The Late Shift with Gail Vaz-Oxlade: Divorce, Mediation and Domestic Violence

NewsTalk1010 Toronto | The Late Shift with Gail Vaz-Oxlade

This evening, Gail devoted her entire show to the concept of divorce. Gail discusses her own experiences with divorce, overviews the history of divorce and chats with guests from The Common Sense Divorce:

  • The legal realities of divorce in Ontario: Darren Gingras (President of The Common Sense Divorce) and David Morneau (Family Lawyer)

  • Divorce mediation and its benefits for separating couples: Mary-Anne Popescu (Family Mediator)

  • Recognizing and getting out of an abusive relationship: Anne Sayers (Family Mediator)

Listen here:

Divorce is expensive, but don’t skimp on the lawyer

By Gail Vaz-Oxlade | Metro News | January 12, 2015

Everyone knows divorce is expensive. According to Darren Gingras, President of The Common Sense Divorce (with which I am affiliated), the average divorce costs $15,000 to $25,000 depending on whether the courts have to get involved. Is it any wonder people would rather DIY?

You might be tempted to take family law matters into your own hands because you’re trying to save money.

Maybe you don’t think your case is particularly complicated. Perhaps you have a basic mistrust of lawyers and the legal system’s penchant for making everything more complicated than it need be.

Or maybe you just don’t want to spend the money; splitting assets is going to leave you broke enough!

Hey, I hear what you’re saying. But I’ve been divorced enough times to know that if you don’t know what you’re doing — and if you’re not a family lawyer, you don’t — you could miss some important things that will screw with you later.

No, I’m not saying you have to hire a gunslinger.

I’m saying if you don’t know what you don’t know, how will you avoid stepping in the poop?

Family lawyers have a name for those documents people like to create for themselves as they are separating: They call them ‘kitchen table’ agreements, because they’re often signed in the kitchen over a cup of coffee. And their eyes flash with delight because they know that untangling the mess made will be profitable for them. Very profitable.

Sure, you’ll save some money if you work out the details of your separation agreement amicably. That’s common sense. But if you don’t get independent legal advice to ensure all the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed, lawyers and court costs may be in your future.

Just because you agree to a thing doesn’t make it stickable. Just because you execute it, have it witnessed and follow it religiously, doesn’t make it stickable. Kitchen table agreements can be tossed to the curb as soon as the weaknesses have been uncovered.

Take for example the kitchen table agreement that was thrown out by an Ontario court because child support was not implemented according to Ontario provincial guidelines.

And the kitchen table agreement that was nullified because financial disclosure wasn’t done, so one spouse didn’t fully appreciate what she was giving up when she waived her claim to her partner’s pension.

And the kitchen table agreement in which one partner tried to pull the wool over the other’s eyes.

Courts booted those agreements to the curb, leaving them not worth the paper they were written on. And because the courts got involved, those cheap kitchen table agreements got very, very expensive.

Perhaps it is our desire to get out of our current relationship that has us rushing to agree.

Hey, it all seems so reasonable right now. But what about the future?

Will whatever you agree to today stand the test of time?

And how about the tax man? Will he come looking for his piece of the pie?

Creating a legally binding and long-lasting separation agreement doesn’t mean you have to go to court. Nor does it mean that you have to escalate matters.

And you don’t have to give away all of your assets to the legal system, either.

It does mean spending enough money to ensure that your separation agreement is consistent with the your province’s Family Law Act and that everyone involved fully understands what it is that they are agreeing to and signing.

How much is enough? According to Gingras, for a separation agreement to have teeth, you’re looking at about $4,000.

No matter how tempted you may be to “keep the lawyers out of it,” please, please don’t put your faith in an office-supply-store separation agreement kit.

Gingras has seen more of these go south than he cares to think about.

“You want to spend enough money to do it properly the first time,” he says.


In the case of Zheng v. Jiang, 2012, when the court struck down the agreement that had been made by separating partners, it said:
“It seems to me that this is the very type of homemade agreement entered into by spouses who are not properly informed as to the facts and law surrounding their circumstances that (the Family Law Act) was designed to deter. I agree with the statement in Sagl v. Sagl … that “the policy of the Act is to discourage ‘kitchen table’ agreements.”

Read original article.

What to do when there’s more value in your house than your marriage

By Garry Marr | The Financial Post | October 11, 2014

Quote from Darren Gingras - President of The Common Sense Divorce

The financial leverage on homes means couples have to be more financially strategic than ever when it comes to timing their divorce, says Darren Gingras, president of The Common Sense Divorce, a divorce consultancy firm.

“Whether or not you want to keep it amicable or not amicable, that’s your decision,” he says. But financially, “you’ve got to time when you’re going to leave” with care. “Even if [you] walked home and caught somebody in bed with somebody, if you don’t time this one, you’re going to be nailed with up to $100,000 in penalties. There are people now who’ve had to learn to suck it up.”

Read the rest of the article below:

He's a one-percenter. He's got the high-powered job, a vacation property and a $1.5-million detached home in the heart of midtown Toronto. About a decade ago, he and his wife were fortunate enough to get their foot into the housing market when it was still relatively sane - paying roughly half what the place is worth…

What to do when there's more value in your house than your marriage

Should you share your PIN with your spouse?

By Melissa Leong | Financial Post | October 11, 2014

Melisssa Leong asked financial experts about this financial quandary.

Darren Gingras, president of The Common Sense Divorce says:

"Throughout our lives, we will be asked to trust others with our valuables. Doing so may mean that someone will show you their love through their respect or someone you love may betray your trust and you could be on the hook for their lack of self-control.  So if you’re thinking of sharing your PIN with your spouse (or anyone else), take note: one way or the other, you will end up with either a life-long confidant or simply a long-life lesson."

Read the rest of the article below.

When it comes to money decisions, it can be hard to figure out the right thing to do. Money is about power, emotion, morality, and security, among other things. So in this space, we gather experts to weigh in on a financial quandary. This week's question: Should you give your husband or wife the PIN for…

Should you share your PIN with your spouse?

Why You Should Opt For a Common Sense Divorce

By Gail Vaz-Oxlade | Metro News | August 11, 2014

Trying to get a divorce? Wondering why it’s taking so long and costing so much? Family courts are backlogged because we’ve been conditioned to believe the divorce process has to be both litigious and expensive. But it doesn’t have to be either of those things. If we applied some common sense — putting the beginning of our next chapter ahead of the retaliation we feel for ending the last chapter — it could be a much smoother process.

The Ontario government knows that marriage dissolution is a right mess. It’s looking for ways to encourage people to talk it out rationally in order to keep families out of court. That’ll keep more money in people’s pockets too.

Darren Gingras, president of The Common Sense Divorce (with which I am affiliated) says, “In my work as an independent financial broker, it wasn’t uncommon to encounter clients who had just come through a divorce process. Most of the time, my clients found themselves emotionally distraught, financially devastated and with their credit destroyed.”

There’s got to be a better way. It seems the trick is to recognize from the get go that divorce is going to suck, that how much you contribute to the brouhaha will dictate how much it costs, and there are alternatives: mediation and collaborative divorces are the smarter way to go.

Nobody gets married thinking the relationship will end in divorce. Even as I was marrying my third husband and my lawyer was shouting “pre-nup, Pre-nup, PRE-NUP!” I thought it would be my forever relationship. When the crap does hit the fan, angry partners are inevitably given incorrect information or unrealistic expectations by well-meaning friends and family. That’s only one of the dumb mistakes divorcing people make. Do I really have to tell you that a friend or family member’s legal and financial guidance is as good as the money you’ve paid for it? Or that hiding assets from your spouse is a bad idea? Or that creeping your ex on social media has no upside?

If you have no idea of the options available to you and assume incorrectly that you’re in for a battle royal — with long, drawn-out court appearances and expensive litigation as your only option — how will you pay for it all?

Money. Yup, it’s the fighting over who will get how much, not the legalities of a divorce process, that causes costs and emotions to run high. And when those costs get out of hand? Oy! The average price of a contested divorce in Ontario is $15,800 per person. The average price of a contested divorce that goes to court is $23,900, taking anywhere from one to three years to finalize.

So its time to stir some common sense into the divorce mix. It’s time to set aside animosity, irrational behaviour, and unfettered escalating costs, and remember the point is to get out of the last chapter with dignity and enough money to start the next.

Don’t think you’ll get out of your marriage with a bill for $4.95. That’s not going to happen. But you can keep more of your family’s money in your each of your pockets if you show a willingness to discuss and negotiate. And if you find the right team to help you navigate the rocky shores of the divorce process, you’re that much more likely to sail into safe harbur.

So why is a common sense, mediated divorce a good idea?

• It’ll cost 75 per cent less than going to court.
• You will come to an agreement with your ex (who will be your ex for perhaps longer than you were married!)
• Your privacy is maintained. Go to court and your personal information becomes a matter of public record.
• You create a win/win. The separation agreement you come up with can be better tailored to your specific situation.
• There will be less stress on the kids.
• It’s faster. You can take years to get through the courts or be done in half the time with a mediated divorce.
• You matter. You’re not just a file number or a catalyst for billable hours. Getting you through to the next chapter whole and healthy is part of the mediation process.

The very idea of divorce can be so scary that people actually stay put rather than having to deal with the perceived complications. Gingras says his phone rings off the hook right after major holidays and long weekends when people finally face up to the need to make a change in their lives. They’ve simply had enough and denial won’t work anymore.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone who knows what’s going to happen next explain each step along the way? You can have that. And you can have a team of experts that knows the ins and outs of what you have to consider as you make your decisions. (You do know that family lawyers don’t know squat about money management, right?) And you’ll have someone to remind you that divorce isn’t about winning, something a lot of people duking it out in court have forgotten.

There are no winners in divorce. Everyone loses something. Kids lose having access to both parents 24/7. Mates lose their great loves, their best friends, their happily-ever-afters. But applying common sense to the process — taking the divorce off the battlefield of court and into the mediation room — means you can manage the loss, both emotionally and financially.

Read original article.

The Late Shift with Gail Vaz-Oxlade: Divorce and Debt

NewsTalk1010 Toronto | The Late Shift with Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Gail Vaz-Oxlade discusses the complications that debt and bankruptcy bring to a divorce process with Brian Pritchard (BDO Canada) and Darren Gingras (The Common Sense Divorce).

Original Air Date: July 21, 2014

Listen here:

The Late Shift with Gail Vaz-Oxlade: Talking to CSD Client “Christine*”

NewsTalk1010 Toronto | The Late Shift with Gail Vaz-Oxlade 

Gail Vaz-Oxlade and Darren Gingras, President of The Common Sense Divorce, talk to "Christine*" about her experience as a Common Sense Divorce client.

*Client's name was changed during this interview to ensure privacy.

Original Airdate: June 30, 2014

Listen here:

Tune In! Toronto Speaks: Legal Advice

The Common Sense Divorce is Increasing Access to Justice on TV Show Toronto Speaks: Legal Advice

9:00 PM, Monday, April 7th, 2014
Rogers TV (Toronto) Cable 10 and 63

I went to law school expecting to learn how to defend what is fair and advocate for what is just. I quickly learned, however, that acting according to the law does not always make sense and being lawful doesn’t always mean you’re acting fairly or smart.

Working in Poverty Law and on Bay Street further taught me that members of the middle class cannot afford legal representation. The middle class is caught in a "legal representation purgatory" because they make too much to qualify for legal aid, but don't make enough to enlist the services of a lawyer.

Without any other options, middle class people are forced to deal with their legal issues by "self-diagnosing" and "self-medicating". Add in an emotionally charged situation – a divorce – and this self-help approach almost inevitably causes huge personal and financial losses and, ultimately, injustice. The truth: all of this headache and heartache could have been avoided if some professional direction had been available and if people wanted to look outside of the law to solve problems

It was this very issue that compelled me to find a solution. And that solution is Toronto Speaks: Legal Advice (TSLA). TSLA is a live talk and call-in television talk show on Rogers TV, cable (channel 10, Toronto and channel 63, Scarborough). On each show I am joined by a panel of one or more legal experts who take your calls while also providing the general public with valuable legal information.

I’m thrilled to be working with the Common Sense Divorce team on April 7 at 9:00 pm. Darren Gingras, Divorce Consultant and Co-Founder of the Common Sense Divorce, and Seema Jain, lawyer and accredited mediator, will be answering your calls, tweets and emails – for free! I’m excited to work with Darren and Seema because they are supporting a much overdue revolution in family law: to settle difficult separations through compassion, the use of a variety of professionals (not just lawyers!) and with less “law” and more fairness. The Common Sense Divorce team is doing what I hoped to achieve through the show: to make sense of an emotionally difficult time, while protecting your rights, your pocketbook and your sanity. 

Remember: on Toronto Speaks: Legal Advice no question is too small or too big. Get your burning legal questions answered, share your opinions and get your voice heard! Tweet your questions to or post them on or call 416-446-7090 to join the conversation. I look forward to hearing from you and helping to increase access to justice!

Natalka Falcomer, a Toronto native, is a first generation Canadian born into a multi-cultural home. She graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 2010 and received numerous awards for her legal scholarship. She spent a year with Hicks Morley LLP and was called to the bar in 2011.

Over the past year she's also: appeared on Breakfast TV, Global's The Morning Show and co-hosted on Daytime TV as a culinary expert; wrote articles for Canadian lifestyle and real estate magazines; kicked her way towards a black belt in karate; studied Italian at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura; and acted as an arbitrator at Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot, dubbed the "Olympics" of international trade law competitions.

In the fall of 2012, Natalka merged her belief in social justice with her television experience to help Torontonians navigate the murky waters of the legal realm on her show Toronto Speaks: Legal Advice. The show is now in its second season as is one of the most watched shows on Rogers TV (Toronto).

Five ways to reduce the cost of divorce

Darren Gingras, President of The Common Sense Divorce gives his top five ways to reduce the costs of a divorce:

By Melissa Leong | Financial Post | March 1, 2014

National Post | Five ways to reduce the costs of a divorce

  1. Keep it amicable
  2. Understand your financial present and future
  3. Check your interactions with your lawyer
  4. Consider mediation
  5. Find a collaborative lawyer
According to Canadian Lawyer's 2013 legal fees survey, the cost of an uncontested divorce ranges from $801 to $1,608. A contested divorce, meanwhile, can cost between $5,743 to $33,881. And if your case goes to court, you could face higher legal fees than that. This financial toll doesn't include the possibility of child support and spousal…

Five ways to reduce the costs of a divorce

North York