair for her pay for it, but both you and the children would ultimately also benefit from her success, so some level support is still fair.

All these things you will find in family law, all fair. The system can also fail, it can also be exploited, but quite often the decisions are fair and realistic. If the two of you are willing to work together to find the best solution that benefits everyone not just today, but for the forseeable future, there is no reason to think you have come up with something drasticly different than what you would find in the Family Law Act.
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Old 07-05-2012, 09:42 PM
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A bit of my advice:

You really do want to separate your finances. Pay her offset table child support (sounds like you have the greater income) and spousal support, and let her pay her own mortgage and bills, etc. You can calculate it to work out to the same total amount as what you have been paying, but it's downright dangerous to stay financially linked past separation. She could ruin your credit, or do a sudden 180 in cooperation level, you just never know.

Watch out for dating and new partners. The most amicable cooperative separations have been known to come completely unravelled when one person finds a new significant other. I would strongly advise to get legal agreements in place and unlink your finances before even trying to date again. Reasonable and fair negotiation can transform into a nasty court battle without warning when new partners enter the picture.

Do you have any sort of agreement worked out, or is it all informal? If you don't, I would suggest analyzing the setup you have now, and writing it all down, to the last little detail. Tinker with it, look up templates online, research on this very forum for ideas, ask us lots of questions. Maybe let her know you are working on this, and when you have a rough draft she can give it her attention; make it sound as collaborative as possible, with the help of a mediator is good, and she'll hopefully work with you to get moving on your separation.
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Old 07-05-2012, 10:56 PM
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Great advice Rioe ^ and Welcome to the forum, Plonk
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Old 07-05-2012, 11:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mess View Post
You have the children 50/50, you have two homes and are each in possession of one, so far so good.

I'm not sure what you mean in terms of an agreement that is "more fair."

....[Deleted for Brevity]

All these things you will find in family law, all fair. The system can also fail, it can also be exploited, but quite often the decisions are fair and realistic. If the two of you are willing to work together to find the best solution that benefits everyone not just today, but for the forseeable future, there is no reason to think you have come up with something drasticly different than what you would find in the Family Law Act.
So what Mess says is true - this is the how it works with in the system, this is what is fair.

You seem to want to do it different. How do you want to handle it different than what Mess has said?
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Old 07-06-2012, 03:49 PM
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Thanks for taking the time to write.

I suppose I do not know specifically what exactly I would do differently / more fairly", but I suppose that is a result of not knowing what my ongoing obligations might be.

I am certainly fine with sharing custody. Pretty comfortable around splitting assets acquired in the relationship. It's the ongoing support I have greater concerns about. I think that is probably pretty common.

I do know one couple where they agreed to no ongoing support. Of course that sounds good to me, but I do not know where that lands on the fairness scale. Certainly advocates of the "system" would generally see it as unfair (there was income disparity), and I suppose people would argue strongly for both sides in regards to wether it is really fair.

After some head scratching, I think it partly boils down the fact that I am not sure how fair I feel ongoing support is. I am a bit all over the map. It certainly depends on "how much" and for "how long", but in general at times I can identify with it seeming really unfair. And I know many people feel this way (which does not make this position right or even fair).

I am all over the map, going from it seems not fair to it could be fair enough. I am obviously providing support now, and I do not feel that bad about it generally. I certainly am afraid at times after hearing and reading some horror stories though.

I suppose it could be a big can of worms to open up a debate about wether ongoing support as the system dictates it is fair or not. It often does not feel fair to me, and certainly some situations I am aware of do not seem fair at all.

Does that make any sense?

Thanks!
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Old 07-06-2012, 04:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rioe View Post
A bit of my advice:

You really do want to separate your finances. Pay her offset table child support (sounds like you have the greater income) and spousal support, and let her pay her own mortgage and bills, etc. You can calculate it to work out to the same total amount as what you have been paying, but it's downright dangerous to stay financially linked past separation. She could ruin your credit, or do a sudden 180 in cooperation level, you just never know.
I can see that making sense in many cases. At this point, I need to get things moving more generally first. I do not want to rock the boat, although I understand there is risk until I do.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rioe View Post
Watch out for dating and new partners. The most amicable cooperative separations have been known to come completely unravelled when one person finds a new significant other. I would strongly advise to get legal agreements in place and unlink your finances before even trying to date again. Reasonable and fair negotiation can transform into a nasty court battle without warning when new partners enter the picture.
Too late for both of us! It has been 2.5 years since separation. Again probably generally excellent advice that I would have loved to have heeded if I had started this process sooner. I have made my own bed here, and will have to live with the risk.

Having said that, we get along really well, and have actually all hung out and had a good time (once). There is very little or no animosity, and seemingly a genuine concern on both our parts to be considerate of the other. Again, I know this is a risk, and may change, but do not know what I can do now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rioe View Post
Do you have any sort of agreement worked out, or is it all informal? If you don't, I would suggest analyzing the setup you have now, and writing it all down, to the last little detail. Tinker with it, look up templates online, research on this very forum for ideas, ask us lots of questions. Maybe let her know you are working on this, and when you have a rough draft she can give it her attention; make it sound as collaborative as possible, with the help of a mediator is good, and she'll hopefully work with you to get moving on your separation.
No agreement. I seem to be really bad at this so far! Again, we have been really good about separating possessions and accommodating special requests to date. Again, obviously a risk.

I think my priorities now should be:

- getting my back taxes filed
- getting all finance info together

But, I may be wrong.

Thanks for taking the time to write!
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Old 07-06-2012, 11:08 PM
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No agreement, and things are working well despite new partners entering the mix? Well done! You have a reasonable ex!

But formalizing your situation is still a good idea. Maybe sit down with a kit from Staples and the ex and hash it out for a couple of hours. Use a mediator who is also a lawyer to help you with the legal language necessary, and wait till the very end to get your independent legal advice, as that's where they will try to make you adversarial.

You want the separation agreement to cover four things.

Child Custody/Access - who has decision making, where they spend their time when, who deals with schools, doctors, etc. It sounds like you have a system worked out already, so this part would be just writing down the routine so it will be sure to carry on in the future. In a few years your children's age will make it pretty irrelevant anyway. Joint Custody, and about 50-50 time spent with each parent is fair to everyone.

Child Support - there's not really any negotiation for this stuff. You take each of your incomes (use line 150 from your income tax unless you are self-employed), look it up on a table based on two children, and see what the number is. The higher income person pays the lower income person the difference. Extraordinary expenses (summer camp, big sports fees, big school trip, tuition) is paid in proportion to income. Have a clause that says these amounts are updated annually after taxes are back.

Spousal Support - this is not automatic, but it sounds like you are paying the equivalent of it anyway by paying the mortgage of her house and her associated expenses. Does she have an income? Does she work? Did she make career sacrifices during the marriage? These are things that usually get taken into account when deciding if spousal support is warranted, and how much and for how long. She's got a sweet deal right now, but you don't want to be doing this for her forever, after the kids move out, after she remarries, etc? I would suggest coming up with a fair amount that pays her bills, but dwindles over time till it ends. This is where you will have to tread carefully as it does not maintain the status quo, and even if new partners don't damage your amicable separation, stopping her gravy train still might.

Equalization - sign over the house she lives in to her, let her get her own mortgage, put all the expenses in her own name. I am guessing you have already divided up other property, cars, furniture, etc by now. Close down all joint bank accounts and credit cards, divide the balances in half. Do either of you have RRSPs? A pension? The amount they increased during the marriage should be divided in half. This doesn't have to be done piecemeal. If there's more equity in her house than yours, maybe you don't have to divide your pension. It doesn't have to be perfectly equal, just whatever you both agree on. It's all up to you both.
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Old 07-06-2012, 11:45 PM
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Just to get a proper idea on numbers, visit MySupportCalculator.ca - that will clarify the range of what you're on the hook for. Then you can play with numbers. Don't forget SS gets deducted from your taxes, so take the numbers in perspective! A consultation with a lawyer/mediator would help you get the facts if you don't have time to research (given your taxes situation!!). Your flexibility is the key to a good resolution, but don't delay - it will be a good feeling for her too to be independent and pay for her own expenses.
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Old 07-09-2012, 11:19 PM
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Hi -

Thanks for the responses and the link to the calculator.

I think the plan is to use the mediator to work out an agreement, and my priority is to get our taxes done which will help us with the financial terms and generally be a good thing in terms of avoiding financial penalties from the government. I feel I do not have time to do both. Of course one could argue I need to make time, but with a demanding job and the kids half time it is hard.

We do generally get along and do not have animosity, so I feel the best thing I can do is to clean up the mess so we can be in a position to work out a good agreement. I know there is risk here, but I feel that it will be better to put us in a position to work out a "final" agreement makes more sense than trying to do it twice, once before all the finances are straightened out, and once after. We have made it this far.

So a couple of questions:

- I have been generally good about finances and taxes etc until separation, and I feel bad / ashamed about the current state. I probably need professional help (accountant etc...) but I am embarrassed to make the call and explain my situation... I almost want to use somebody I do not know, as I think that will be easier, any advice on that? I almost do not know where to start...

- after some reflection, I think one of my original issues / questions was really around challenging the systems defaults for child / spousal support. it just seems to not consider lots of things, and I think two amicable people could work something better (maybe more flexible) out, has anyone done this successfully?

- spousal support seems to be an especially grey area, what are the factors to consider here?

Thanks again for any advice / guidance. Feel like I am making some slow but important progress.
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