My version of the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines

At times when I get this strange and unusual urge to blog, it has to be because something has motivated me to speak up. Every day when I read headlines in the news, opinions flash into my mind that I probably could make good use of, if only I made the effort. I feel like I took a one-way trip to stagnation. There was a time when I used to be “opinionated” on public forums on a daily basis. Whether it’s age, lack of interest or laziness that stopped it, it’s hard to say.

There is a subject that’s been burning me up, though – a subject that’s a sore spot for probably 97% of divorced men and a puny percentage of women, and that’s spousal support.

As a young girl, while all my girlfriends were playing with Barbie dolls and dreaming of their own wedding day, I sat perplexed as to what the big deal was, adamant that I was never going to apply the ugly “husband and wife” pronouns to myself. Marriage is an idea that always seemed senseless to me. I have no idea how I formed those opinions so early in life, but I’ve known my entire life that it would be a situation I’d never get myself into. Fast forward 20 years, and the reasons behind this are increasingly clear. I’m a person who applies logic and doesn’t make steadfast decisions based on how I feel at that moment. I believe most people who fall down the marriage foxhole don’t think of all the possible scenarios that may unravel down the road; it’s purely fantasy, and I say that because I strongly believe that the idea of marriage is a scam in today’s world. You’ll find that I generalize receiving spouses as being women, but that’s because 97% of them are. And as a former professor once said in class one day, “stereotypes come to be because there is truth to them.”

I agree with spousal support in three scenarios:

– women in a traditional marriage who go through divorce after emigrating from a country where they had no rights, and subsequently have no education or skills (thus no ability to support themselves)
– women or men who have a serious disability that prevents them from working and when the benefits they receive from the government are not sufficient to support them.
– women or men who have a long-term illness… however, if you have good benefits, your support payments should be minimal because the benefits will usually cover things like medication, treatment and supplies. Actually, a better option would be being responsible to invest in and maintain health benefits for that person, with the remaining uncovered amount of said expenses being covered by the paying spouse… and maybe some spousal if living costs need to be aided.

Karma has no role in spousal support, and all these proud ex-wives who boast of it exemplify perfectly what’s wrong with the entire idea of it. If you don’t fall into one of these three groups, you’re either bitter and spiteful, or lazy and greedy. No exceptions, and no in-betweens.

My partner and I have discussed this at length, and he seems to be offended when I refer to people who marry the unemployed as “idiotic”. I will never apologize for feeling that way, although I don’t apply the idiocy to him because that’s not the deal he signed on for. We all know the consequences of a marriage breakdown for anyone – but I don’t think anyone gets a kick to the shins worse than breadwinners who wind up married to someone who doesn’t work – and I don’t mean a part-time coffee shop job. I mean a job that brings in more than $30k a year. But, who do you blame but yourself? If you have any smarts at all, you’d never enter any kind of contract without reading the fine print first and knowing what your rights are. I relate that to people who decide to jump into marriage feet-first; for Christ’s sake, at least sign a pre-nup. To hell with anyone who thinks that’s insensitive. I call it insurance.

The real problem is the Canadian government for allowing this kind of insanity to occur. I pray to parliament that if the Conservative government can do anything that will be highly regarded by this country as a victory worth remembering, they’ll reform the Family Law Act, the Divorce Act and the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines and make the changes retro-active – or at least allow victims of this stupidity to revisit the courts. I see a number of problems with the system as it relates to family law, but namely:

– that they believe that able-minded and able-bodied adults should be compensated for not working, by their own choice, during a marriage. How come every welfare bum in the country isn’t getting compensated for their own poor choices? Welfare doesn’t count, as I can attest that it’s not a substantial amount to be proud of, and because it’s not considered income. How come every person who’s been laid off or unable to find work isn’t being compensated by the government? (you can refer to EI, but they’re making it more difficult to receive)

– that the other spouse be legally responsible for their well-being after the marriage, and at times, for the rest of each other’s lives. This creates a situation where one spouse forever has control over the other, and has the power to enforce that person’s wages to be garnished – simply out of spite, even if the other party is cooperative. It allows one person to move on and the other to have a difficult time doing so. It destroys the quality of life for one person who’s now legally responsible to pay for two households when they only paid for one during the marriage. One person’s cost of living has doubled and becomes nearly non-existent for the other.

– that there’s no onus on the leeching ex (usually the wife) to support themselves, and that the law makes it easy for them to never demonstrate any effort to do so… and that when they are called upon to prove their efforts, there’s no recourse or punishment for failing. If anyone references CanLII and seeks out the court cases where spousal support is sought and granted, and revisted at a later date, the outcome is overwhelmingly the same – that the wife never made a good enough effort to find a job, which is an undeniable indication that she solely relied on spousal support and banked on it being long-term, and therefore had no interest in attaining work. If this is the majority of outcomes, then why is the government not opening their eyes to this?

– that the law believes that people should be kept in the “lifestyle to which they were accustomed” by their ex who’s paying them support. How come the government isn’t liable for paying its citizens to remain in the lifestyle to which they’re accustomed when a recession occurs and people are forced out of work or have their hours cut? No, sadly this expectation only exists in family law.

– that one parent has to pay child support to the other parent where there is a joint custody arrangement, as it means you’re paying the other parent for the time that the child is with you.

– that there’s no accountability for how support is used by the receiving spouse, despite that it would most likely present an overwhelming case for the payor about necessity.

– that divorce is no-fault here in Canada.

– and finally, that the law contradictorily states that every adult is expected to support themselves, but in the same breath makes an excuse for them when they don’t.

My partner’s ex had a full-time government job when they met and got married, but was conveniently laid off a couple years into the marriage due to government cut-backs and took a buyout. After that, she never sought out full-time work, despite my partner’s encouragement. No job was ever suitable for her, so she preferred to stay at home and test the work-from-home ventures which all resulted in failure and which she never learned from, but which my partner paid for and bailed her out of every time, and the courts find it acceptable. They never thought to ask her why she never took all that money he wasted and put herself through school, which he also encouraged her to do, to no avail. They bow down to the piss poor excuses of these people. I’ve read countless cases on CanLII where people who make legitimate arguments regarding this issue when it comes to the other partner’s work history and habits, and the arguments are brushed off as “hearsay.” However, the ex (wife) can say that she “sacrificed” her career to stay home with her family and it’s not disputed. She’s not expected to provide any proof of this, but the burden of proof is instead placed on the opposing spouse who’s facing an imprisonment of spousal support with no chance of parole for 10 years. Who in the hell can prove that 20 years later? And who keeps the paper trail for it throughout the marriage incase a divorce crops up?

Another thing that’s bogus about spousal support is that it doesn’t automatically end when a receiving spouse shacks up with another partner. You’d have to file a motion for “material change in circumstances” to try and get it reduced or terminated. However, the receiving spouse can also file a material change in circumstances, citing they should get an increase in support if the payor moves in with a new partner. This would, however, normally be an argument in a case where a paying spouse is disputing support payments and the receiving spouse can say “Well he’s living with someone. Show me that person’s income so we can prove that he can pay it”, and the courts can order it. How infuriating it is to even think that the law allows for this to happen… especially when a receiving spouse moves in with someone, so that TWO able-bodied people are then benefiting from your income.

It’s for the fallout that occurs from a divorce that I staunchly oppose marriage, and because it’s an unnecessary and dated institution which employs an idea that two people need to be legally united in order to have a life together. It’s all nice to think about marriage in the romantic sense, but it doesn’t do one any favours in the long-run. Marriage is not a for-sure thing. It’s a risky contract to enter into. When you look at the statistics and see that 52% of marriages end in divorce, those are not good odds. Not many people would invest their faith in anything with that kind of risk.

As for no-fault divorce… many would argue it’s a good thing. I think the blatant flaws in the system necessitate a recognition of fault when it plays a major role in the marriage breakdown. Afterall, many supporters of spousal support argue that because marriage is a contract, there should be compensation when the contract is broken. Fair enough… but shouldn’t the circumstances of it be analyzed? And normally when you break a contract, you’re not obligated to make up for it for upwards of a lifetime. If that was the case, would any of us own cellphones or satellite TV?

Let’s look at a scenario where a wife had a career when she and her husband got together, but subsequently became jobless after the marriage certificate was signed and remained so throughout the marriage, but was financially looked after by her husband who had a good job and the best intentions. Let’s say the husband offered many training and education opportunities for the wife so she could upgrade her skills and get into the workforce, possibly finding a lucrative career with a generous salary and pension… but she turns them all down. Let’s then say that for whatever reasons she becomes dissatisfied within the marriage and looks outside the marriage to meet her wants, and ends up committing adultery. This of course would likely lead to a divorce based on the emotional damage it would cause, but let’s assume the husband does his best to work through the marriage despite the wife’s disinterest. Moving forward, court proceeding begin and she’s going for the jugular. The judge doesn’t care what the events were leading up to the divorce – he cares that she was unemployed, and based on that alone the law grants an entitlement to spousal support. She’ll walk away from that relationship with a substantial amount of money, likely half his income, half his pension, half his assets, and probably court costs. If they have kids, she’ll get a retarded amount in child support. All of this DESPITE that she broke the contract, and it’ll be the worst case scenario if the rule of 65 applies, or if it was a long-term marriage. There is no saving grace whatsoever for the man, even though he didn’t choose to end the marriage. This creates a system that makes it all too easy for someone to make a ridiculous amount of money for doing nothing, and maybe even for breaking apart the family. Where is the justice? It’s certainly not within the courts, where it should be.

I just cannot wrap my mind around this. If you apply for welfare, the welfare office makes you jump through hoops to prove your efforts at finding a job. I know this because I was on it for about four or five months when I was in-between jobs and ran out of EI. But the courts don’t enforce the same hoops to leeching ex-spouses, even though they acknowledge that there’s an expectation for a person to be self-supporting. They don’t care because it’s not on the government’s dime – oh, but it kind of is, because spousal support is tax-deductable for the payor. If spousal support didn’t exist, the incentive to work would most certainly be there for every bum who would normally collect it, and the CRA wouldn’t have to pay back large sums of taxes to payors. Ah, so it all makes sense now. Better to give the payor back some money at tax time than to fully support every ex-wife and handful of ex-husbands in the country.

On the contrary, one of the two following scenarios could occur if the government would use their expensive brains in a productive way: eliminate spousal support and subsidize receiving spouses’ living costs in the same manner that welfare does, so that the pitiful amount they receive will force them to get a job; or eliminate spousal support and take the money the government would save at income tax time and use it to create jobs for them to have. Choices, choices.

I’d like to revisit two of my previous points.

that the law believes that people should be kept in the “lifestyle to which they were accustomed” by their ex who’s paying them support. How come the government isn’t liable for paying its citizens to remain in the lifestyle to which they’re accustomed when a recession occurs and people are forced out of work or have their hours cut? No, the onus is solely on ex-husbands, usually.

I fail to understand why lifestyle is held in such high priority when it’s based on the material circumstance of the family as a unit, not of two separate households, and when it’s based on something frivolous like wealth and spending habits. Basic needs are the same for every person on the planet – food, water, oxygen, shelter and warmth. That translates to groceries, utilities and a place to live. The welfare office doesn’t care if the lifestyle to which you were accustomed when you had a job was being able to buy Fendi and live on Park Avenue – tried that one, didn’t work. I had a $600 a month apartment that I had before I lost my job, and Ontario Works didn’t give me enough to cover my rent, let alone any other costs. See, the problem is that the government would never accept such a stupid argument if it was them paying for it, but they insist on applying this unrealistic fantasy to private citizens. And how come the ex is the only one whose lifestyle matters? If you split the payor’s income in half, then she gets the other half, plus wages she gets from any job she might dane to hold, plus tax credits, plus plus plus.

– that one parent has to pay child support to the other parent where there is a joint custody arrangement, as it means you’re paying the other parent for the time that the child is with you.

This one makes my stomach turn. The courts justify it by saying it allows the receiving spouse to “maintain the household for when the children return.” Really? So that’s just a politically correct way of saying, “to take vacations to the tropics if she so chooses and never be questioned about it.” There is no logic behind that whatsoever. What exactly does she need to maintain? There’s no extra expense when only one person is in the house. It makes no sense to hand over that money to the ex, when it is needed in the household when the kids are with the paying parent. In situations where custody is 50/50, the receiving spouse should ONLY be receiving child support for half the year, as the expense of having the children in your custody becomes greater than ever when your salary is cut in half. The receiving spouse will qualify for most of the tax credits, even with support payments, but the paying spouse won’t because they’re based on gross income. His net income becomes less than half of the gross income, and he gets no relief whatsoever? It’s just fucked.

It’d be interesting to see what the suicide rates are for people going through a divorce, or after a trial. Although tragic, it would make complete sense. I was watching a video on YouTube the other night of men who showed up at the Supreme Court in the US to present to the court how their lives are adversely affected by having to pay the amounts of support that they do. Some men were moved to tears, and so was I.

It’s an archaic system that needs a lot of adjustments, everywhere on the continent and beyond. Conservative governments tend to take the point of view that it should be every person for themselves, which is why I vote for them. There are such things as tax credits which exist solely for the purpose of assisting low-income families, which in my view should serve as the only kind of support an ex should receive, aside from child support (within reason). These credits include, but are not limited to:

– The GST/HST credit
– provincial sales tax credit
– Child Care Expenses Deduction
– Working Income Tax Benefit
– The Child Care Tax Benefit
– The Universal Child Tax Benefit
– Child Fitness Tax Credit
– Adult Fitness Tax Credit
– National Child Benefit Supplement

There are credits available for children with disabilities, there are credits available in certain provinces for education. If a person has a Tax Free Savings Account, they receive back credits for that as well. If a person has a business account, they receive credits for those. They’re countless, and certainly the amount one could receive from these sources alone would boost their income substantially, sometimes to the tune of $12-15k. This is to be included in a person’s income though, which is why I suspect the government prefers people to be receiving support payments, so that the amount of tax credits they receive are lower or non-existent.

If you don’t qualify for tax credits because your income is too high (before support), then clearly you’re not doing too badly. I find it funny that the government can make the decision on who qualifies for tax credits based solely on numbers, but the courts are immune to that consideration… all because of the bullshit “lifestyle to which the spouse was accustomed” clause. That needs adjustment first and foremost, because if it was, then spouses would have to treat a life-altering event such as a divorce as a reality in which they have to adjust their lifestyles and create a new one. Nobody ever said a change in lifestyle had to be a bad thing. If you have to start shopping at Target and Winners instead of Club Monaco, the courts should not be allowed to look at that sympathetically.

Some people have to work a couple different jobs to make ends meet – welcome to the real world. I’ve done this for most of my life. Thankfully, I landed a career with a generous income, pension and benefits, and that happened through my own competence. Laziness won’t get you anywhere, and it baffles me that this logic applies everywhere but the family courts.

Collecting ex-wives are a disgrace to our sex. Get off your lazy ass and set a good example to your kids as to what it means to be a strong, independent and self-sufficient member of society, and contribute something more than spending your days on divorce forums trying to teach rookies how to ruin someone’s life – the majority of times, your children’s father. It makes me embarassed to be a woman when I have come so far in my life and made so many strides, despite the number of times I fell down, to create my own success, free and clear of anyone else’s help. The days of being the helpless wife with no opportunity are long gone, and have been for 40 years. There is absolutely no excuse not to be able to be a full-time, active member of the workforce once your kids are in school. The number of years that someone remains jobless should in fact be deducted from the number of years they’re eligible to receive spousal support, as it very clearly demonstrates that no effort was made to pursue a job. And the argument that the husband wanted you to stay home should only be valid if there was a written contract stating that very thing.

I also think a nice twist to add to family law proceedings is that a case should be thrown out of court the very instant that the person seeking support doesn’t comply with the court order. If you are making the respondent pay for legal fees to continue going back to court and the back-and-forth game with your lawyer and you’re not owning up to your part of the obligation, then you’re wasting everyone’s time and money and you’re turning the court proceedings into a charade. A judge should not have to remind you of what you were already ordered to do, as it demonstrates a will to bury the other person in legal fees so that you can get a desirable settlement… or to buy time and not have to hand in financial disclosure before settlement.

And on that note, any applicant, regardless of who they are, should not be able to ask for costs. If you started this game, then you should have to pay for it. The only time costs should be awarded is if the judge finds that one party is aggravating the process more than the other, to a large extent.

Family law has been catering to women for a long time now. I suppose it’s for the same reason that they’re hesitant to upset Aboriginals – because they were persecuted for a long time, that they were made to fight for their rights, that they were made to fight for equality and equal opportunities. It’s because of this that the workforce, the government in particular, seek them out for employment. If you’re a woman with an education and good references, you’re more desirable in this country than a white man. So really, it’s hard to swallow the “I can’t find a job” excuse if you’ve made the proper efforts to be skilled and qualified. For a few years maybe, but not long-term. Really, get off the assistance soapbox and sit down.

On behalf of all payors, I’m on your side. If I see these laws change in my lifetime, I hope massive celebrations break-out in the streets for every prisoner who becomes free. Marriage is a fast-dying tradition and after half or more of newlyweds trade in the wedded bliss for divorced misery, they’ll be more privvy to the musings of people like me who say, “I told you so.”

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