landing blurb

The ending of a spousal relationship is a very hard time for everyone involved. It is overwhelming when you consider the emotional, family and financial implications of severing a spousal relationship. Emotions often run high. People who were once together often have difficulty even speaking to each other. Many are trying to figure out where to turn. Some will choose a costly fight through lawyers and litigation leaving families financially and emotionally bankrupt.

 Consider mediation!

 

Do and Do Not!

At times we can all get lost in our old habits and can’t seem to pull ourselves through. Parents, especially, often feel like they are failing or could do better.

Once in a while you hear something from someone or hear a line on TV or the radio that resonates with you and triggers you to start doing something or stop doing something.

This is by no means a complete list but here are some thoughts…

The Don’ts

  1. Don’t use your child as your confident, therapist or fellow victim. They don’t want to know!
  2. Don’t try to cause problems in your child’s relationship with the other parent – you are hurting your child.
  3. Don’t bad mouth the other parent, their new partner or choices for their new life.
  4. Don’t purchase your children’s allegiance, acceptance, understanding or forgiveness.
  5. Don’t compete with the other parent.
  6. Don’t use your child to communicate with the other parent – be an adult and role model and do it yourself.
  7. Don’t take them away from their extended family.
  8. Don’t expose your kids to your dating life.
  9. Don’t introduce new partners to your kids to soon and certainly not before your kids are ready.
  10. Don’t pressure you children to accept or like your new relationship.
  11. Don’t be negative about relationships, commitment or marriage/common law.

The Dos

  1. Do put your child and their wellbeing before everything else.
  2. Do take responsibility for your own behaviour. We ask that of our children!
  3. Pick your battles and avoid getting pulled into emotional old scripts out of habit.
  4. Do take the high road. This will save you a lot of stress especially when you know the other person won’t or can’t.
  5. Respect your child’s relationship with their other parent.
  6. Respect that your former spouse has a parenting style of their own.
  7. Do stay out of your former spouse’s life and business.
  8. Apologize and/or forgive yourself and you former spouse.
  9. Make the decision to move on.
  10. Get excited about your new life and share the excitement with your child.
  11. Do look forward to the future and help your kids do the same.

Negotiating

The key to a successful negotiation is preparation. When you are prepared there is an increased expectation that you get the best possible outcome for yourself. This doesn’t mean you will get everything you want. It does mean you will be fully prepared to make good decisions about what you will or will not agree with.

Whether you are negotiating directly (mediation, parenting co-ordination, self represent in court) or through another party (lawyers) there are considerations that need to be thought through.

Prepare before you start…

  1. Make sure you are ready to face the other party at the table. If you don’t think you can’t, there may be benefit to working with a lawyer to help you in mediation or lawyer to lawyer negotiation
  2. Know your interests and what priority they have. It is more than simply knowing what you want. You need to consider how important certain interests are to you and whether you would consider giving that up or giving up something else to keep it. Take the time to write it down
  3. Make sure you have enough information about the issue, the legal implications, your rights and obligations before you make a final decision.
  4. Consider what the other party’s interests are and what their priorities might be. Consider that the answer might be different now than it would have been before you separated.
  5. Be prepared to consider options you did not think of.
  6. Think about and be prepared for the power dynamics in your relationship and how that will be presented at the table.
  7. Think about how you will communicate your interests to the other person so they understand why it is important to you. Listen to why the interests of the other person are important to them. This understanding can change what you thought your interests were and what the other person thought their interests were.
  8. Think about how you will control your emotions during the negotiation. Know the words or body language that may trigger your emotions in an attempt to through off your negotiation.
  9. Remember that you negotiate everyday in life. Spend time learning or re-learning how to negotiate. There are many resources and tools out there.

 

Pensions

Pensions are often a very sensitive subject in property equalization discussions. Many clients are upset that they have to include an asset that they have worked so hard for. Some people don’t realize their pension is matrimonial property and included in equalization of assets.

However that is not the case. Pensions are considered matrimonial property and included as an asset for the purpose of calculating Net Family Property (NFP).

Often pensions are a significant asset and in some cases the single largest asset after the matrimonial home.

On January 1, 2012 new legislation was passed in Ontario Legislature that change how pensions are treated in equalization and who does the valuation. The new rules apply to provincial pensions under the Ontario Pensions and Benefits Act.

Property Equalization

Before the rule change, the value of a pension remained with the person who owned it. This treatment was unfair as the whole value of the pension could account for a large portion of one party’s equalization pot and meant that a valuable asset was immediately inaccessible and could impact the person’s ability to start a new life.

Now, property division negotiations can consider an immediate division of pension funds. There are options for how a pension not yet in pay can be shared. For example, a lump sum payment up to the maximum transfer amount allowed can be transferred to the other party’s retirement investment. This opens up much more flexibility in how matrimonial assets are shared with the aim of creating a fair financial outcome for both parties.

Completing Pension Valuation

Before the rule change, pensions were valued by 3rd party professionals – usually actuaries. The new rules require pension members need to apply directly to their pension plan administrator to have a family law valuation of their pensions calculated. The valuation will take time to complete so it’s a good idea to submit the forms as soon as possible as property division cannot be completed without the information included in the valuation.

More info….

  • The forms can be found on the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) website – www.fsco.gov.on.ca/en/pensions . Check to make sure you are using the correct form.
  • All forms are sent to the pension plan administrator – not to FSCO.
  • The pension plan administrator will charge a fee for the valuation.
  • The value received from the administrator will be used to calculate Net Family Property. The amount is pre-tax and may for adjusted down for contingent tax.
  • If the division of assets decisions includes a division or transfer of pension value, a request is submitted to the plan administrator.

Goal of Parenting Coordination (PC)

The goal of PC is to make sure your children survive your divorce. The effect of high conflict on children is well researched and documented. Parental conflict is a significant predictor of mental and behavioural health problems in children.

 

Divorce produces obstacles and hurdles that, for most divorce kids, complicate our childhoods and continue to impact through our adult lives. Most divorce kids survive despite their parents but all are impacted negatively.

 

However, some divorce kids have to deal with incredible circumstances. Their parents are not able to separate their parental roles from the conflict prior to or during the separation – often these are the same beast. Some parents continue to be committed to the fight, the win, proving the other parent is less or wrong. I see it often in my PC practice. Parents make ridiculous decisions just to win. For example, refusing to let your child play a sport just because it was the other parent’s idea.

 

At its worst parents will claim their position as ‘what is best for the children’ when it has nothing to do with the child nor in the child’s best interest. I tell my clients that ultimately you will have to answer to your children for the damage you are doing. Often in high conflict situations the child has to choose their own survival at the cost of their child-parent relationship. In extreme situations, the child gets lost in the divorce the consequences to their entire life can be devastating. There are circumstances where a parent’s personality disorders or mental health challenges add a complexity and that’s a topic that deserves a blog of its own.

 

Ideally, the goal of PC is to help parents learn to put their kids first and do what it takes to give them a healthy and stable childhood. Parenting Coordinators don’t expect to fix your circumstances. We are looking for behaviour change or at least a change in habits. Of course, in some cases parents are unable to learn or choose not to engage cooperatively. The only option is parallel parenting – the complete disengagement of parenting cooperatively. Basically you parent next to each other but not together.

 

The affect can be positive if even if one of the parents are able see the link between their behaviour and the consequence to their child. If they can come to understand their role in maintaining the conflict and even selfishly realise what a toll it is taking on them that can be the start in helping them to choose to disengage from conflict. It is very difficult to maintain conflict with someone who refuses to engage!

 

There are tools, strategies and protocols that can all be adopted or implemented to help reduce the opportunity for conflict. A lot of parenting plans do not have sufficient detail leaving room for different interpretations or opportunity to manipulate the intent. Through Parenting Coordination you can learn strategies for communication and further detail out your current parenting plan to reduce opportunity for conflict. The result is an improved chance for your kids to survive your divorce!

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