Divorce is messy, no doubt about it. When a relationship ends, it’s not unusual for people to say things without thinking. So it’s not surprising that spouses make threats, either to try to keep the other partner in the relationship, or to try to get revenge for the pain they’re going through. When your spouse threatens you during your divorce, the first thing to do is to get an objective viewpoint – is this a credible threat? Most of the time, the scariest threats are nothing to worry about. Below, I list some of the most common threats divorcing spouses may make -and why you needn’t worry about them.
Threat #1 – “Because your behaviour caused the divorce, I’ll get 70% of your income, and if you remarry, I’ll get some of your new spouse’s income, too.”
Spousal support is not based on who behaved badly. The amount of spousal support is based on factors such as your income, your spouse’s income, the length of your marriage, and the roles performed during the marriage. The goal of spousal support is to share the economic consequences of the divorce, not to punish anyone. And in any case, a new spouse would not be held responsible for any spousal support.
Threat #2 – “When we divorce, I’ll just move away with the kids and you’ll never get to see them.”
When parents divorce, they need permission from the court to move away with the children. The court won’t allow a parent to move without a good reason and if it isn’t in the best interests of the children. So if your spouse is threatening to move just out of spite, chances are that he or she won’t be able to do so. It’s a good idea to make sure that the court knows about a threat like this, however, so that your spouse can be made aware of the legal results of this kind of behaviour.
Threat #3 – “You know you can’t support yourself. If you divorce me, you’ll end up homeless.”
If you depend on your spouse financially, that doesn’t mean you have to stay married. The court will want to try to help you attain financial independence, but an order of spousal support is normally part of the divorce settlement for people who have not been employed while married. If you’ve set aside your own career and contributed your time and effort to maintaining the household or raising the children while your spouse worked outside the home, the court recognizes your contributions through spousal support.
If you’re hearing threats like these, chances are you’re dealing with a very upset – and possibly an abusive and controlling – spouse. Depending on your prior relationship, you have some idea of how seriously to take the threats. But you should also be aware that divorce law is on the side of fairness and moderation. If you fear a spouse will actually carry out a threat that will negatively affect your children – or if you fear violence – you should talk with your lawyer or the police. You should also alert your lawyer to threats involving the sale of property or other family resources. The important thing is to keep your head and distinguish between threats that can actually result in harm to your children or yourself and threats that are just a smokescreen designed to scare or emotionally blackmail you.
Threat #4 – “You’ll never see the children again after the divorce!”
In Canadian family law, child custody and access is determined by what is in the best interests of the children. Unless there are some serious problems with your parenting abilities, you will at least obtain access to your children. “Standard” visitation nowadays for older children where the parents live in the same city normally involves access every second weekend, as well as access one evening or overnight per week. Holidays normally are divided equally between the parents. If your spouse unilaterally removes the children from your home, you should immediately seek legal advice. Quick legal action is normally necessary. This may be considered kidnapping, and judges treat parents who do this very harshly.
Threat #5 – “I’ll go bankrupt if you divorce me!”
Bankruptcy will have some effect on your divorce proceedings, but not as much as you might expect. Bankruptcy does not change a person’s child or spousal support obligations. So, even if your spouse does declare bankruptcy, any child or spousal support owed will still be payable. Bankruptcy may reduce the amount of property you get when the property is divided. However, Canadian family law courts often make up for this by awarding extra spousal support since one of the purposes of spousal support is to compensate a spouse for any disadvantages suffered during the marriage.
Threat #6 – “Don’t expect to get any child support or spousal support from me!”
If a spouse quits his or her job without good reason (and often, in my opinion, with good reason) the court normally “imputes” an income to the spouse. This means that the court will order child or spousal support payable as if the spouse had not quit his or her job. Under Canadian family law, the amount of child support is determined by Guidelines, and there is not much room for negotiation unless there is fairly equal access between the parties. The amount of spousal support is determined by factors such a length of marriage, roles played during the marriage, and other factors that there is not much your spouse can do about after you have separated.
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