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Financial Issues This forum is for discussing any of the financial issues involved in your divorce.

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  #1  
Old 06-01-2012, 12:29 PM
sydster sydster is offline
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Default Long Post Warning: SS Payments- How much can they squeeze?

Intro/disclaimer- I've been lurking here for a while, finally decided to post, so Im sorry if I am breaching any forum etiquette- I'm sure my question has been addressed in some form already but I can't spend half a day searching post history. Sorry if this is too long, feel free to skip if you don't like long reads, of course.

In Alberta. My wife decided to leave for greener pastures, no significant fault (adultery, addiction, violence, ec) on either side, she came to Canada from Europe 10 years ago and we got married real quickly (silly, I know), so English is her second language and she never officially worked during the marriage. (I offer this info not to slag her but to establish her ability to find employment after divorce). We have two children, 4 and 8. She'll get CS of course by the table, and at least $50K as her share in equity for our home, plus the nicer of our two vehicles, anything she wants from the house, etc. There is about $50K in retirement investments that I had been trying to negotiate keeping but lately I don't really care about it. I'm more worried about now then the future, though I really can't fathom how she deserves any of it. During our marriage it was like I earned income, we split the money 50/50, she spent her half on herself, and I managed to squirrel a little away for the future (OK, now I'm slaggin')...

I am essentially self-employed in the eyes of revenue canada, but what I do is I work as an independant salesperson and consultant for an American .com equipment dealer. I am purely commission paid and my income can fluctuate wildy from month to month, year to year. I've had some pretty good years up around $100K, but we weren't able to save much other than me putting aside the aforementioned retirement savings, as my STBX is a compulsive shopper/ borderline hoarder.

The last few years, since the US economy tanked, and also due to more similar websites popping up to compete with us, the income has been pretty bad. I think around $48K in 2010 and $65K in 2011.

We qualified for provincial sponsored mediation, we went to a couple meetings and one DRO session. Overall I found the process, that I believed was supposed to be impartial, not impartial at all. I felt like I was surrounded by women who just wanted to see how far they could push me to make sure she is well taken care of. I could provide some examples, but I know this is already way long. The one thing that really bothered me was we asked for help with spousal support, and the DRO "lawyer" went to a computer and introduced us to their CS/SS calculator. She did say that it was only a guideline as there is no table for SS in Alberta. But what made my blood boil (it didn't sink in until later) was that she basically admitted that this calculation was inflated- her exact words were something like, when cases go to court, the court usually decides on an amount that is lower and shorter in duration. I asked her to repeat that statement just to make sure I heard her correctly.

Okay, so what is going on? If these people and the process are supposed to be neutral, then why produce an artificially inflated number for support payments? Which number do you think is going to stick in my opponent's head throughout our negotiations. But it gets even better.... I started doing some rough calculations. At the time we had the DRO I hadn't done my 2011 taxes yet so I wasn't sure what my income was. I guessed at $70K. So they put that into their calculator and came up with roughly $2400 total monthly child support and spousal support (By the way they recommended from 5 to 14 years duration). So if my avg tax rate is 24% it leaves me about $53K net. CS & SS works out to almost $29000 not including section 7 expenses and other things which my come up. This leaves me $24000. This is barely $2000 per month! I need to rent a 3 bedroom home or apartment because I need a home office, and at least a spare bedroom for the kids when they visit. That could be $1200 per month easily. Plus food, heat/electricity, internet, cable, phone, gas for car, insurance, etc etc. If I have any health issues preventing me from working or if I simply have another bad patch of sales... I'm living in poverty!

How does this process work? Do the courts really not care about me since the mother almost automatically gets primary care of kids (we can't really share because she wants to move to the big city, and they are school age. I on the other hand certainly can't afford big city rent and have no desire to leave the smaller town we're in now, about 45 minute drive from the city limits)? What am I just supposed to go get another job flippin' burgers in the evening because she decided I wasn't good enough for her anymore? Any suggestions on my best case/worst case scenarios or on how I should approach this? I offered her $800/month SS for 3 years and she freaked out.
Mediation isn't giving us any realistic numbers- that's a big fail. If she doesn't back off I feel like I'll have to just tell her to lawyer up 'cause she's in for a reality check, then hope for the best in court. But maybe I'll end up a 2x loser after all the dust settles and legal fees paid.

Sorry again for a long first post...
  #2  
Old 06-01-2012, 01:22 PM
frustratedwithex frustratedwithex is offline
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Welcome to the forum.

I can only address some of your issues.

1. In Alberta spousal support will most likely be between the mid-range and low-range. Of course you first have to determine if she meets the needs and means test. 3 years is probably not long enough, 5 years may be more realistic. SSAG is a guideline in all the provinces, not just Alberta.

2. Even though English is not her first language, she will be expected to work to the best of her ability. If she did not work during your marriage, she is expected to work now. When you are calculating support, both child and spousal, you will use for her, an amount equal to full time, min. wage employment for her. It may be appropriate to average your income for the last 3 years, (I'm not sure of this).

3. Do not accept that she will get primary care, you assume 50/50. She can move to the city if she wants, you tell her the kids will stay with you. You don't have to accept what she is telling you and you can disagree with the DRO lawyer. They can't make you agree to anything you don't want to. They will pressure you to do so, but you can politely decline.

4. Keep trying mediation, don't tell her to lawyer up, it will only add to your conflict.

If you want to counter what the DRO lawyer and your ex. are telling you, you will have to do some research, here and on canlii. You can't take shortcuts and expect to get the result you want. Information is powerful, as well as your best defence.
  #3  
Old 06-01-2012, 01:38 PM
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Rioe Rioe is offline
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ARG I had a big long detailed post and somehow the internet lost it on me.

Anyways, it boiled down to a few things.

Always focus on the best interests of the children. Your post is all about spousal support, but that's not as important. Is there a reason you are focusing on that?

Your ex may want to move to the big city, but she can't take the children there without your consent. You should definitely be arguing for 50-50 custody, with her staying in the small town, where the kids will be with their familiar friends and school. If she wants the big city that much, she can leave the kids with you and pay you child support. Sounds like you work from home, which is a good argument for the flexibility to be very involved in their lives. Shared custody is better for the children, who get to have both parents equally involved in their lives. And it uses offset child support, for which you should impute a full time minimum wage income to your ex. Plenty of immigrants with bad English still find jobs. Her circumstances will change after separation and she will be expected to become self-sufficient and work to support her children. If she finds a new partner instead of employment, you should argue that your obligation ends.

Her becoming self-sufficient should be your main argument about spousal support. You recognize that she needs support while she works to improve her English and train in a career, which could take a few years, but there is no expectation for you to support her beyond that. Your marriage did not harm any existing career, did it?

Also, push to have the average of your last three years income used to determine initial child support and spousal support amounts. This is normal for self-employed people whose income may fluctuate.

She sounds scared, to me. She wants out of the marriage, but she has no idea how she's going to live in a country she still can't easily communicate with. If she's willing to do mediation, then once she gets over her fears, she'll probably become more rational and realize that she should focus on the best interests of the children, and that there will simply be less money to go around when divided between two households.

If the mediator isn't focusing on the children, and concentrating on inflated spousal support, it may be time to find a new mediator.

Good luck.

Last edited by Rioe; 06-01-2012 at 01:45 PM.
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Old 06-01-2012, 02:05 PM
sydster sydster is offline
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Thanks for your reply, frustrated. I guess mediation is at a standstill untill we agree on the spousal support, but she has a number like $2500 per month (total CS and SS) in her head thanks to DRO and there's no way in hell I'm going to agree to it. During our DRO, they told her she probably could move to the city if she wanted to. They didn't even ask me how I felt about that. They asked her if she wanted to go back to school. They asked her if she wanted half of my retirement savings. They didn't even offer me a glass of water as I was choking this all down. Now I did tell her that I know another couple in our town with one kid who got divorced and their order prevented either one from moving out of the community. She previously had told me she could even leave the country with our kids if she wanted to (not sure where she got that tidbit of stupidity from, probably the "take him for all he's worth" support group). But I think I made her stop and think that I'm not as powerless as she (and the aformentioned go-get-im club) thinks I am. I just don't think we'll be able to agree on the SS issue so I see no path other than through court. Though I may lose more in legal fees than I gain, I don't think so, because over 5 years like you speculated, the difference between what I think I can afford, and what she wants, is like $42,000. I can't see how the court could or would squeeze blood from a stone, especially in a no fault. If I had cheated on her, or was an abusive drunk, or if I was pushing for divorce against her wishes, maybe... or does that stuff even matter in their decision process?
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Old 06-01-2012, 02:24 PM
sydster sydster is offline
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Thanks Rioe,
Well I am focusing on spousal support because everything else is clear cut. Property 50/50, custody 50/50, child support by the table, etc. SS is the one stumbling block and in mediation they should be helping us work it out but instead they've kind of started a war. Yes, the children are priority, but I am a person too, and I still need to live. I will always be there for my kids, but I am more useful it seems to everybody as a wallet. I posted here hoping to hear some others experiences, and to understand, if it does go to court, how much will the powers that be actually squeeze a person if there's not a lot of money to work with.
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Old 06-01-2012, 02:52 PM
HammerDad HammerDad is offline
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For mobility issues with the children, the case law is Gordon v Goertz. She can move all she wants. It is moving with the children that may be prohibited.

If I were you I'd focus on the kids as they are what is important. Money comes and goes. You said you want 50/50 shared custody of the children and that should be your primary focus. It is in the children's best interests to have maximum contact with each parent.

For spousal support, you may offer her a one time lump sum payment if you can swing it. Yes, it isn't deductable for you. But dangling a good size carrot in front of her nose may cause her to bite.

What income is she earning now? She has an obligation to herself and the children to support both herself and the kids. She has to get a job. At worst, should you end up in court, I am sure you could argue that an income be imputed to her of at least full time min-wage (about $19k a year) as she should start to become self sufficient.

What education did she come over with? Does she have any degrees from her home country? What is her age? Are the kids in full-time school? These are all matters you should be reviewing when determining ss and entitlement.
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Old 06-01-2012, 03:30 PM
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I live in Alberta and recently went through a divorce. My ex pays me substantail spousal support and he is self-employed so maybe I can give you some insight. I agree with most of the other posters in that you should focus on the kids.

10 yrs is not considered a long-term marriage. I found that the courts look at the length you were married and your ages as well. If your wife is relatively young 30 - 40 then she won't be getting large spousal support and won't get it for very long. Everything is about equalization. If you aren't making alot of money right now they will take that into consideration, however, they will have a look at your past 3 or 4 years of income. If you are self-employed you might be asked to provide a break-down of your expenses/income. What you do pay in spousal support on a monthly basis is 100% tax deductible - for her she has to claim it like regular income.

In Alberta we have a JDR process (I don't believe they have it in Ontario yet). It saved my ex and I a pile of money. Judicial dispute resolution. If you want more info on that you can private message me.

I agree with other posters that if you work out of your home you should seriously consider keeping your children. Let her move to Garlic City and try to get on her feet. It is very difficult to start over and she will have a challenge ahead of her. Fortunately there is a strong support network for immigrants here. Focus on what's best for your kids. She's blowing smoke up your arse about the amount of spousal she thinks she'll get.

In Alberta (Edmonton) most lawyers I've come across use ChildView for calculation.

Good luck
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Old 06-01-2012, 03:47 PM
sydster sydster is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HammerDad View Post
What income is she earning now? .... What education did she come over with? Does she have any degrees from her home country? What is her age? Are the kids in full-time school? These are all matters you should be reviewing when determining ss and entitlement.
She's 41, hasn't worked in Canada (other than a short cash "job" helping another family that had emigrated here long ago, almost like a babysitter, which lasted about 9 months at the beginning of our marriage, before she became pregnant with our first), she came over with High School and some kind of hairdressing/cosmetology/beautician's degree (she mainly worked front desk/administrative at a hospital and cut people's hair on the side, in her country), younger child will be 5 later this year and will be in kindergarten next school year, so depending on the school it probably still isn't quite full time.
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Old 06-01-2012, 04:17 PM
sydster sydster is offline
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Just a few general comments...
The recurring theme here of focus on the kids: I have my children's well being very much at heart but I wanted to post in the forum to get information on the specific issue of spousal support as it is a matter that's in contention right now in our divorce process. Yes, money comes and goes, but unfortunately it is necessary for life and I do not want to get bullied into some agreement that could leave me living in a van down by the river (miss you Chris Farley!).

Thanks to all, keep the replies coming, and thanks for the very helpful Canlii reference and to Arabian for sharing her experience and tips!
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Old 06-01-2012, 04:27 PM
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If you do a google search "Spousal support Alberta" there is a site that lists rulings as well. Keep in mind that because we have JDR in Alberta many divorces don't go to trial and therefore they aren't in CanLii.

41 yrs old she can get a job at pretty much any hotel and support herself. She can cut hair for cash on the side and make a tidy amount of money. Plenty of jobs in Alberta. She's very young. If she's walking away with 1/2 of the equity in the house, a car, then she probably won't get dick squat in monthly spousal. Negotiate S/S to be on a graduated scale over the 3-5 yrs: 1st year imputed with 0 income, second year equivalent to part-time minimum wage, third year (when kids are both in school), etc. If you pay more than 1,200.00/month for both spousal and c/s I'd be surprised. This is, of course a general guess on my part and you should do the number crunching and have a look at other case awards.
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