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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Silver

Post-Separation Expenses….Are They Worth the Fight?

As a Family Mediator I work with separating couples to make what are arguably, some of the

most important and impactful decisions of their lives and the lives of their children. Issues

range from where their children will live and which schools they will attend, to whether clients

will rollover their hard-earned RRSPs to a spouse. No detail is left unaddressed.

To put it simply, separation is an unpleasant process.

Having to discuss the intimate details of one’s family life can be an emotional rollercoaster. Add finances to that mix and you have a recipe for tension and stress. My role as Mediator is to help my clients get through this process and come out the other side in one piece. I work with high emotions, from grief and sadness to anger and everything in between…it all comes out in our sessions. However, my job is to help my clients manage these emotions, stay resolution-focused, and keep on track with the goal of coming to an agreement.

What I have seen happening again and again is that clients will get through all the tough calls such as where their children will live and which schools they will go to, only to come to a

standstill on what are referred to as post-separation expenses. Post-separation expenses are all the costs that accumulate after the date of separation (known as Valuation date). Presently in Ontario, there are no laws that specifically deal with the sharing of these expenses after a couple separates and prior to a Court Order or an Agreement being signed. What’s more, these costs must be reconciled in order for the Agreement to be complete. It is thus left to theseparating couple to determine how these expenses are shared.

These costs may include housing costs, insurance, vehicle payments, and utilities, which are

often split down the middle. Where things seem to get sticky are with the more trivial or grey-

area costs, such as pet care, or gas for the family vehicle. Some clients will end up spending

more time and money fighting about these expenses, then they in fact are worth.

For example, a two-hour mediation over who should be responsible for the dog’s food or health insurance, can cost more than the expense itself. This phenomenon seems to happen again and again with certain couples. Sometimes they’re fighting over a minor car-repair bill, a routine visit to the dentist, or the cost of washing the windows on the house, costs amounting to a few hundred dollars. After exchanging thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars in splitting the matrimonial home, they will focus on these minor costs, and threaten to blow up the entire agreement.

At the end of the day, it seems to be more about holding on to something, anything for that

matter, rather than letting go. The emotional value of the fight holds way more importance

than the monetary one. So, what does one do? Are these grey-area expenses worth it? Is

fighting over who purchased the dish cloths (yes it has happened) worth blowing up an entire

agreement? My advice? They are not. While it is important to keep track of all the major post-

separation expenses, do try your hardest to let the small stuff go. Don’t spend your time,

money, and energy on fighting the small fight. Focus this energy on working with your soon-to-be ex-spouse rather than against them. At the end of the day your family, your bank account,and your blood pressure will all be better off for it.

About the Author: Amanda Silver is an Accredited Family Mediator working in Ontario. She hasa background in Education and helps separating couples reach an agreement.


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