Trust – But Verify!
Updated: Aug 6, 2019
Ronald Reagan’s good advice for separating parties
Not surprisingly I thought of the advice of the late American, President Ronald Reagan, after providing a family law consultation last week.
A woman, who for convenience sake I’ll call Molly, arranged the consultation to discuss obtaining a divorce. Before a judge will issue a divorce in BC, they must be satisfied that all outstanding issues have been settled by court order or Separation Agreement, especially if there are children. So I asked Molly how things had been resolved.
She produced a signed Separation Agreement that her ex had downloaded from one of many sites that provide low cost precedents.
Unfortunately a brief review of the form disclosed several serious shortcomings and omissions.
Since there were children, there was a monthly child support amount specified but no reference to, or disclosure of, her ex’s employment income. When I asked Molly how they had arrived at the child support figure, she simply said she had trusted that her ex had provided the correct amount.
Unfortunately as I explained to Molly there was no way to verify that this was the correct child support figure because her ex had not disclosed his employment income. Unless a judge can confirm that the correct child support is being paid, pursuant to the federal child support guidelines, a divorce is unlikely to be granted.
There was also a term which mentioned special expenses for the children but failed to specify how such expenses were to be shared, another glaring omission virtually dooming any divorce.
Before Molly could have a realistic expectation of being granted a divorce from her husband, there needed to be additional financial disclosure from her husband and clarification of the sharing of special expenses.
The best way to avoid having your own divorce unnecessarily rejected or delayed, is to always ensure that you and your ex make full financial disclosure to the other. Don’t simply accept what you are being told or given without adequate documentation. If you do, you risk jeopardizing your financial future and that of any children.
Furthermore, in my experience, precedent forms downloaded from the internet are rarely if ever completed properly so do not sign them before obtaining independent legal advice.
Whether it’s nuclear Armageddon or matrimonial meltdown remember “Ronald Reagan’s wise words of advice, “Trust but verify”.