Update on Teen Who Sued Parents For Child Support

GEO#1Thankfully some common sense has been injected into the situation between New Jersey teen, Rachel Canning, and her parents, Sean and Elizabeth Canning. Rachel is the 18 year-old who didn’t like her parents’ house rules, moved in with a girlfriend, and ended up in a courtroom suing her parents, courtesy of her girlfriend’s father, a local Lincoln Park politician and….wait for it…..lawyer!

Rachel obtained a court order on March 5, 2014 that denied her the child support she was seeking, but set up a court process for the matter to proceed to trial with a pretrial hearing on April 22, 2014. It was reported that her benefactor, lawyer John Inglesino, has already spent $13,000 on legal fees on her behalf.

Judge Peter Bogaard’s order also included the suggestions that the parties be encouraged to explore the option of family counselling…no kidding?

Rachel’s lawsuit turned her into an international media pariah, savaged in the court of public opinion, a situation that greatly distressed her parents, who changed counsel after the original hearing.

It cannot be a coincidence that the Canning’s new lawyer, Angelo Sarno, announced yesterday that Rachel had returned home, much to her family’s joy. Mr. Sarno said “(This case) should never have been brought to the court’s attention. It should never have been brought to the public”.

However, after Rachel returned home, her lawyer, Tanya Helfand, ran into court seeking emergency orders to seal the court file and have a guardian appointed for Rachel, telling the court that Rachel was “pressured” to return home by her parents and was waiving her complaint with no promise of financial consideration.

Judge Bogaard denied Ms. Helfand’s application.

So what you have now appears to be a classic legal conundrum. On one side, a lawyer who supports his clients to leave the legal arena before the damage is so devastating there is no possibility of reconciliation between Rachel, her parents and her two younger sisters; matched with a lawyer who apparently wants to continue and even escalate the litigation.

I still don’t understand lawyers who ignore the future ramifications of court actions involving families…one of the reasons why family law matters need to be steered away from court and into mediation or arbitration, if no compromise can be reached.

Not surprisingly, lawyer Inglesino has also been the subject of derision for interfering with Rachel and her parents in a highly personal matter.

It looks like there is only one lawyer in this piece who is wearing a “white hat”…

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Teen Who Doesn’t Like “House Rules” Sues Parents for Child Support

A New Jersey judge has shot down teenager Rachel Canning’s application that her parents pay her $654.00 a week in child support. (That’s over $2,600 a month!)

Depending upon who you believe, Rachel, age 18, says her parents kicked her out of their home in October 2013, two days before her 18th birthday. Her father, retired Lincoln Park Police Chief, Sean Canning, says his daughter, who is deeply loved, left on her own after deciding she didn’t like the “house rules”, which included being respectful, abiding by a curfew, and doing her share of household chores.

She now lives with relatives of her best friend and has been financially supported in her lawsuit by a local politician.

Rachel, an honour student who attends private Catholic School, Morris High, also sought her attorney’s fees and reimbursement for tuition owed by her since her parents stopped payments as of December 2013.

School authorities said they will continue her education despite non-payment.

Judge Peter Bogaard ruled that to make such an order would open the floodgates to disgruntled New Jersey teenagers and was “bad precedent”. He did, however, order the Canning’s to retain Rachel on their health insurance and to leave the college savings account intact.

Psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow, who was not involved in the case, opines on Fox News that our courts have no business interfering with parental decisions and that even dealing with health insurance and college savings usurps parental rights.

There will be a further hearing in April to determine her parents’ legal obligation to fund her college tuition.

Rachel took a drastic adult step in launching litigation against her family. I think she’s getting bad advice!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Wanna Work at Home and Make Thousands? Have a Baby!

IMG_0277In a crass, hard-hitting advertisement from El Paso Texas, lawyer Mark Davis has caught the attention of his target audience.

“Have a baby, get rid of the father and get the money, then spend the funds on “drinking, expensive restaurants and clubs”…..If this sounds familiar to you guys, please do give us a call. It isn’t a fair world, so even the odds and lawyer up!”

Mr. Davis apparently knows of what he speaks as he references a program in Texas where single mothers receive debit cards from the Texas child support enforcement program, the government agency that collects child support for parents in the state.

Davis points out that the debit card is as good as cash in any bar in El Paso or maybe the recipient would rather buy a gift for her new boyfriend. Not a problem.

On a more serious note, lawyer Davis decries overly generous child support orders, characterizing them as nothing more than a “cash grab”. He says he has one non-custodial client who is paying $1,400 per month for his six-month-old child, an amount he says is “impossible” to spend on an infant that young.

“Generally, the idea of child support is a good thing, people need to take care of their kids, but it’s so abused in the state of Texas,” Davis said. “I don’t mean to offend people by putting this poster out, but I do mean to wake people up to pay attention to what’s going on.

Meanwhile, a state representative confirms that custodial parents are issued debit cards and there is no check to determine whether the monies are spent on diapers or dinner out.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Steve Nash’s Child Support Dispute Turns Into PR Nightmare

GEO#1

British Columbia is proud of native son Steve Nash and rightly so. He shines for his athletic prowess, his philanthropic focus, and his entrepreneurship. An NBA all-star, his career has seen him play for Phoenix, Dallas and now, Los Angeles. He has an Order of Canada and received an honourary Doctorate in Law from the University of Victoria.

In 2001, Nash met his future wife, Alejandra Amarilla, in Manhattan. They married in June 2005 and had twin daughters, Lola and Bella, born in 2004, and then a son, Matteo Joel, born in 2010. On the day of his son’s birth, Nash made a statement to the press in which he announced his son’s birth, but called it a “bittersweet moment”, revealing that he and his wife had “lived separately for the past several months” and were “in the process of dissolving” their marriage.

Steve Nash’s marriage breakdown was just another celebrity split-up in an era where divorce announcements are as frequent as birth announcements and garnered a relatively modest amount of media attention.

However, Nash’s polished image is taking a trouncing as celebrity gossip websites announce that he and his former wife, Alejandro Amarilla, are engaged in a dispute about whether she can move with their three children from Phoenix, where the couple lived during their marriage, to Los Angeles, where Steve Nash now lives and works.

Stories circulating in the media include the allegation that Ms. Amarilla only wishes to leave Arizona so she can avail herself of what is described as California’s more generous child support laws.

The media has reported that while the children reside in Arizona, Mr. Nash is not obliged to pay child support and he is only resisting his ex-wife’s move to California so he can maintain the status quo.

Details are scarce and Mr. Nash’s advisors are keeping a low profile, however, it strains credulity to believe that Nash is a “deadbeat dad” as some twitter enthusiasts are suggesting.

What has emerged is that his ex-wife received a mult-million dollar divorce settlement, has her own financial resources, and Mr. Nash pays for the children’s education, medical and related expenses, extracurricular activities and the children’s nanny.

It is more likely that Nash’s opposition to the children’s move is because he understands that children need stability and certainty, which is what they have in Phoenix. Mr. Nash’s parents also live there. Finally, to move the children to follow their father in the waning years of his career may entail further transitions for the children as his playing days come to an end.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

BarristerSo, you’re just a regular guy doing your thing and you happen to come across a Craigslist ad where a lesbian couple want to have a baby and need a sperm donor. Because you’re such a good guy, you figure, what the heck, why not help them out?

They offer to pay you $50.00 but you say “hey, I’m not doing this for the money, keep your $50.00″. Of course, you sign an agreement waiving all your paternal rights so you can’t be on the hook down the road. Your good deed results in a bouncing baby girl.

Fast forward to today, the little girl is three-years old, and the couple have split up. An application is made for health insurance for the child and the Kansas Department for Child and Families won’t approve the application until the name of the sperm donor is provided.

Now our good guy is faced with a lawsuit brought by the government agency for child support of $6000.00 to cover past payments and a claim for ongoing support.

How can that be, you say? Doesn’t the agreement he signed protect him? Not according to the Kansas authorities. Kansas does not recognize same-sex couples as parents unless conception is through a licensed physician or clinic. They say they are obliged by the law to pursue the father for support payments.

No good deed goes unpunished.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

I’ll Just Leave the Country and Pay Nothing!

DSC01152_2 (2)_2One of the most common threats a lawyer may hear from a beleaguered client is the cry that “I might as well quit work, if I have to pay that much to my ex-wife”. Another is “I’ll just leave the country and then he/she will get nothing.”

Usually these threats are spoken out of frustration and rarely are they acted upon, however, from time to time a parent will abandon his or her family, rather than obey a court order that is perceived by them to be onerous and unfair.

In a recent Ontario case, Hans Mills did just that. He left the country to avoid paying his ex-wife, Donna Mills, spousal and child support of $3772.00 per month, $2235.00 for the children and $1537.00 for his wife.

A very bleak situation for Ms. Mills who is caring for a 10-year-old with cancer in remission, a Downs Syndrome 14-year-old, a depressed teen, age 17, and a 19-year-old son on methadone treatment. How did everything go so wrong?

After separating in 2005, the Mills reached an agreement in 2008 which gave Ms. Mills sole custody of the children, and the family home, valued at $1.2 million (with a $600,000 mortgage), in exchange for a payment to Mr. Mills of $175,000. Because she received the lion’s share of the equity in the home, she agreed to forego spousal support. Mr. Mills earned approximately $100,000 per year and would pay child support.

Three years after their agreement, money issues began to simmer and a trial was scheduled to deal with the problems that had arisen, including Ms. Mill’s alleged inability to work. In an interim application before the trial, the Court ordered Mr. Mills to pay his ex-wife spousal support, including retroactive support and court costs, in spite of the fact that she had received two-thirds of the family home.

Recognizing that the interim order was a precursor to worse things to come, Mr. Mills sold his house, cashed in his pension, paid his bills, and moved to the Philippines, a country where he had done business for years and a country that had no support treaty with Ontario.

Ms. Mills had always feared he would just leave and implored the government agency that collects child and spousal support to register a lien against his house and seize his Canadian and European passports, but to no avail. And then he was gone. His email to his ex-wife read:

“The result of the legal instrument which you recently designed and implemented
is that there is no possibility of a comfortable life or a (secure) retirement for me in
Canada at all. Therefore, I have left the country to seek greener pastures elsewhere
and will never return. Well done Einstein. Good luck and good bye.”

Ms. Mills is perilously close to financial, emotional, physical, and spiritual bankruptcy, but says she will not let her children down, despite the dire circumstances.

As for “Father of the Year”, his actions are despicable. His departure was fueled by a court order to pay spousal support, which he now uses to justify his decision to stop supporting his children. He has expressed hope that one day he can reconcile with his children, “but not in Canada, a morally bankrupt state”.

It is Hans Mills that is “morally bankrupt”.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Ten Signs Your Divorce is “Off the Rails”

Don’t we all like to think that if divorce was in our future, our uncoupling would be civilized, respectful and rational. For many divorcing spouses it can be that way, particularly where there are no children and minimal assets, however, all the best intentions for an amicable parting can quickly dissipate once spouses abandon the high-road for the ditch.

If you are involved in a so-called “amicable divorce”, are there identifiable signs that signal your divorce may be meandering to the low-road? Of course, there are. Be aware of the following:

1. YOU HAVE A NEW PARTNER Often amicable divorces remain that way until a husband begins a serious relationship with a new lady. One of the easiest ways to have your divorce come “off the rails” is to flaunt a new paramour, before your wife is emotionally ready, which in some cases is never.

2. YOU DECIDE TO CLOSE THE CREDIT CARD ACCOUNTS It is not uncommon for husbands to maintain the financial status quo until they realize their separated spouses’ credit card spending is three times the pre-separation amount. Delicacy is required to rein in the spending, without ruining the convivial settlement discussions. A useful strategy is to terminate all major credit cards except one, which remains available to your spouse, albeit with a much lower credit facility. This can only be done with advance notice to your spouse.

3. YOU TAKE THE CHILDREN ON A VACATION WITH YOUR NEW “FRIEND” You have pleasant post-separation discussions and agree on summer vacation access with your kids, but fail to tell your wife you will be bringing along your 25-year-old girlfriend. Surprises are always dangerous. You are better off to advise your spouse in advance and find a compromise if she adamantly opposes the extra company. Perhaps the girlfriend only visits for a couple of nights or not at all?

4. YOUR WIFE FINDS YOUR PRE-SEPARATION CREDIT CARD STATEMENTS WITH JEWELLERY PURCHASES SHE KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT The divorce process always involves the exchange of financial information, including credit card statements. If your wife finds purchases from Tiffany’s or Birk’s, made before the separation and she is not the recipient, watch out. Still worse, are cancelled cheques on your joint account confirming you were paying your girlfriend’s rent before you and your spouse separated.

5. YOUR WIFE FINDS OUT YOU WERE SLEEPING WITH THE NANNY IN THE MARITAL BED The marriage is now over but your wife learns from reliable sources that you were sleeping with the children’s nanny during the marriage. This is a sure-fire way to generate anger and humiliation in your wife, something that usually gets in the way of future courteous communication.

6. YOUR WIFE LEARNS THAT THE “SMALL” MORTGAGE ON THE FAMILY HOME EATS UP OVER HALF OF THE HOME EQUITY Your secret financial dealings during the marriage are now exposed and your wife is shocked to learn that what she thought was a $100,000 mortgage on the family residence is actually $250,000 as a result of undisclosed stock investments made with borrowed monies. It’s even worse if the stock is now worth considerably less or nothing at all.

7. YOU ADVISE YOUR SPOUSE THAT YOU WILL NEVER GIVE UP CUSTODY OF THE FAMILY PET You think everything is settled and leave the conversation about Muffy and Fido to the end, only to realize that neither of you will give up the family pet. Yes, judges now also decide who gets custody of the cat and dog, where the parties cannot agree. This issue can be a deal-breaker.

8. YOU GRADUALLY CANCEL MANY OF YOUR ACCESS VISITS WITH YOUR CHILDREN You tell your spouse you want to remain an active, involved parent, but your weekly visits are now monthly visits and you have failed to show up for some of your visits, leaving your children crying and your ex seething.

9. YOUR SPOUSE MAKES IT DIFFICULT TO SEE THE CHILDREN Parenting time starts off well but disintegrates when your spouse realizes her financial expectations are unrealistically inflated and she now needs leverage to obtain a better financial outcome. What better pawn than the children?

10. YOU TELL YOUR STAY-AT-HOME SPOUSE YOU WILL QUIT YOUR JOB BEFORE YOU EVER PAY HER SPOUSAL SUPPORT You are usually a traditional husband who has no problem paying child support, but believes a 50-year-old wife who worked as a bank teller twenty years ago, should immediately find full-time employment because the children are all in school. What else is she going to do all day?

Negotiating a reasonable divorce settlement can be a minefield if a spouse is not aware of the dangerous trigger points that invite hostility, embarrassment or distrust. A strategic family law lawyer is one who can assist you to manoeuvre the settlement terrain without stepping on a divorce landmine.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

5 of the Dirtiest Divorce Tricks

Some divorcing spouses treat each other deplorably. In these sad cases, it is actually hard to believe they were once in love. Candour and kindness are replaced by artifice and cruelty. Divorce lawyers are well aware of the grab bag of dirty tricks spouses inflict on each other. My top five dirtiest divorce tricks are:

1. Conflicting Out All of the Top Divorce Lawyers

An age-old practice for a spouse who expects a long, drawn out divorce battle is to ensure their estranged partner can’t retain a top divorce lawyer. It goes like this – husband or wife makes appointments with the top lawyers in the area. At each meeting they reveal enough about their situation that the top lawyer, who they have no real intention of retaining, cannot act for their spouse. If each top lawyer charges them $500.00 for a one hour consultation, they only spend a few thousand dollars to ensure they have defanged their spouse by preventing him or her from hiring a “gun” equivalent to their top-tier counsel. Yes, this happens in the world of high net worth divorce.

2. Firing Your Lawyer Just Before Trial

Another effective divorce trick is to fire your lawyer weeks before your divorce trial is set to commence. How does this work? It’s easy. Let’s say you are the wife of a wealthy husband. Since you obtained a court order ejecting your husband from the family home, you now reside in luxury with peace and quiet; you are receiving thousands of dollars a month in tax-free child and spousal support; and your life consists of tennis lessons, lunch with the girls at the Club and evening soirees. Meanwhile your husband is doing what he always does: travelling around the world doing business deals to support your mutual lifestyles. He doesn’t even see the kids much, so there’s no hassles at all.

Why would you spoil all this by taking a chance that a judge may eliminate some part of your lavish lifestyle or impose an access schedule for the children to see their father that may interfere with your plans?

3. Transferring Your Assets Off-Shore

While you may live a life of champagne and caviar, it is unlikely you can maintain that level of opulence if your spouse has arranged to stash all his liquid assets off-shore in trusts set up in any number of tax havens such as the Bahamas, the Isle of Man, Turks and Caicos or Switzerland.

In many jurisdictions a Court may make an order that off-shore assets be divided between the spouses, but just wait until you see how difficult it is for you to convince the foreign jurisdiction they must obey the order of a North American Court. All I can say is good luck!

4. Arranging Multiple Mortgages on Your Real Estate

It is not uncommon to see marriages where the “little lady” has no idea of what she and her husband are really worth. Imagine a spouse’s disappointment when their lawyer informs them that the family home and their summer cottage are mortgaged to the hilt and have little or no equity. Their once middle-class standard of living evaporates as Mrs. now looks for a basement suite to house her and her two children.

Another real estate divorce trick is to build a lavish home on leased land that is situated on property that is in the agricultural land reserve, so that while it may have cost $3 million to build, it has no real market value since nobody in their right mind would purchase this property. Yes, this is a true story.

5. Building a House of Cards

For a time life is grand, but inevitably problems arise in your marriage. In an effort to please your spouse you try you to spend your way back to the marriage you once had. Little does your spouse know that the trips to Europe, Hawaii and the Super Bowl were leveraged, courtesy of American Express or Visa. The marriage does not survive and you discover your net worth is much less than you expected as you have tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt all used for the family. Let’s just hope the Sistine Chapel was worth it.

Perhaps you think that with the explosion of mediation and collaborative divorce, these tricks have lost their lustre? Think again. For spouses who need revenge more than they need closure, they are alive and well.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

5 Support Arguments That Don’t Matter in Divorce Court

Divorce sucks. Especially when your lawyer tells you that you are likely going to come out with the short end of the stick. Even legal sophisticates, meaning those who have experience with courts and lawyers because of their business affairs, their real estate acquisitions or their estate planning, often gasp at the perceived immorality of divorce laws.

Clients frequently complain about the unfairness of divorce laws and the courts’ reluctance to consider moral issues that are important to litigants, but irrelevant to the court.

Five of the most common complaints are:

1. MY WIFE LEFT ME TO MOVE IN WITH HER BOYFRIEND, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY HER SPOUSAL SUPPORT?

In bygone years the courts only made spousal support orders where a recipient spouse was innocent of marital fault. When a wife was considered to be the cause of the marriage breakdown, no support was payable.

In the middle of the 20th century, divorce law began to evolve and currently many countries and states administer “no-fault” divorce. That means even if your husband or wife is a serial philanderer, or physically abusive, if they qualify for spousal support, they will likely get it. A long marriage results in a lengthy period of support and support theory is based on a lack of means of one spouse and the ability to pay of the other.

Imagine the dismay of a spouse with means when their husband or wife leave them for another partner, move in with that partner, and still receive support from their aggrieved left-behind spouse. The obvious question is “Why do I have to support her (or him) when she has chosen to move on with a new partner? Shouldn’t she be supported by him?”

Sounds logical, however, the legal test for entitlement to support is based on “means and need”. If the spouse moves in with a starving artist or someone on a disability pension, that spouse may still have need, despite their attachment to a new partner. Related to this complaint is the next one:

2. MY EX SPOUSE HAS REMARRIED, WHY DO I STILL HAVE TO PAY SPOUSAL SUPPORT?

Often long-divorced clients will call their family law attorneys bursting with good news. He or she will announce that after 15 years their ex has finally remarried and when can the spousal support payments end? The problem is that only if a former spouse agrees to the cessation of support, in writing of course, can payments be terminated.

Ex-spouses, however, are loath to give up what they have enjoyed for many years and most frequently the matter ends up in a courtroom. Twenty-five thousand dollars later and with a little luck, the support may be reduced, but not eliminated, because of the “means and needs” test.

3. WHY DOES MY EX GET SPOUSAL SUPPORT AFTER MY DEATH?

In long marriages, spousal support is often ordered to be paid permanently or indefinitely. Some jurisdictions even order that support be secured by life insurance or binding on the estate of the payor upon his or her death.

What that means is that even after a paying spouse dies, the support lives on, paid from a life insurance policy or from the proceeds of the deceased payor’s estate. The practical reality is that as spouses enter their “golden years” they generally live off their pensions or the proceeds of sale of their assets. Yes, the same pensions and assets that were already divided between the spouses at the time of divorce.

The alleged unfairness is that the deceased spouse’s estate is reduced by the ongoing support obligation, to the detriment of the deceased spouse’s heirs, and worst of all, it is paid from assets that were already divided equally. It’s back to “means and need” again. If the recipient spouse has need and the payor spouse has means, support may continue after death.

4. WHY AM I STILL PAYING SUPPORT FOR MY 24-YEAR-OLD CHILD?

Clients often ask why they are obliged to pay support for their children after the age of majority, and in particular, why they are ordered to fund an expensive university education? The argument usually centres around the fact that if the family was intact, decisions would be made that may include parental funding of school, but could also include children working part-time or applying for student loans.

The answer is simple. If divorced parents cannot agree on how to educate their adult children, then the court must step in. The laws in many countries provide that child support must be paid until the child obtains one post-secondary degree or diploma. Yes, even if the family, pre-marriage breakdown, had no intention to fund their children’s schooling.

5. WHY DOESN’T MY EX SPOUSE HAVE TO CONTRIBUTE TO CHILD SUPPORT?

In many jurisdictions child support is governed by child support guidelines enacted by legislators. Many of these laws provide that a parent with primary residence of the children is entitled to child support based on the other parent’s annual income. So far, so good. However, issues arise when the recipient parent’s earnings outstrip the payor parent’s earnings and yet the higher-earning parent is not obliged to make a financial contribution to support, so as to reduce the support obligation of the lower-earning parent.

The policy behind the law is that a primary resident parent’s contribution is more than equal to monies paid for child support, for it is the primary parent who does the most work including transportation, socialization, schooling, medical and dental issues, psychological and emotional guidance and many other day-to-day matters for the care of children.

The common denominator in these scenarios is that if you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement on support, the court will intervene. Best to try to reach a compromise with your spouse then to risk the rigours of the law.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Ten Signs Your Divorce is “Off the Rails”

Don’t we all like to think that if divorce was in our future, our uncoupling would be civilized, respectful and rational. For many divorcing spouses it can be that way, particularly where there are no children and minimal assets, however, all the best intentions for an amicable parting can quickly dissipate once spouses abandon the high-road for the ditch.

If you are involved in a so-called “amicable divorce”, are there identifiable signs that signal your divorce may be meandering to the low-road? Of course, there are. Be aware of the following:

1. YOU HAVE A NEW PARTNER Often amicable divorces remain that way until a husband begins a serious relationship with a new lady. One of the easiest ways to have your divorce come “off the rails” is to flaunt a new paramour, before your wife is emotionally ready, which in some cases is never.

2. YOU DECIDE TO CLOSE THE CREDIT CARD ACCOUNTS It is not uncommon for husbands to maintain the financial status quo until they realize their separated spouses’ credit card spending is three times the pre-separation amount. Delicacy is required to rein in the spending, without ruining the convivial settlement discussions. A useful strategy is to terminate all major credit cards except one, which remains available to your spouse, albeit with a much lower credit facility. This can only be done with advance notice to your spouse.

3. YOU TAKE THE CHILDREN ON A VACATION WITH YOUR NEW “FRIEND” You have pleasant post-separation discussions and agree on summer vacation access with your kids, but fail to tell your wife you will be bringing along your 25-year-old girlfriend. Surprises are always dangerous. You are better off to advise your spouse in advance and find a compromise if she adamantly opposes the extra company. Perhaps the girlfriend only visits for a couple of nights or not at all?

4. YOUR WIFE FINDS YOUR PRE-SEPARATION CREDIT CARD STATEMENTS WITH JEWELLERY PURCHASES SHE KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT The divorce process always involves the exchange of financial information, including credit card statements. If your wife finds purchases from Tiffany’s or Birk’s, made before the separation and she is not the recipient, watch out. Still worse, are cancelled cheques on your joint account confirming you were paying your girlfriend’s rent before you and your spouse separated.

5. YOUR WIFE FINDS OUT YOU WERE SLEEPING WITH THE NANNY IN THE MARITAL BED The marriage is now over but your wife learns from reliable sources that you were sleeping with the children’s nanny during the marriage. This is a sure-fire way to generate anger and humiliation in your wife, something that usually gets in the way of future courteous communication.

6. YOUR WIFE LEARNS THAT THE “SMALL” MORTGAGE ON THE FAMILY HOME EATS UP OVER HALF OF THE HOME EQUITY Your secret financial dealings during the marriage are now exposed and your wife is shocked to learn that what she thought was a $100,000 mortgage on the family residence is actually $250,000 as a result of undisclosed stock investments made with borrowed monies. It’s even worse if the stock is now worth considerably less or nothing at all.

7. YOU ADVISE YOUR SPOUSE THAT YOU WILL NEVER GIVE UP CUSTODY OF THE FAMILY PET You think everything is settled and leave the conversation about Muffy and Fido to the end, only to realize that neither of you will give up the family pet. Yes, judges now also decide who gets custody of the cat and dog, where the parties cannot agree. This issue can be a deal-breaker.

8. YOU GRADUALLY CANCEL MANY OF YOUR ACCESS VISITS WITH YOUR CHILDREN You tell your spouse you want to remain an active, involved parent, but your weekly visits are now monthly visits and you have failed to show up for some of your visits, leaving your children crying and your ex seething.

9. YOUR SPOUSE MAKES IT DIFFICULT TO SEE THE CHILDREN Parenting time starts off well but disintegrates when your spouse realizes her financial expectations are unrealistically inflated and she now needs leverage to obtain a better financial outcome. What better pawn than the children?

10. YOU TELL YOUR STAY-AT-HOME SPOUSE YOU WILL QUIT YOUR JOB BEFORE YOU EVER PAY HER SPOUSAL SUPPORT You are usually a traditional husband who has no problem paying child support, but believes a 50-year-old wife who worked as a bank teller twenty years ago, should immediately find full-time employment because the children are all in school. What else is she going to do all day?

Negotiating a reasonable divorce settlement can be a minefield if a spouse is not aware of the dangerous trigger points that invite hostility, embarrassment or distrust. A strategic family law lawyer is one who can assist you to manoeuvre the settlement terrain without stepping on a divorce landmine.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang