Guest Post: Spousal Support: Heads She Wins, Tails He Loses

Posted on October 7, 2014. Filed under: Divorce | Tags: , , , , |

Posted on September 22, 2014

I have been a fan of Ontario lawyer/writer KAREN SELICK (karenselick.com) for many years and appreciate her “tell-it-like-it-is” approach to some of Canada’s absurd laws. Karen wrote the piece below on spousal support seventeen years ago in the November, 1997 issue of “Canadian Lawyer”, when the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines were nothing more than a law professor’s dream. Enjoy!

“The law of spousal support has become so repugnant to me lately that I often ponder giving up the practice of family law altogether.  It’s almost impossible to feel good about what you’re doing.  If you act for wives, you have to inform them about the kinds of claims they can make—including claims which I consider to be unjust or downright ridiculous.  If you act for husbands, you have to be prepared to be on the losing side most of the time.

It seems that no matter what course a couple’s married life took, the wife can always find some reason to claim spousal support.   If she  worked outside the home and supported her husband while he became a brain surgeon, her claim is for “compensatory support.”  If she did just the opposite, sitting around eating bonbons while the brain surgeon supported her, her claim is for  “developing a pattern of economic dependency.”

I’ve even seen cases where the wife has claimed both grounds in the same action, oblivious to the possibility that the bonbon-eating lifestyle she enjoyed in the later years of marriage has already more than compensated her for whatever work she did in the early years, or to the idea that if she was such a great provider in the early years, there was nothing stopping her from maintaining her lucrative career throughout the marriage.

In fact, the only common thread running through most support orders is this: males pay.

I remember reading once about the peculiar notion held by some eastern philosophy that if you rescue a person from impending death, you become responsible for him for the rest of his life.  Canadian courts seem to apply a similar prescript to support cases.  Once a man has kindly provided a woman with a higher standard of living than she could reasonably have hoped to achieve on her own, he’s stuck with providing it for years to come—maybe even the rest of her life–regardless of how she has behaved toward him or the reason they separated.

The Divorce Act enshrines this principle.  It tells judges to alleviate any economic disadvantage arising from either “the marriage or its breakdown.”   That “or” is a powerful word.  Suppose the marriage gave the wife an advantage rather than a disadvantage: a more affluent, leisured lifestyle than she would have earned on her own. Then, obviously, the termination of the marriage constitutes a disadvantage.

If a man genuinely caused his wife some disadvantage during the marriage, he pays for that reason.  But if instead he bestowed an advantage upon her, he pays for having stopped.  Heads she wins, tails he loses.

Another objectionable thread woven through both the legislation and the case law is the notion that if a woman can’t support herself after separation, the courts should make her ex-husband support her rather than see her go on welfare.  Maybe the legislators and judges who came up with this idea thought it would placate opponents of welfare. If so, they’ve misunderstood the nature of the objection to welfare.

Welfare is objectionable because it is coercive and one-sided.  It’s not like charity, which is voluntary.  It’s not like a contract, from which both parties benefit.  No, welfare simply forces some people to hand over money to others whose predicament they didn’t cause and who have provided no value in exchange.

The same could frequently be said about spousal support.  Take, for instance, the recent Ontario case, B. v. B.   The trial judge accepted the husband’s evidence that this was a marriage “made in Hell.”  The wife, whose IQ was only 68, didn’t work outside the home, but also didn’t do housework.  She watched a lot of television, while the husband assumed responsibility for cooking and cleaning, in addition to being the sole breadwinner.  They argued a lot, and she was occasionally violent towards him.

The trial judge awarded her only time-limited support, saying “…this husband started to pay for this marriage about three months after it occurred, and then he paid for the next 15 years, and I am not prepared to make him pay for the rest of his life.”

On appeal, the Divisional Court removed the time limit on the wife’s support, stating explicitly that the burden of the wife’s support should fall on family members, not on taxpayers.  Why?  What principle of justice or morality warrants making Mr. B. pay, as opposed to some unrelated taxpayer? Neither of them caused the wife’s need for support. Neither of them ever received any benefit from her existence.

In fact, we’ve thrown out just about every principle there ever was—from the notion of contract to the notion of fault—that made matrimonial law rational, comprehensible, predictable, controllable or just.  While some people may feel that no-fault support has been a liberating event, it’s clear that for others, it has meant nothing but grief and involuntary servitude.

It’s about time we re-examined the unfashionable idea of marital conduct to see whether justice can ever again form part of matrimonial law.”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

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Jason Patric, Dr. Farrell, Dr. Holstein, and Georgialee Lang discuss fathering issues June 4th

Posted on June 2, 2014. Filed under: fathers | Tags: , , , , |

by Georgialee Lang

http://lawdiva.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/where-have-all-the-fathers-gone/

Pre-Father’s Day Virtual Media Conference on June 4, 2014 from 1 pm to 2 pm Pacific time, onlinehttp://www.newswise.com

Jason Patric, the actor and activist, who is fighting to be an equal parent, will join three nationally known parenting experts in a virtual media conference Wednesday, June 4, the week leading up to Father’s Day.

This online event comes at a time when 53% of women under 30 who have children are not married*. That statistic predicts a generation of children with little or no father involvement – a potential threat to society and a troubling development for America’s children.

MEDIA EVENT WILL FEATURE:

* Jason Patric – actor, activist, and founder of Stand Up for Gus

* Dr. Warren Farrell — author of Father and Child Reunion

* Georgialee Lang — Leading Women for Shared Parenting

* Dr. Ned Holstein – founder and chair of the National Parents Organization

Among issues the four speakers will explore:

* Why aren’t more fathers more involved with raising young children – and where have all the fathers gone?

* What are the implications for America’s future?

* Are there larger issues involved in Stand Up for Gus and Jason Patric’s battle for co-custody of his son? Or is this just about cases of in vitro fertilization?

* How are women becoming a political force for the equal involvement of both parents?

*What role do family courts play in keeping fathers apart from their children

Issues and story angles the presenters will discuss during the online media conference:

–Jason Patric, actor, activist and founder of Stand Up For Gus; http://www.standupforgus.com
— Why he’s fighting for Gus and all the kids who are being deprived of their dad;
— What he’s learned about how the system treats dads.

–Warren Farrell, PhD, author Father and Child Reunion; http://www.warrenfarrell.biz

— What the research shows about why children do better when fathers are equally involved;
–Georgialee Lang, J.D., of Leading Women for Shared Parenting; http://www.lw4sp.org
— How women and mothers are becoming a political force toward this end;
— Why Leading Women for Shared Parenting is redefining the “maternal instinct” as providing a child with both parents.

–Ned Holstein, M.D., Founder and Chair of the National Parents’ Organization;https://nationalparentsorganization.org

— What’s happening in the U.S. and Canada about the challenges fathers face on a legal level;
–Which states and provinces have implemented the most progressive legislation?

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Parental Alienation Leads Court to Call Father a “Wallet”

Posted on November 26, 2012. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce, Parental Alienation Syndrome | Tags: , , |

Lawdiva’s Blog   –   Canadian Lawyer  Georgialee Lang – Her recent story on Parental Alienation

There are many divorced fathers in Canada who believe they are nothing more than a “wallet” in their children’s eyes. It is rare however, for a judge to confirm that status in Reasons for Judgment, but that is exactly what Mr. Justice Gray did in his recent decision in Veneman v. Veneman 2012 ONSC 6324.

Mr. and Mrs. Veneman separated in 2004 after 11 years of marriage. Mr. Veneman left the family home but maintained the financial status quo and enjoyed a good relationship with the children, ages 8 and 11.

The apparent bliss of separation disappeared, however, when Mr. Veneman commenced a personal relationship with a woman he met on the internet. His ex-wife’s reaction was venomous as revealed in vulgar emails from her to Mr. Veneman where she called his girlfriend an “internet whore”.

At about the same time, Mr. Veneman decided that after two years of separation, the parties should reorganize their financial affairs. He closed the joint account that his wife and he shared since the date of separation and began paying voluntary child and spousal support.

Ms. Veneman’s campaign of abuse against Mr. Veneman was quickly adopted by his two girls who also began writing mean-spirited and disrespectful emails to their father. The children were particularly angered by their father when he brought his girlfriend to a birthday party for one of the girls hosted by the girl’s paternal grandparent. This was the first occasion they had met her, although Mr. Veneman told his children about her and their relationship.

As time went on, the girls also sent emails scolding their father for failing to provide sufficient funds to their mother. The Court found that Ms. Veneman liberally shared her views about his girlfriend and his financial contribution, all actions which eventually led to the termination of any father/daughter relationship.

Eldest daughter Maggie described her father in an email to him as “selfish, greedy, lying, back-stabbing, neglecting, blackmailing, bribing, idiotic, mean and just overall a stupid person”. This kind of poison most often originates from a parent who cannot see that their attitude is severely harming their children.

Despite the difficulties, Mr. Veneman continued to make every effort to reconnect and appease his children but all overtures were rebuffed by them.

With his older daughter approaching the age of nineteen and attending Queen’s University, Mr. Veneman brought an application to court asking for an order that his obligation to pay child support cease upon her birthday.

Several years earlier, he had agreed to an order that he pay 75% of his children’s post-secondary education costs, but he now argued that her termination of any relationship with him was cause for the court to reconsider his child support obligations.

Mr. Veneman relied on several cases where courts noted that an adult child’s unilateral and unreasoned abandonment of a parental relationship could lead to a termination of support. Other cases, however, were cited where the proposition was accepted that “estrangement, even at the sole instance of the child, should not be relevant”.

Judge Gray, however, did not need to grapple with which authority was correct as he was able to decide the case by finding that the father had not shown a material change in circumstances, which was the required test to vary a child support order. The judge held that when Mr. Veneman agreed to pay post-secondary expenses in 2009, he had no relationship with Maggie, and had no relationship now.

He declared that Mr. Veneman “was nothing more than a wallet” and said the blame for the alienation must be assumed by both parents.

It is here where I part company with the judge’s findings. It is startling to suggest that the clumsy, perhaps even insensitive, introduction of a new partner to one’s children who are 10 and 13, after two years of separation from their mother, constitutes conduct that is blameworthy.

In my view, Ms. Veneman’s immature behavior is the reason her children have ousted their father from their lives. I hope when the girls figure it out, which they will, they will clearly understand their mother’s role in a tragic family situation the judge called “irrational and avoidable”.

Interesting that if you are part of an intact family you can decide how much you want to contribute, if any, to your child’s education, but if you are separated or divorced the State decides.

Equally interesting is the absence of any reference to “parental alienation”. I guess if you don’t say it, it doesn’t exist.

 

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Things the court should consider when one parent wants to move away from home

Posted on November 20, 2012. Filed under: Child Custody and Visitation, Divorce | Tags: , , , , |

By GeorgiaLee Lang http://lawdiva.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/no-au-revoir-for-halle-berry/

Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry will not be allowed to move permanently to France with her four-year-old daughter Nahla Ariela Aubry, a ruling made on Friday by a California judge. Nahla’s father, Gabriel Aubry is a Canadian actor and model who lives and works in Los Angeles.

Ms. Berry has battled Nahla’s father since the couple separated in 2010, pulling out the usual grab-bag of custody tricks, including her refusal to pay child support to him, later rectified by a judge who ordered that she pay $20,000 to Mr. Aubry as a joint custodial parent. There was also a failed attempt to suggest that Mr. Aubry has been “physical” with Nahla’s nanny. After a complete investigation, accompanied by a period of supervised access for Mr. Aubry, the allegations were thrown out.

When a parent applies to the court to move permanently with a child to a jurisdiction far away from home and the child’s other parent, there are a number of considerations that come into play. Is the move in the child’s best interests? The factors include:

1. Will the child be able to maintain a relationship with the left-behind parent?
2. Will the quality of the relationship with the left-behind parent be sufficient to continue the parental bond?
3. How far will the child and left-behind parent have to travel to maintain their relationship?
4. How much will it cost for the left-behind parent to travel to visit the child and who will pay the expenses?
5. Will the change in the child’s permanent residence impact on the involvement of extended family in the child’s life, such as maternal and paternal grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins?
6. Will the move enhance the child and moving parent’s quality of life in regards to better opportunities for financial security?
7. Is the motive for the move an attempt to minimize parenting time to the other parent?

Ms. Berry’s rationale for the move is that she did not want her daughter growing up around paparazzi and the tabloids, arguing that she could provide more privacy, and a greater sense of security for her daughter in France, where coincidentally, her latest boyfriend lives.

Ms. Berry must have forgotten that Princess Diana’s death was attributed to overzealous paparazzi in Paris and that Kate Middleton’s recent nude photos were taken in France, by a local celebrity photographer. I’m sure Mr. Aubry’s lawyer remembered.

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Abducted Child Found after 26 Years

Posted on January 20, 2011. Filed under: Child Abduction, Parental Alienation Syndrome | Tags: , , , |

Despite the harm Nancy Fiedler inflicted on her daughter and her ex-husband and his family, I predict her punishment will not fit the crime. If this were a “stranger” abduction, there is no doubt of severe retribution, however, the irony is that the true victim, Eva, will likely support and defend her mother.

According to Georgialee Lang (lawyer), there is no reason to believe that Nancy Fiedler will discontinue her accusations of abuse against Greg Fiedler after living a large part of her life based on this theme. In Ms. Lang’s experience, women like Nancy Fiedler rarely have insight into their destructive behavior. She likely casts herself in the role of heroine, after all, she saved her daughter.

To read the full article click on the link. Lawdiva blog

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