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Vancouver and Edmonton Family Law Blog

Don't forget about dividing your debts in divorce

As you and your spouse near the end of your marriage, you may have concerns about your financial future. One important step in ensuring you do not face your post-divorce life with financial struggles is to fight for a fair and equitable division of your marital assets. For you, this may include obtaining a reasonable appraisal of some valuables and even searching for hidden or forgotten assets.

However, even if you obtain a generous portion of community property, you may still be at risk of financial hardship if you end up with a disproportionate share of your family's debt. Many couples overlook their debt when they consider splitting their belongings, and this may leave them with an unfair burden to carry into their newly single life.

Family law: Protecting an inheritance during a divorce

Divorce can stir up some nasty emotions. Luckily, in Alberta, there are family law rules in place that provide guidelines for some possible contentious issues like division of property and other assets. These laws can sometimes overlap into other other areas. For instance, how would one go about safeguarding a downpayment on a house that has been given as a gift when going through a divorce?

The most succinct way of doing that is by having a marriage contract or cohabitation agreement in place. Any money that has been given as a gift should be kept separately from any joint accounts, especially when there is no contract in place. If it is commingled in a joint account, it may be considered to be a family asset and up for division should the relationship or marriage end. 

Children's issues: UN convention protects children's rights

Canada ratified the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991. The convention speaks to many children's issues also faced by children in British Columbia, and stipulates that children have the right to be protected, the right to development and the right to give their feedback when it comes to decisions that affect their lives. Children, the convention says, have the right to a basic quality of life and as such are entitled to advocates on their behalf, which could, and often does, include lawyers.

Provinces and territories in Canada changed a number of laws dealing with children's rights. As such, those deployed in armed conflicts and those children in the care of the government have access to advocates to help them when they have no one else. The convention has gone a long way in the area of children's issues, yet there is still child poverty, neglect, abuse, homelessness and other issues adversely affecting kids. It is up to adults, the convention adamantly states, to shield children from these things and to work together to provide housing, clean water, food, education and services that can help children to grow into happy, healthy and productive adults.

Family law: Parental abduction is a criminal offence

There is nothing worse for a parent to think that his or her child could be in harm's way. No parent wants to believe his or her former spouse and the parent of his or her child would do anything to hurt their children. But when British Columbia couples are going through high-conflict divorces, one person may take the children somewhere without the knowledge of the other. This is a serious family law issue that could result in an accusation of parental abduction, and there are laws in place to protect children and hold parents accountable when they do things they shouldn't.

Statistics show that a few hundred kids in Canada get abducted each year by a parent. About 10% of  them – if they or that parent were born outside of Canada – are taken back to their or their parent's country of origin. A parent who thinks his or her former spouse might be inclined to do this should heed the warning signs, such as when the other parent makes threats about taking the child, exhibits stalking or harassing behaviour, or fights incessantly about access or custody issues. A parent might also be angry about a decision made by a family court judge and might choose to take matters into his or her own hands by removing the children.

Family law: Parental alienation and its effects on children

Divorce can be particularly difficult to process for children, no matter what their ages. Alberta has distinct family law rules in place that protect children from disturbing circumstances. Parental alienation is when one parent vilifies the other in front of their children, so much so that the children start believing what they're being told about the parent. This often happens when parents are fighting over the custody of their children.

Parental alienation, in its most severe form, can actually be looked upon as abuse by the courts and may be considered a criminal offence. Manipulating a child's affections could include making numerous promises, making negative comments about the other parent, and giving the child untold numbers of gifts. It could also include coaching children what to say to experts if they are questioned.

How will a breakup affect your finances?

Alberta couples seeking a divorce have many things to think and worry about. The months and years immediately after the breakup of a marriage can be full of uncertainty, especially where your finances are concerned. The best way to minimize any struggles you might have at that time is to work to get the fairest and fullest portion of martial assets possible.

To do this requires that you know the difference between the assets that the law considers jointly owned and those which are exempt from property division. Joint assets typically include those either of you acquired at any time during your marriage up to the date of your settlement or divorce trial, at least in Alberta. It is also important that you understand any negative ramifications you may face for acquiring certain assets in the divorce.

Understand your legal options. Make informed decisions. Contact the family law lawyers of Henderson Heinrichs LLP


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