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Posts from the ‘Children’ Category

Despite Canadian Order, Court in India Refuses to Allow Child’s Return

Despite Canadian Order, Court in India Refuses to Allow Child’s Return

Given the impressive multiculturalism of modern-day Canada, it is not uncommon for parents to have originated from different nations before settling down to raise their children here.  But when those same parents later find themselves on the brink of separation or divorce, they may choose to return to their country-of-origin (often to rejoin extended family), and ideally take their children with them.

This can give rise to disputes involving numerous international law issues, including: whether a parent actually has the legal right to do so; which country’s laws and judicial system should govern the matter; where a trial or hearing should be held; and how or whether Family Law orders validly issued in one country can be enforced in a different one.

This last issue was the illuminated in a recent ruling from a court in India.  The decision shows that – as with the courts of all countries — the judgments of Canadian courts are not always respected and enforced, especially when they happen to relate to children.

The ruling emanated from the northern Indian state of Rajasthan, which borders on Pakistan.  Despite the existence of an order by a Canadian court requiring a 10-year-old boy to be returned from there to rejoin his father in Canada, the presiding Indian court concluded that the boy should not be allowed to go.

The boy’s parents, who had lived together in Ontario while married, were now embroiled in a custody dispute over him, post-separation.  The mother took matters into her own hands, and unilaterally decided to move the boy back to India with her, against the father’s wishes. This prompted the father to successfully obtain an order from Family Court judge in Hamilton, Ontario, granting him sole custody of his son, and directing his return.  That order also directed all law enforcement agencies – including INTERPOL – to take enforcement steps as necessary.

The matter then came before the court in India, where the father merely sought to have the pre-existing Ontario court order enforced.

However, the Indian court refused to do so, stating:

“If now he is forced to go back to Canada in the sole care of his father, is likely to psychologically disturb him, particularly when he will be required to now adapt to an education system of that country. This would adversely affect his over all growth and grooming as in the absence of his mother, his father being a busy professional, he is not likely to remain under the care of a Nanny.”

The Indian court was untroubled by the existence of the prior Canadian order stating otherwise; it concluded that it still had the authority to decline the boy’s return in light of what it adjudged to be his best interests.  That remained the prevailing and paramount consideration.

Indeed, the Indian court observed that the existence of the Canadian court order was “only one of the factors” and that it should not get “fixated” with it.   Rather, in these kinds of cases the India court had other factors to consider, too: – such as how settled the child had become in the new country, whether he or she would be exposed to physical or psychological harm, and whether the child’s own views could be ascertained in light of his or her age and maturity.

Applying those tests, the Indian court was satisfied that the child’s removal back to Canada to rejoin his father was not in his best interests in this case, since he had already been living in India for several years, and suffered from some health concerns.  (Still, the court did acknowledge the father’s access rights, by issuing directions specifically mandating that he still be allowed to maintain contact with his son.)

The court added that the boy should be allowed to stay in India until he reached the age of majority, at which time he would be entitled to choose between pursuing citizenship from that country, or else obtain citizenship rights in North America.

See the full text of the Indian court’s judgment, here.


At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders.  For more information, visit us at


Can Scam Immigration Marriage Be Annulled?

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Can Scam Immigration Marriage Be Annulled?

In this Blog we often focus on divorce, and its fall-out.   A topic that doesn’t come up often, is the effect of immigration fraud on the validity of a marriage.

This unusual issue was the focus in an Ontario case called Grewal v. Kaur, where on a motion for summary judgment the court was faced with the following question in its own words:

“Can immigration fraud, where one spouse has married the other for the sole purpose of acquiring citizenship status in Canada, unbeknownst to the other sponsoring spouse who thought they were entering into a genuine marriage and who was deceived as to the other spouse’s motivation for entering into the marriage, form the legal basis for the granting of an annulment of a marriage, if such can be proven at trial?”

In this case, the husband had been tricked into marriage by the putative wife. His lawyer argued that if for none other than public policy grounds, immigration fraud should be a ground for annulment to discourage anyone from “jumping the queue” in the Canadian immigration system.  It would also deprive the fraudster from being eligible for certain marriage-based remedies under Ontario family law.

The court rejected these policy-based arguments. It held that that changing the law around marriage and annulment would not impact the flow of the immigration system in the least, since the laws governing that regime already define “spouse” to exclude immigration fraudsters.   As for the impact on family law entitlement, the court noted that it is “difficult as a practical matter to conceive that family law remedies would be awarded to a proven immigration fraudster.”

The court also dismissed the added argument that cultural sensitivities might dictate expanding the law in this area, stating:

Certain individuals may be motivated by the belief that for cultural and/or personal reasons an annulment is preferable to a divorce.   While these beliefs may be sincerely held, I see no good reason to recognize a legal right to an annulment. The courts are already having difficulty dealing with the existing volume of pressing criminal, family and civil matters.  I see no public interest in adding to the caseload if the principal motivation relates to saving face or conceptions of personal or family honour.

More to the point, the court concluded that it was bound by several existing Ontario Court of Appeal decisions holding that immigration fraud cannot be relied on to grant an annulment, even where – as here – one spouse had tricked the other into marriage for the sole purpose of acquiring citizenship status in Canada.  If the prevailing caselaw on this point was ripe for being overturned based on public policy and related arguments, then this was a task that only the Court of Appeal itself could do.

In short, the court concluded that the grounds for granting an annulment have already been firmly set by legislation; there was no reason to try to expand them to include immigration fraud even where it involved deception of one spouse by the other.

For the full text of the decision, see:

Grewal v. Kaur, 2009 

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders.  For more information, visit us at



Does Employer Discriminate Against Woman Who Lacked Child-Care?

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Does Employer Discriminate Against Woman Who Lacked Child-Care?

“Family status” is one of the prohibited grounds of workplace discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code.  It is defined as “the status of being in a parent and child relationship.”

The scope of an employer’s duty to accommodate an employee’s “family status” was the focus of a recent case called Peternel v. Custom Granite & Marble Ltd. where the court heard a human rights complaint by a woman who was returning to her job from having taken maternity leave.  She claimed the employer had discriminated against her by requiring her to report to work each day at 8:30 a.m., even though she had no morning child-care for two of her three children.  She claimed this was tantamount to a failure to accommodate her “family status” under human rights legislation, and asked for six months’ pay and $20,000 in punitive damages.

The woman had started to work for the small company – which made and installed granite counters — in 2010, taking on the role of scheduler.  And important part of her job was to respond to early-morning calls and attend morning meetings, and the woman acknowledged that an 8:30 a.m. start-time was one of the stipulations in her job description.  Still, during the years leading up to the birth of the woman’s third child, the employer had accommodated her child-related needs to some extent, for example by giving her a cellphone that allowed her to make work early-morning work-related calls from her home.

But in 2015, while the woman was still on maternity leave, the employer advised that upon her return she would be required to consistently report to work at 8:30 a.m., due to changes in the workplace. The employer gave her time to try to find child-care, but she was unable to do so in advance of her return date.

The employer did offer her an alternative job, at comparable pay, that would allow her to start work mid-morning, rather than at 8:30.   However, the woman did not even respond to that offer; instead she chose not to return to work when her maternity leave came to an end.

In light of these facts, and after pointing out some issues with the woman’s credibility, the court dismissed her discrimination claim.   The court concluded that she had essentially frustrated the employer’s efforts to accommodate her.

First, the court noted contradictions in the woman’s dealings with the employer, and some discrepancies in her evidence to the court.  For example, she had told the employer that she could not come into work by 8:30 a.m. because she needed to take her children to the school bus; however, the court noted the woman’s mother lived with them, and was often called upon to watch the children including taking early mornings when the woman’s job absolutely required it.

After shining light on further discrepancies, the court noted:

Taken as a whole, the evidence leads me to conclude that [the employer] Custom was a good employer to the plaintiff. Custom allowed the plaintiff flexibility with her hours, and showed her sympathy and accommodation following earlier miscarriages and throughout her last pregnancy. In return, Custom expected and understood that the plaintiff would be able to come to work in the early morning when required, and be willing and able to field early morning telephone calls from home or en route to work.

When it came time to accommodate her third child, the employer was ill-positioned since the woman had not provided key information concerning her need for accommodation, and not given details about her efforts to secure child care.

By law, all employees have a positive duty to cooperate with an employer as part of the human rights accommodation process, which includes providing information concerning family-related needs, and working with the employer to identify possible solutions.  In this case, the woman had simply failed to provide the employer with the information it needed to accommodate her.

For the full text of the decision, see:

Peternel v. Custom Granite & Marble Ltd., 2018 

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders.  For more information, visit us at




Court Comes Down Hard on Self-Represented Wife – And Orders $150,000 in Costs Against Her

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Court Comes Down Hard on Self-Represented Wife – And Orders $150,000 in Costs Against Her

On a recent ruling to allocate costs of the litigation between a former couple that lasted almost two decades, the court had some pointed comments about self-represented litigants in general, and about the wife’s unreasonable conduct in the case, specifically.

The court began its judgment this way:

A New Year

It is 2019, and Ian and Katherine Kirby, after 17 years, have a Final Order in their marathon matrimonial struggle.

There is one more battle to fight, however – costs.

The Judgment

The trial, more like a sentence than a sojourn, lasted ten days.  Katherine acted for herself, and she is responsible for much of the prolongation of the hearing.

Although the divorce itself was agreed upon, the court listed the many specific legal issues that needed to be resolved through litigation between the former couple.  Each spouse had been successful on some issues and not others, and some had garnered only “mixed” success.  Overall, however, the court concluded that the husband was more successful in the outcome than the wife, and that he was more deserving of costs.

The court then made some general comments about self-represented litigants:

The proliferation of self-represented litigants in family law cases is here to stay.  I suspect that there are many reasons for that: cuts to legal aid services, the self-help resorted to on the world wide web, and (let us not be so naïve to ignore) the voluntary choice by some litigants to act for themselves because they think that the judge will be forced into being their advocate.

With respect to the latter category of self-represented litigants, it is time that we recognize that there are some (not most, maybe even not many) persons who can readily afford legal counsel but simply choose to act for themselves because they think that it will provide them a tactical edge in the courtroom.  It will cause the presiding judicial official to go overboard with assistance, not just procedurally but substantively, or so goes the rationale.

There is nothing wrong with self-representation.  What is wrong, though, is hijacking the proceeding at the expense of the other side (who has counsel) and then expecting mercy from the court when it comes to deciding costs.

We do not have two sets of rules and principles for costs in family litigation – one for those who hire lawyers and one for those who act for themselves.

It then elaborated on what a court’s guiding principles are when awarding costs:

The principles apply to both types of litigants: (i) in deciding entitlement to costs, consider the presumption that a successful party deserves some costs, and consider the factors outlined in the Family Law Rules, and take into account any other relevant circumstance; (ii) in deciding quantum of costs, remember the basic tenet that the goal is to achieve something that is fair, just and reasonable, and keep in mind the prudent expectations of the parties, and pay attention to the importance of proportionality, and assess (but do not dissect line by line) the reasonableness of the time spent and the fees and disbursements charged.

The court added:

Above all, place some emphasis on why we award costs to begin with – to partially indemnify successful litigants, and to encourage settlement (even where the final result was worse than what the party offered to settle for), and to sanction and deter inappropriate conduct by litigants (even behaviour that falls short of “bad faith”).

The process by which we decide costs is not science.  It is more artful than that.  Consequently, there is an inescapable degree of arbitrariness to any costs award.  To pretend otherwise, I respectfully suggest, is a little rich.

The court then examined the spouses’ respective conduct during the course of the litigation.  In fairness, it noted that both spouses were responsible for the fact that the file languished for years and years. But it credited the husband for making greater efforts to settle without a trial, for being better prepared, and for behaving “much more admirably during trial”.

On the other hand, the wife’s conduct was unreasonable:  She made late-breaking “wild allegations” of being raped by her husband, and failed to comply with prior orders.  Even her submission on costs was filed late, after being granted an extension, and it did not comply with the court’s express directions on its length.  (The court read it nonetheless, as a courtesy).

As the court summed it up:  “She single-handedly caused the hearing to be significantly longer than it should have been” and her conduct in the past two years or so was “worthy of serious condemnation by this Court”.

It concluded that the case “out to have never went to trial,” and that “awarding to [the husband] every cent of the $190,438.63 is in the cards”.

However, the court noted that the wife is “indeed, mentally ill”, a fact confirmed by the family physician’s evidence, and surmised that some of her unreasonableness is due to her psychological issues.  Concluding that this militated against awarding the husband his full costs, the court reduced the total to an even $150,000, all-in.  Those costs were to be immediately deducted from the wife’s share of the proceeds of the matrimonial home.

For the full text of the decision, see:

Kirby v. Kirby, 2019

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders.  For more information, visit us at

Family Judge Says:   “The Guidelines are Not a Price List”

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Family Judge Says: “The Guidelines are Not a Price List”

Many of or previous Blog posts have illustrated how the provincial Child Support Guidelines, and its federal counterpart, the federal Child Support Guidelines work in various factual contexts, to guide parents and judges in determining how much child support each separated or divorcing parent should pay.

In the past year alone, we have given examples of  how special expenses such as a child’s sports or extracurricular activities are dealt with; how self-employment income is accounted for in the calculations, and even how the Guidelines are to be used to calculate child support for adult children..

What should be abundantly clear from those many illustrations, is that when the matter of child support is placed before a judge, the Guidelines are merely a starting-point for what becomes a complex mathematical calculation that takes numerous factors into account.   This is why it’s often perplexing for separating parents to try to determine what support amounts are fair, when they don’t have the help of a lawyer to guide them.

The recent case called Vidal v. Dunn is an excellent example of the complexity and number of different that this exercise entails.  As we chronicled in prior Blogs on this case, the parents had a raft of child support-related disputes between them, including the question of whether their troubled teenaged daughter’s criminal defence bills – totalling over $10,000 – were considered “special or extraordinary expenses” to be shared by the parents, and whether their 20-year-old daughter was still considered to be a “child” for the purposes of being eligible for support.

In the context of making a ruling on this last issue, the court noted that both the federal Divorce Act and the Ontario Family Law Act apply the Guidelines, and both have comparable child support objectives.

But the court went on to make an interesting observation about the nature of the Guidelines themselves:  For one thing, they are more complex than a fixed-price menu, but also not amenable to “short cuts” even by a court.  As the court wrote:

The authority to order further child support is found in legislation. The Child Support Guidelines were intended to help separated families set child support in a fair and predictable way. The Guidelines are not a price list.  It can be very complicated, especially for adult children. Entitlement to child support is a prerequisite before determining quantum under the Child Support Guidelines. The statutory path is mapped out. The court cannot customize legislation with short cuts. 

In a very recent case called Henry v. Boyer, the court emphasized the point made in Vidal v. Dunn that the Guidelines are aimed specifically at helping “separated families” to set child support both fairly and predictably.  But there are many variables in that calculation, a point that newly-separated parents should keep in mind when trying to forge the path forward towards a divorce.  It’s always a good idea to seek the advice of an experienced Family lawyer.

For the full text of the decisions, see:

Vidal v. Dunn, 2018 

Henry v. Boyer, 2018

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders.  For more information, visit us at


On Income Tax, Support Arrears, and Retroactive Support

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On Income Tax, Support Arrears, and Retroactive Support

Income tax time will be upon us soon enough.  If you are receiving spousal support from your former spouse, you may wonder how those support payments should be treated when it comes time to file your income tax return with the Canada Revenue Agency.

The answer is straightforward:  If you are receiving spousal support from your former spouse or common-law partner, under a court order or written agreement that specifies the amount, frequency and duration of the payments, then those amounts are fully taxable in your hands.  In other words, all those amounts must be reported as “income” on your tax return, and will be taxed accordingly. (This is unlike the situation with child support, which from the recipient’s vantage point is generally considered non-taxable).

Normally, that obligation to declare your spousal support as income on your tax return triggers a corresponding entitlement by your former spouse or partner to claim an equivalent deduction on his or her tax return for those same payments, with some exceptions.

So the short answer, is that spousal support is considered “income.”  But what if the payments you receive now cover support payments that your former spouse should have made in the past?

A pair of recent decisions tackled a narrow – but important – issue relating to how: 1) retroactive support, and 2) support arrears, are to be handled for personal income tax purposes.

In a case from last year called Gonsalves v. Scrymgeour, the court reviewed the law on the tax treatment of retroactive spousal support awards (being those where the support paying spouse is newly-ordered to pay an amount that covers a past period of time during which the other spouse was eligible to receive it). The court confirmed that an award of retroactive spousal support should be reduced, to take into account the benefit of the income tax deduction that the paying spouse would have been able to claim, using the mid-point of the spouse’s respective marginal tax rates.

The more recent decision in Negin v. Fryers addresses support arrears (which are unlike retroactive support because they consist of unpaid amounts that were due under an order made previously).  There, the separated parents had agreed in 2004 that the father would pay child support to the mother in line with Guidelines amounts, together with a set amount of spousal support.   Apparently for some of the years since then, the father overpaid child support by over $52,000, and underpaid spousal support by more than $155,000.  After offsetting these amounts, the mother claimed the father owed just under $103,000 in arrears.

The father claimed – unsuccessfully – that the lump-sum gross amount he now owed the mother in arrears should be “netted down” to account for the different tax treatment of lump sum spousal support, as compared to an order for periodic support.  The wife pointed out – and the court agreed – that it was the policy of the Canada Revenue Agency to allow non-retroactive lump-sum spousal support payments to be deducted by father in the role of the support payor.  The court directed the parents to calculate the amount of child and spousal support owed or overpaid accordingly (as the case may be), in keeping with its specific directions and ruling.

Nobody loves tax time (except perhaps the Income Tax Preparers and Accountants!)  If you have questions about the spousal support you receive, feel free to give our office a call.

For the full text of the decisions, see:

Negin v. Fryers, 2018

Gonsalves v. Scrymgeour, 2017

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders.  For more information, visit us at



Jeff Bezos Does Not Have a Separation Agreement – But You Should!

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Jeff Bezos Does Not Have a Separation Agreement – But You Should!

Jeff Bezos, the 54-year-old billionaire founder of, and his 48-year-old wife MacKenzie Bezos have decided to divorce.  The couple met in 1993, long before Jeff had even amassed his first million, and they got married six months later.

Now, those more austere newly-wed days are a long-ago memory:  Jeff is currently the richest man on the planet, with an estimated worth of US$137 billion.  He owns 16 percent of Blue Origin, an aerospace manufacturer.

We have to wonder whether Jeff wouldn’t mind turning back the hands of time to those humbler newly-wed days:  It is reported that before exchanging vows he and MacKenzie did not make a separation agreement (which in the U.S. is often called a “pre-nuptial” agreement or simply a “pre-nup”).

Since they will likely file for divorce in the state of Washington where they own a home (and which has a “community property” regime for the equal split of assets on divorce) this means that they will likely split the US$137 billion evenly.  In other words, all income and earnings that were amassed during the marriage are split on a 50-50 basis, which would make MacKenzie the world’s richest woman.

Reportedly, Jeff and MacKenzie’s split is on very amicable terms – and only time will tell whether it will remain so.  Still, the division of assets will likely be complex, because the former pair own vast swaths of land in the U.S. which may be challenging to put a value on, for the purposes of splitting it up equally.

Even though this power-duo did not have a separation agreement, it’s always a good idea to have one – no matter what your net worth is.  That’s because a separation agreement is a negotiated legal contract between you, ideally before you get married, reflecting your pre-agreed resolution to how certain aspects of your relationship will be governed in the event you decide to split later on.

It need not be limited to asset-division:  Under Canadian law it can cover other items such as spousal support, child support, as well as the day-to-day issues relating to any children that you already have.

And, because it is tailored to your unique situation and individual needs, it can be very effective for speeding up your divorce process and cutting down your costs.  The key benefit is that it can avoid altogether the need to go to court or engage in other pricier methods for resolving your disputes.  Even if you later disagree on some unanticipated issues,  a well-thought-out separation agreements can go a long way towards at least narrowing the issues between you.

Few of us have to worry about how to divide tens of billions of dollars upon separation or divorce.  But even if your assets are much more modest now – and even if you consider yourself merely a “billionaire-in-the-making” – a separation agreement is always a great idea to protect what you have now and in the future.

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders.  For more information, visit us at



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GM Oshawa Assembly Plant Closing & Divorce

The Ghosts of GM: Past, Present and Future

On November 26, 2018, the General Motors Company (GM) announced that it will cease allocating new product to its Oshawa assembly plant beyond the end of 2019. This came as a shock to the 2,500 employees who work at the Oshawa plant and the many more who depend on their income. While the jury is still out on whether GM will be laying off or re-training its 2,500 employees, one thing is certain—a large cohort of GM’s employees stand to lose their livelihood.

Whether laid off or re-trained, employees who have a potential, current or settled family law matter will need to govern themselves wisely to weather the impact that closure will have on their day-to-day lives. Accordingly, this post explores the likely, and, not so likely, family law implications of GM’s closure of its once thriving Oshawa assembly plant.

The Ghost of GM Past: Settled Family Law Matters

If your family law matter was previously settled by way of a Separation Agreement or Final Order, the loss of employment income may trigger a review of child support or spousal support, or parenting.

Support obligations

It is likely that the loss of employment income will mean that you cannot afford to pay child support and/or spousal support as set out in a Separation Agreement or Final Order. In the case of a Separation Agreement, you may be able to rely on a built-in review clause to revisit the issue of support. Most Separation Agreements contain a dispute resolution clause which may be the first place to start in this endeavor. In the case of a Final Order, you will likely want to bring a Motion to Change a Final Order if you and your ex-spouse cannot agree on the appropriate adjustment out of court. A qualified lawyer can assist with making this process as seamless as possible.


It is not likely that your loss of income will impact settled parenting arrangements. However, you may find yourself needing to reduce your parenting time with the children in order to focus on finding a new job. In this scenario, you may likely need to rely on the dispute resolution clause in your Separation Agreement or bring a Motion to Change a Final Order altering an access schedule in order to achieve the desired relief.

The Ghost of GM Present: Current Family Law Matters

If you are currently going through a legal separation from your spouse, the loss of employment income may affect a number of aspects in your separation, including but not limited to, support, assets and liabilities and alternative career planning.

Child support and spousal support

You may have credible grounds by which to vary a temporary Order for support in your legal proceeding. As an Order for support would have been based on your GM income at the time, the Order may be varied by the new circumstances. You may seek such relief at a pre-trial conference or by bringing a motion. It is not likely, however, that your loss of income resulting from being laid off will extinguish your entire obligation to pay support. Rather, you may still be required to pay support on the basis of employment insurance income or imputed income. However, the extent of any such continuing obligation depends on the particular facts of your case.

Assets and liabilities

The loss of employment income may result in a budgetary deficit, impacting your ability to keep the matrimonial home. If you are no longer able to maintain your share of the mortgage and bills associated with the matrimonial home, it may have to be listed for sale—which may be the most poignant of all of your post-closure concerns. Worry not. There may be options available to you for preventing this outcome such as, a buy-out, borrowing or disposition of investments, RRSPs, RRIFs or your GM pension. However, the viability of these options to save the matrimonial home will need to be assessed against the surrounding issues in your proceeding such as support, equalization and other issues relevant to your case.

Alternative career planning

You may wish to delay your re-entry into the workforce to obtain credentials in a more stable industry. While this will yield economic benefits in the long run, your current financial obligations of support and solvency will be deciding factors. Delayed income generation caused by alternative career training may likely be manageable provided that the financial obligations of your ongoing separation are minimal. However, your freedom and ability to pursue such an undertaking may require a corresponding compromise and will depend on the unique facts of your case.

The Ghost of GM Future: Potential Family Law Matters

If you have been planning to separate from your spouse, the loss of employment income can have significant family law implications on a number of obligations arising in separation, including but not limited to, support, parenting and family property.

Child support and spousal support

It is not likely that being laid off will defer support obligations. You may be obligated to pay support if you receive employment insurance income sufficient enough to meet legislative minimums. If you do not qualify for employment insurance, your spouse may still seek support by imputing an income on you commensurate with your work experience, whereby you will be required to pay support. In either scenario, the obligation to pay child support and spousal support may survive the loss of income depending on the facts of your particular situation.


It is likely that being laid off will mean expanded parenting time. While increased parenting time may yield social benefits, it may also impinge on your economic rehabilitation. Your spouse may expect you to dedicate your new found time to caring for young children who are not in school. These, and other significant changes to parenting time after initiating your separation, may likely hinder your re-entry into the workforce. A properly drafted parenting agreement can help by moderating unrealistic expectations.

Family property

You will have a legal duty upon separating from your spouse to avoid the reckless depletion of family property. While you may wish to list personal or real property for sale to help make ends meet, it is not likely that you will be able to freely dispose of family property after your date of separation without your spouse’s prior consent or proper accounting. You will have to be mindful of how you manage family property as mismanagement may prejudice the equalization of net family property and may result in a Court order.

Bottom line

The closure of GM’s Oshawa assembly plant in 2019 will disrupt the lives of many families, the impact of which might be felt most by those dealing with a potential, current or settled family law matter. Contacting a lawyer for legal advice tailored to the particular facts of your case is a proven way to mitigate the effects of an imminent disruption to income. While it may seem impossible to afford a lawyer at this time, there may be options available to finance the cost of much-needed legal representation.

At Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders.