I Have To Pay How Much Support!?

When clients are trying to work out the issues that have arisen as a result of the separation, one of the most difficult issues can be support. Spousal support is scary for clients. There are all kinds of horror stories out there of how people ended up destitute because of support they had to pay.

First, do not listen to the horror stories people are all too anxious to tell you. Every situation is different. I have had many clients come in and ask me about their friend’s stories. No disrespect intended, I know a lot of stories have been embellished quite a bit.

It is a bad idea for people to go on-line and pluck a number from a child support table or a number from a spousal support table and then assume that is what to be paid. You cannot just pick these numbers from thin air without considering the broader context.

In my experience, most spouses do not want to see their ex living on the street. Once we do a financial analysis of the living situations of each spouse, it is amazing how then, there can be a realistic discussion of who pays how much. Part of that discussion includes how other debts will be paid or how your children’s sports and activities will be paid.
In the end, there are now two homes and two sets of living expenses which have to be paid on the same income. Both spouses need to be realistic and willing to get down and work out a resolution. It is possible.

Divorce: Who’s fault is it?

On the wall in my reception area I have a quote written, “In blaming another we give our power away”. Over the past 27 years I have seen literally hundreds of people separate. I have seen the pain and anguish they go through as they separate and try to get their issues resolved. Blame is one of the surest ways to stay in a problem.

One thing that would simplify their life greatly is to stop blaming. Whether it is their spouse, the new girlfriend or boyfriend, their family or their in-laws, many people are on a quest to figure out what went wrong. So who’s fault is it? Who cares.

When clients start blaming several things happen.

It allows you to excuse yourself from responsibility. In all the years I have practised family law, I cannot recall a case where both spouses did not blame each other. The reality is both spouses have some responsibility for the situation they are in. Own your role in it.

Second it can turn people into “right-fighters”. People become so convinced their separation is all somebody else’s fault. Then they try to convince anybody who will listen to how it is not their fault. “He had the affair” or “She spent all our money”, “His mother was here everyday”, “I did all the child care because he was always gone”, etc. What always follows is “why should I compromise? I didn’t ask for this!”.

I understand that this is an emotional time for clients especially if you did not want the separation but take a step back and consider what difference does it make? How much time and energy do you spend complaining about your ex, bitter about your circumstances, and telling the same story over and over again like a broken record, in desperate attempt to figure out why. What effect has it on your physical and mental health? Your relationships? Your work ethic? Your well-being? In the end, what has it gotten you? I have no doubt it has not moved your situation ahead at all. Do not let your past define your present. If you have children, how you handle the separation definitely affects them. They learn how to handle adversity and conflict by watching you. What are your actions teaching them? When you are angry and emotional wreck, it impacts your children, no matter how hard you try to hide it from them.

In blaming another you give your power away. Stop investing all of your time, money, and energy into your ex. You can not change the past, but you change the future. As soon as you do, your life will start to move ahead.

We are separating and I want “50/50” time with my children

When people separate, custody and access can be highly emotional and hotly contested issues. Clients have already had their life turned upside down. Their marriage has broken down, they will be splitting up their property and they often have no idea how their finances will work out. The only thing more worrisome is are they going to be cut out from their kid’s lives. Are they going to be reduced to seeing their kids two weekends a month?

Many clients come into my office and tell me “I want 50/50” i.e. they want their kids to live with them half the time. I can tell you that a lot of lawyers, judges and social workers are going to seem frustrated as soon as they hear that phrase “50/50”. In fact, I tell clients not to use that phrase at all. The reason being that in so many cases the parent saying it has not thought it through. Your kids are not possessions that can be divided into equal parts. If you have not thought through the practical details and if you do not have a detailed parenting plan, you may not get what you are asking for.

The person making the decisions will ask you “what is your plan?”, “how will it work for your children?”, “does it make sense from the kid’s perspective?” It is not about you thinking you are “entitled” to half the time because they are your kids. That attitude will get you absolutely no where.

Here are some points you should think about when you will write-up the parenting plan that you will ask a decision-maker to accept. Remember, you should think in terms of what will work for your kids. Keep looking at each point from that perspective.

1. Where do you and your spouse live? Are your houses close together? A judge or decision-maker is going to consider how much travel time will be necessary for your kids. Especially if there are several transitions a week for your kids, the decision-maker is not going to like it. For example, if you live an hour apart, it means that your kids will have to spend several hours every week driving back and forth. Whether you mind driving 2 hours round trip is not the issue. The issue is should kids spend hours commuting between their parents’ home especially on a school night.

2. Get a calendar page and plot out the schedule you are asking for. Write down each and every pick-up and drop-off. Take a look at how many times your kids will be going back and forth every week and each month. I have had cases where the plan would be for the kids to transition between homes every other day. That would ensure that each parent had 50%. It also means that the kids would be transitioned 13 times a month! Then step-back and consider if it is fair to your kids to go back and forth that many times?

3. If your plan includes each of you having the kids during the week, how are the kids going to get to and from school every day. Again, your plan has to set out all the details. If they get out of school at 3pm, can you get off work to pick them up? If you have to leave for work at 6:00am, are you going to get your kids up at 5:00am? In my experience, that is not going to be well-received. What kid wants to get up at 5:00am? If your plan is on a school day, your kids gets up at 5:00am, then go to school, then day care after school until 4pm, then pick them up and drive an hour to your house – they already have had a 12 hour day and its only 5pm. If you are being realistic, is that a good plan for your kids?

4. If your kids have extra curricular activities and it is your day, it is your responsibility to get them there. If there are 2 or 3 kids and they each have a sport or lesson, sit down and figure out how practically that will work each week. There is nothing sadder than cases where kids are signed up for activities and one parent will not or cannot get them to their games and practices. Your kids have enough turmoil with your separation. You have to be able to make their activities a priority. It ensures that that part of their lives is stable.

These are some of the questions you need to seriously consider. Then when you come into my office or to the office of whoever you are seeing, you will have the parenting plan with the details marked on it. You will have thought through the practical issues with your proposed parenting plan. You will have thought of the impact on your children of each aspect of the plan you are proposing.

I think many clients think 50/50 is equal and because it is equal, its fair. Not so. It “maybe” fair to you, but that is not the issue. The real issue is what is the impact on your kids. What will their day-to-day life be like. That is absolutely the question you have to be able to answer.

Beware of Anyone Trying to Scam Through a Quick Deal!

As a lawyer who has practiced family law for over 20 years, I think what I hear the most from clients is “I just want this over with”. Most people want their case concluded so that they can move on. And the longer it drags on, the more stressful and chaotic their lives become. The danger is settling to quick and then regretting later.

When clients first separate, for most, it is the most stressful life event they will ever encounter. Their life has been turned upside down. In my experience, it takes several months at least before the dust begins to settle. If you are in the early stages, when you are angry and in emotional turmoil, do you really think you should be making major decisions that will affect the rest of your life and the lives of that of your children? Not if you don’t have to. Take some time to get your head around what has happened.

If your spouse is really pushing you to agree to a deal right after you separated – be careful. If they tell you not to take time to think it over that you should not seek legal or financial advice before you sign – be really careful. Whatever deal you agree to will effect your life and the life of your children for a long time. It is not something you should rush into just to “get it over with”. It’s a lot more time consuming and expensive to try to correct a bad deal as oppose to getting it right the first time.

Realize from the outset that is your life and you should be calling the shots. Never throw your hands up in the air and expect a lawyer, a counsellor, a financial advisor, a whoever to just make decisions for you. Its your responsibility to understand the issues and the possible resolutions. Sit down and work through the issues until you understand them and then you will be able to make your own decisions. It is always better to make an informed decision, then to just languish. Often, there is no “right decision”.

You need to be able to come to the table with a clear head and a solid understanding of the issues. You need to have a realistic view of what you want on each issue. Most importantly, you need to be looking ahead, not motivated by anger and resentment. Then you will end up with a deal that is best for you and your children.



At What Age Does My Child Get To Decide Who They Want To Live With? Is It 12 Years Old?

One of the most common questions I am asked in a custody case is at what age does a child get to choose which parents they want to live with? In other words, at what age does a child get to pick one parent over the other?

I have practiced family law for 27 years and I have three  children of my own who are now ages 16, 18, and 20. Knowing that is my background, here is my answer.

In what world is it appropriate for an adult to want to delegate such a major life decision to a child? Many people believe when a child is 12, they can choose which parent they want to live with. At 12 years old that child is probably in grade six – junior elementary school. They are learning how to write a complete paragraph and how to multiply. It Is simply unfair to think that child has any real understanding of the issue you are asking them to decide. The responsibility should not be forced onto a child – they shouldn’t have to live with their decision of picking one parent over the other.

As an experienced social worker once told me, “children have a voice, not a choice.” Your case may get to the stage where a third party is hired to investigate and one of the things they will do is interview your children. Know that your child will never forget the details of what happened or how they were put into middle. It is not a step any parent should take lightly

Here are some realities you need to know:

  1. What the parenting schedule should be, should be worked out between the parents. Never put the responsibility to make that decision on a child.
  2. Stop trying to delegate a major parental decision to a child.
  3. Children have a “voice” but not a “choice”
  4. If your case is high acrimony, you are putting your children in a position where they will pick a side. That is a sad reality you see over and over in this type of law.
  5. Children in so many cases tell their parents what they think they want to hear. They see how their parents have turned on each other. They don’t want to be next. But be careful, you may be surprised what they say to a third party that is hired to find out what your child wants.

Children are entitled to a relationship with both parents. They should be able to get the best from both. Do your children a huge favour – get a schedule worked out that you can both live with. Present to them as a united front and stick to it. If you can do that, your children won’t have to pick a side.

In the end, with very few exceptions, your children will spend time with both parents. There are only seven days in a week. Sit down and figure out a reasonable way to divide up time. This issue is between you and your spouse. If you can, keep your children out of it.

How You Handle Your Separation Definitely Effects Your Kids

How You Handle Your Separation Definitely Effects Your Kids

Tracy Miller | June 9th, 2017

After practicing family law for 27 years, it is still upsetting to watch the damage that is done to children when their parents go through a separation. Even when parents think they are doing everything right, their children can be the collateral damage.

If you are being honest, you know that when you are angry or upset, your kids see it and feel it.  If you are an emotional wreck because you are always stressed worrying about your divorce, of course it is going to affect how you talk to your kids.  It may mean you are simply unhappy and how can that not be obvious to them?  Or worse, that you are always angry and they get the brunt of it.

The worse cases are the ones where parents tell their kids “their  of the story”.  For example: “I pay support to your Mother, so ask her to buy it for you” or “I cannot afford to buy that for you because your Father won’t pay me.” Putting your kids in the middle of your issues simply shifts your stress and worry onto them.  It leaves them in the middle, not knowing who to believe or blame…and powerless to do anything about it.

The longer a case drags on, the great the impact on the children.  I cannot count the number of clients I have spoken to that tell me how their parents were divorced.  Sadly, 10 to 20 years later they can recite the details of their parent’s divorce.  And they are telling this to a divorce lawyer because history has repeated itself –  just as their parents did, they are getting divorced.

Please realize that the way you handle your divorce will have lifelong effects on your kids.  Not just the obvious effect that if you spend all your money on a divorce war, then you have no money for your kids.  The larger impact is how they will deal with conflict and their relationships as they become adults.

Do your kids a big favour –  sit down and get a reasonable deal worked out.  Then you both can move on with your new lives and be your best self for them.


Why Do I Have To Get A Separation Agreement? By Tracy Miller

Why Do I Have To Get A Separation Agreement?

Many people ask, “Why do I have to pay somebody to draft a Separation Agreement?” “Why should I pay a lawyer all kinds of money when I think we’ve agreed to all issues? It looks pretty simple to me.”

Okay, when you are separating you will have to figure out how to divide up all the property you have worked for and decide who takes over what debts.  If you have children, you have to figure out what the parenting schedule will be.  You also have to figure child and spousal support – who pays and how much?

There are inevitably a lot of issues in play and numerous decisions to be made.  The decisions you and your soon to be former spouse make will impact your lives and the lives of your children for years to come. 

Think of it like a Rubik’s cube.  All of the issues are inter-related.  When you make a decision on one issue you have to look ahead to consider how it impacts the other aspects of your life.

For example, when you divide your property you will know how much money you will end up.  You need to know how much money you will have before you can decide where you are going to live.  Before you can decide where you will buy a house, you need to agree what school you want the children to attend.  Before you decide that, you need to know what the parenting schedule will be.

You can see how all of the issues are inter-related.  The Separation Agreement has to be a comprehensive plan.  The end game is to have a well thought out plan that clearly sets out the rights and responsibilities for each spouse.

 This is just not a DIY!  Considering everything that is at stake, please get a professional to do it, then you both can move forward with your new lives without conflict and chaos. 

Tracy Miller, Co-Founder of Clarity over Chaos

Disconnecting From The Ex: The Social Media Edition

In Tara Eisenhard’s article, she examines the benefits that disconnecting yourself from the world of social media has while going through a separation.   While you may question why you have to be the one to delete your Facebook or block certain people from your Twitter account, the idea is that by taking a break from social media, you can create a buffer and/or protect yourself from any unnecessary drama and focus on the real issues and your well being.




Interview with Tracy Miller – July 29th, 2016

We want to help people to avoid the inevitable expensive and time consuming war that happens in the traditional process.   Tracy explains the benefits of going through the Clarity Process vs the Traditional Process with Jamie West on CHML 900.



The Benefits Of Forgiving Your Former Spouse

Forgiveness is a powerful thing and comes with many advantages, however it is often the most difficult thing to do.  In her blog article, Deborah Moskovitch looks at the benefits of forgiving an ex-spouse, how forgiveness helps to let go of the negative emotions as well as any control an ex-spouse may have.