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Finding help during your Divorce

In her book,” Divorce 101, An introduction to the many aspects of Separation and Divorce in Canada”, author Linda Cartier dedicates a whole chapter to Myths. (Cartier, 2019, pgs. 17-19) She opens the chapter stating that there are many self -proclaimed experts that claim experience and wisdom in the area of separation and divorce.  These “friends” are generally well meaning and genuine, however, because each couple is unique, it follows therefore, that each separation and divorce will also be special.  It is prudent, therefore, to be careful with the counsel you engage because the expertise of “co-workers, buddies or family is a sure recipe for trouble.” (pg. 17)

Cartier goes on to say that all lawyers are not necessarily the “right fit” either.  For many people, the only lawyer we may know are those who helped you with conveyancing your mortgage perhaps wrote up your will or got your rotten nephew out of jail due to an impaired charge.  Financial planners or advisors may not be the right fit to help you either, as they may focus on investment portfolios, insurance, or employee benefits.  Because separation and divorce are common, everyone will have heard some good and bad stories about the people in their communities, but these anecdotes cannot provide all the important details that need to be considered when people break up after years of sharing lives.

It is important to surround oneself with qualified professionals to help you when working through a separation and divorce and this includes having a qualified and experienced lawyer.  In an ideal world, it would be great to have family law specialists available for everyone, but that is not the case.  In rural areas, it is often difficult to find general lawyer, let alone a specialist to help you.  In large cities, there may be specialists, but from my experience, many of them are not taking new clients.  In many cases, it is not uncommon for generalist lawyers to not want to take on family law cases as they are often emotionally draining and are often not financially rewarding for them.

A New Service that Can Help!

It is for this reason that a new specialty in financial planning has come into being in Canada.  The Chartered Financial Divorce Specialist (CFDS) can be an excellent resource to the individual or the couple that has decided to break up.  The CFDS is totally dedicated to looking for ways to split the assets of the couple.  The services of a Chartered Financial Divorce Specialist give the clients a clear picture of where they financially stand today and where they can be in the future.  Having a clear understanding of the future value of a financial decision today will provide a lot of comfort in the future.

If you are in the process of separation and divorce, using a CFDS like myself can save you a lot of money and time because that work will help provide the framework to your separation and divorce agreement.

Check out my website at www.acdyck.com

No Fault is not the same as “It’s not my fault”!

In my previous blog, I listed the 3 main reasons that provide grounds for divorce.  Once a couple make the decision to separate and divorce, the concept of “No Fault” comes into play, in terms of the law.  In 1986 the law was changed to embrace this concept to help drain the some of the emotions from attributing blame and/or punitive damages to one person or the other. Before this legal change, couples had to charge each other with an offence or a bad behaviour that would have to be proven in court.  These charges would often be played out in public, resulting in much personal damage to both people.  (Michael Cochrane L.L.B., Surviving Your Divorce, A Guide to Canadian Family Law, LegalIntel, 2015, pg. 67)

Grounds for Divorce

Canada has no-fault divorce. The only ground for a divorce in the Divorce Act is marriage breakdown. The Divorce Act says you can show your marriage has broken down if any ONE of the following criteria applies to you:

  • You have been living apart for one year or more.
  • Your spouse has treated you with physical or mental cruelty of such a kind as to make living together intolerable.
  • Your spouse has committed adultery.

To get a divorce for these reasons you must prove these things in court.

Many divorces are uncontested or undefended divorces (about 80 percent). That means that the divorcing couple have settled on how they’re going to settle their parenting, support, and property issues. But they still need a court order for the divorce. (see https://justice.gov.bc.ca/divorce/prequalification/step_06

My next blog will focus on how to choose a good lawyer. 

“Breaking up is hard to do”- Neil Sedaka

In 1960, Neil Sedaka released the song, “Breaking up is hard to do”. This million seller, which was co-written earlier with Howard Greenfield in the 1950’s, speaks about a young person’s yearning for enduring love.  This desire for love and caring is a very common theme in most modern songs that we listen to everyday.

There are times in marriage and common-law relationships when breaking up does happen, regardless of how many love songs are written and performed.  Separation and divorce have been a part of every society for thousands of years. For example, divorce is first referenced in the book of Deuteronomy.  In 1410 BC, Moses, the great law giver, had to find a way to accommodate the reality that marriages did not always work out (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).  In Canada, it is commonly stated that the divorce rate is approximately 50%.  Fortunately, this number seems to be a myth.   According to website, Saskatoon Divorce, Child Custody and Family Lawyer, (2023), the divorce rate in Canada is approximately 38%.  It is important to note that only married people can get divorced.  Those who live common-law, are not included in the divorce statistics.  However, according to Statistics Canada, the separation rate among common-law couples is significantly higher than among those who are married.         

In the book, “Surviving Your Divorce, A Guide to Canadian Family Law”, the author, Michael G. Cochrane, L.L.B., says that divorce in Canada, is unfortunately, a long and expensive process.  Cochrane goes on to state that there is only one ground for divorce in Canada and that is “marriage breakdown.” 

The Divorce Act set out three circumstances in which marriage will be considered to have broken down:

  1. The spouses have lived separate and apart for at least one year immediately preceding the determination of the divorce proceeding.
  2. One of the spouses has committed adultery.
  3. One of the spouses has subjected the other to intolerable physical or mental cruelty of such a kind as to render intolerable their continued cohabitation. (Michael Cochrane L.L.B., Surviving Your Divorce, A Guide to Canadian Family Law, LegalIntel, 2015, pg. 68)

Once it has been determined that the marriage has indeed broken down, the concept of “no fault” then goes into effect.  This concept will be the subject of my next blog.

Al Dyck

CFP – Certified Financial Planner

CHDS – Chartered Financial Divorce Specialist

Launching a New Service!

 In November 2022, I started studying for my designation as a Chartered Financial Divorce Specialist (CFDS).  After 11 months of dedicated study, both academic and practical, I passed all the necessary course work.  This training, through the Academy of Financial Divorce Specialists, provides me the specialized training necessary to provide objective assessment in matters related to separation and divorce. 

As a professional Certified Financial Planner with this specialty as a CFDS, I will not offer legal opinion or advice.  I will follow a strict code of ethics and my work will be monitored by my licensing authorities.  Specifically, my role as a Chartered Financial Divorce Specialist are these 6 points:

  1.  To assist lawyers and/or mediators in designing a settlement proposal that will maximize clients’ satisfaction considering the available financial options.
  2. Provide financial analysis of the couple’s assets, liabilities, incomes, child and spousal support payments, taking into consideration inflation and changing tax consequences.
  3. Provide insight with respect to pension plans and other investment and insurance options including ongoing protection.
  4. Show options for financial scenarios with future projections.
  5. Educate clients about the tax and other financial consequences of retaining or giving up certain assets.
  6. Counsel clients on budget management during the difficult period of transition.

How can I help?

I can be recruited directly by one or both parties and/or one or both lawyers or a mediator.  A Letter of Engagement outlining the scope of services and cost is signed by the clients at the outset.  I can work with the litigation, mediation, or collaborative process.  A securing retainer will be based upon the estimated amount of time to be devoted to the case at hand.

My services can be engaged at any time in the process of separation and divorce.

In conclusion, I am a big fan of marriage and family life.  That said, separation and divorce is a fact of life.  My goal, during this painful process, is to provide objective and straightforward financial advice.  The law and the settlement processes are bound up in precedent.  So, while there may be things to negotiate, there are many things that do not have to be. Understanding the differences is where I can be most valuable.

The attached clip from the movie, “Moneyball”, provides an interesting perspective on getting to closure.  The scene may seem harsh, but experience has taught me that there is wisdom to getting to closure, so that a new life can begin.

Negotiating in Hard Times

In the business of getting through life, we often take for granted that we need to work with all kinds of people, in all sorts of circumstances.  When things are going “swimmingly” easy and comfortably, we don’t think that we are negotiating.  It is often assumed negotiations only occur when important and serious things are happening.  Do you remember the last time you bought something important like a car or a house?  You and your spouse got yourself all psyched up because it was “negotiating time”!

What is often overlooked is that while getting ready to meet with the selling party, you had to negotiate with your spouse as to when you were going to go or which outfit you were going to wear.  For example, you might have said to your partner, “When should we leave for our appointment” or, “should I wear the red shirt or the blue blouse”?  The fact that you were getting input from your spouse, is in fact a negotiation.

If you are reading this and are over 20 years of age, you have already developed some impressive skills in terms of getting along with people.  The challenge for most of us is that when we think something can impact our lives significantly, we start to take the situation very seriously.  One of my favorite books, “How to Negotiate by Caring, but not That Much” by Herb Cohen (Grand Central Publishing, 2006), says that the worst person to negotiate for you is you!  This is because as the stakes go up, we lose the requisite ability to keep calm and cool because we take ourselves too seriously, that is, we care too much.

The adage, “We cannot see the forest for the trees” refers to “caring too much”.  Another saying, “When you are up to your ass in alligators, its easy to forget the objective was to drain the swamp!” also refers to losing one’s way.

In my new service as a Chartered Financial Divorce Specialist, my goal is to help people get through this emotionally charged transition time.  As an outsider, my ability to help is enhanced because I have no skin in the game.

In conclusion, in the book, “Getting to Yes, Negotiating Agreement without Giving In”, (Penguin 2nd edition, 1991) authors’ Roger Fisher, William Ury and Bruce Patton list 4 things that are necessary to help get to a “win-win” outcome.  These 4 points are:

  1.  Separate the people from the problem.
  2. Focus on interests, not positions.
  3. Invent options for mutual gain.
  4. Insist on using objective criteria.

If you are going through a hard time, like a separation or a divorce, you are doing a good thing by hiring experts in this field.  It is prudent to be surrounded by professionals who can give you good, level-headed advice!

Costly Decisions

In 2014, a client of mine asked me what he and his wife should not do if they wanted to build their wealth.  My immediate response was, “don’t get divorced!”  My answer was based upon what I had observed in the lives of relatives, friends and clients who had experienced divorce firsthand.

This blog is not about the sad stories that lead up to the dissolution of a marriage.  This story is designed to share information about the process to get to divorce once the decision to divorce has been made.  It is very rare for a divorce to be truly amicable because the decision to marry in the first place was made with the vow, “till death do us part”.  The emotion of the decision to split often carries over to the practical aspects of dividing up money, retirement funds, the marital home, pensions, the family business, and time with children.  Another practical consideration that enters the debate is spousal support. 

For many couples that get married young, their wealth was probably negligible.  As time marches on, the combined accumulation of wealth can be quite impressive for some and perhaps not so in other cases.  Regardless of the amount of wealth acquired, the legal process for all divorces in Canada is generally the same.

In 1697, William Congreve wrote a play called the “The Mourning Bride”.  The famous line, “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell has no fury like a woman scorned”, speaks to the rage a man or a woman can show when profoundly hurt or disappointed by someone they love or care for.  Most of us have witnessed divorce battles rage, sometimes for over a dozen years, for reasons that only make sense to the battling couple.  The battle is not for restitution, but for other reasons unfathomable.

The financial costs often go into the tens of thousands of dollars, and not uncommonly into hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees alone.  The psychic and physical toll on the combatants is incalculable.

In Canada, there are three categories for divorce to be granted:  1) fighting over money or property, 2) adultery and 3) cruelty and violence.  Once it is determined that a divorce will proceed, the concept of “No fault” comes into play.  This is important because once it is determined that the marriage is over, two legal jurisdictions come into play for the divorce to go into effect.  The federal laws that govern The Marriage Act take over for the questions of support, for both child and spouse.  The provincial laws govern the division of property.   

The topic of divorce is complicated and emotionally charged.  According to Stats Canada, just over 50% of all marriages end in divorce, with the average length of marriage before divorce is 8 years.  When we calculate common-law relationships into the mix, the split up of relationships goes up significantly and the average length of co-habitation goes down substantially.

This relational malady is incredibly costly for families and our communities.  My new service as a Chartered Financial Divorce Specialist, is to provide a complimentary service to those provided by the Family Councillors and the Family Law Specialists.  My job is to dispassionately calculate the division of assets in a variety of ways.  My hope is that these financial options will help the divorcing couple create the framework for a good divorce settlement saving all concerned time and money.

A Lesson from the West Side Story

Today’s blog is taken from the book “Business Secrets From The Bible”.  The author, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, published this book in 2014.  I am quoting from pages 243 to 245 from Chapter 35, “How you Feel About Yourself is How Others Will See You.” 

I have witnessed that many people are not comfortable within their own skin, especially when it comes their relationship with money.  I hope that today’s blog will be of value to you and those in your life.

“In the musical West Side Story, there is a scene in which the character Maria sings a song that goes like this: “I feel pretty, oh so pretty.  I feel pretty and witty and bright.  And I pity any girl who isn’t me tonight.”  I rather like these lyrics because Maria highlights the principle behind this biblical business secret.  She knows that she looks great because she feels pretty.  Most people can relate to feeling this way at times.  Maybe you have had the experience of your spouse telling you that you look beautiful or handsome, only you don’t really feel that way at the time.  Maybe you are self-conscious about the outfit you are wearing.  Or maybe you feel like your hairdresser or barber gave you a bad haircut the last time you went in.  When we don’t feel attractive, there is nothing our spouse or friends can say to change the way we feel.  The thing of note here is that this feeling is not entirely delusional – it is not necessarily just poor self esteem.  We may, in fact, be right.  This is because thinking you look bad is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Maria looks pretty in West Side Story because she feels pretty.  If she felt unattractive, others would see that she was glum or unconfident and would probably find her less attractive, too.”

The principle that the Rabbi is presenting is that “to succeed in business and in life, you must not only be a good and moral person, you must also hold a strong and confident conviction that you are.  If you can engender a deep conviction that you are noble, generous, and kind and that making money is not shameful – it speaks to the highest of morals and is something to be proud of.”  “If you feel a sense of harmony with yourself, with God, with the world, and with money, people will see and feel this.

Living with Inflation

Many people look forward to their retirement days with much anticipation.  They have hopes and dreams of visiting the grandchildren, downsizing the house and holidays in warmer climates.  After many years of hard work, these are all things to look forward to and appreciate.

For those of us who have the retirement badge of honor, the bliss of retirement can get tiresome.  It is my observation that many men, as opposed to women, have more difficulty with the concept of retirement, especially after the first year or two. 

It is perhaps better to look at one’s senior years as a time of transition as opposed to retirement.  I have read the Bible five times in the last 6 years and have never seen any word or phrase that mentions the “R” word.  In conversations with people that are familiar with other religions and worldviews, such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism, there is also no word for retirement. 

So, what should one do with this dilemma?  It is perhaps best to use the phase, “what can I do to be of service to my family and friends in my community?”  This question gives you permission to get into a “side hustle” where you can be useful in the marketplace. 

People who have a sense of purpose are simply more content and happier than those who spend their time twiddling their thumbs.  If you can earn some money, even better!  When inflation is running at over 12%, why not earn some extra money to make up the difference lost to the increased cost of living?

Attached is a link from Tim Cestnick of the “Globe and Mail”.  I hope you find this of value! 

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/investing/personal-finance/taxes/article-cpp-oas-and-rrsp-tips-for-those-working-in-their-seventies/

4 Credibility Habits

When I was in business, I used the services of two different business coaches.  My first coach, Peter Neufeldt of Peak Performance Consulting (www.peakperformanceconsulting.ca)  provided me insight about my self-limiting beliefs. His services helped me to think differently about what might be possible in my business life.

Many of the concepts and ideas that I had early in my business were mostly good but lacked refinement and sophistication.  Peter’s guidance helped me to grow my business because my confidence in myself and my services, grew significantly.

My second coach, Russell Schmidt from the business coaching organization, The Strategic Coach (https://now.strategiccoach.com) was also excellent.  This program was different from Peter’s, in that we met as a cohort of around 25 to 30 other entrepreneurs every 90 days.  We got the benefit of Russ’s wisdom along with the business experience of all the other business owners.  Some of us were relatively small businesses whereas others were much larger with several hundred employees. 

The journey that I went through with the two coaching programs was very beneficial for me, my employees, and my customers.  For me, the main benefit was increased confidence in myself and my processes.  My employees benefitted through increased job security because I learned to delegate work to them so that I could keep doing what the good Lord gifted me with.  This resulted in more and better business resulting in more profits!  The customers benefitted because they had a team of competent people that could solve problems with energy and creativity.

The other morning at our weekly Rotary meeting, my friend, Roger Brown shared these words of wisdom called “Credibility Habits”.  These four points were provided by both of my coaches.  Thanks to Peter, Russell and Roger for sharing these words of wisdom from the Unknown Author!

Confidence About Credibility

No one gets taken seriously in this world

Unless he or she has credibility.

Not credibility about brilliant ideas or heroic deeds

But credibility about daily habits and performance.

The 4 Credibility Habits are:

  1.  Show up on time.
  2. Do what you say you are going to do.
  3. Finish what you start. 
  4. Say Please and Thank You!

These simple habits may seem self evident but are rarely done consistently.  By implementing these 4 habits, your personal and business lives will improve significantly!

Kitchen Table Deals

I have been working toward getting another designation to complement my Certified Financial Planner (CFP) credentials.  This next designation will allow me to work with people struggling through separation and divorce.  Once I complete my Certified Financial Divorce Specialist designation, my business services will be broadened.

I came across an interesting article in a recent edition of the Financial Post.  While trying to save money is always good, it can be dangerous to create a “kitchen table deal”, especially when negotiating complex details.  Click on the attachment and hopefully you will gain some benefit.

https://financialpost.com/personal-finance/kitchen-table-separation-agreements-binding-right-circumstances

Best wishes and keep smiling!

A