Cut: Ontario Family Law and Tv Couples- Bernadine and John

Rabab Buhari

December 1, 2022

So, I realized that although the Cut blog posts are supposed to be about TV shows and movies, I have unwittingly focused on TV shows. In my defence, I prefer TV shows to movies. I like continuity.

But I did say movies AND tv shows, so for this month, we are going to focus on a movie. When I started this blog, I wrote out a long list of TV shows and couples from TV shows that I will focus on, but I realized, I had literally no movies. So then, I asked for opinions on movies with separating couples, and one of my friends suggested Waiting to Exhale. So, I watched it, because, I mean, Angela Bassett and Whitney Houston, and I was not disappointed. It follows four best friends, all dealing with life, love and everything that adulting brings.

Our couple of the month, Bernadine and John, had been married for 11 years. John walks in one evening while Bernadine is getting ready for an event at his workplace. Bernadine doesn’t really want to go to this event but is going anyways to make her husband happy. This man then walks in and is like, “You don’t have to go tonight,” which makes her happy because she thinks she’s off the hook. And then he tells her it’s because he is going with his new girlfriend, who is his bookkeeper. What a truly awful and cruel way to tell someone you’re ending your 11-year marriage to them. At one point, she takes all his things, puts them in a car and sets them on fire. It’s funny because I had seen that as a meme for a long time (you know, the one, white shirt open, cigarette in hand and car bursting into flames in the background), but it was nice to have some context to such a cool-looking picture. Anyways, suffice it to say the marriage was over. It became a situation of who could hurt who the most. She sold his belongings for a dollar each, and then he drained their bank accounts.

So, as we do, let’s examine what would have happened if they were getting divorced in 2022 Ontario.


Infidelity is actually a valid ground for divorce in Canada, so Bernadine can seek a divorce on this ground.

Parenting Time and Decision-Making Responsibility

There is nothing in the movie to show that either parent is a bad parent or that parenting time with either parent is not in the children’s best interests. Bernadine, however, is very hurt by this whole situation and may attempt to ask for sole decision-making responsibility and primary parenting time. John may also decide to get a section 30 assessment. A section 30 assessment is usually undertaken when the parties cannot agree on the best for the child. John could claim that Bernadine has mental health issues (I mean, to be fair to the cheater, she did burn his car down and sell all his belongings for a dollar each. Oh yeah, and she slapped his mistress) and that he fears for the safety of the children. In a section 30 assessment, the assessor meets with both parents and the children to gain an understanding and assess (haha) the situation and report back to the Court what they have found.

Realistically, Bernadine has been the primary caregiver for the children, so it is not far removed from the realm of reality that she will be granted sole decision-making responsibility and primary parenting time. It is also possible that the parenting time and the decision-making responsibility will be shared.

Child Support

As we have come to find out from the other blogs, child support depends on who the child lives with and the income of the payor. Most likely, however, Bernadine will be getting some form of child support. She is a stay-at-home mother and, as such, has no income. She, however, now has an obligation to be self-sufficient, so maybe she can finally start that catering business. When you google the average salary for a CEO of a technology company, it is $214,940. Using this number, John’s child support payable monthly would be $2,856.00. Bernadine has no income, so there will be no offset amount, and he will still pay this even if parenting is shared. In the unlikely scenario that John is granted primary parenting time, there will be no child support payable as Bernadine has no income.

Spousal support

Bernadine will almost certainly be entitled to spousal support on a compensatory and needs basis. She put her career on hold to raise the family while John climbed in the ranks in his career. She is educated and has a master’s degree but has not used it for the 11 years since she was married. The marriage was also not a short-term marriage (short-term marriages are under five years). Spousal support is based on entitlement, quantum and length of the marriage.
The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAGs) have three points for the quantum of spousal support; low, mid and high. Depending on a number of factors, a party may be entitled to one of these (or less or more). I do not think Bernadine would be entitled to anything less than the midpoint of the SSAGs. She may even be entitled to the high point. This means that Bernadine would get (based on John’s income of $214,940), between $4,035 (midpoint) and $4,847 (high point) monthly in spousal support.

Equalization and Division of property

A financial statement is usually drafted in matters involving money. Both parties have an obligation to disclose their financials. Every Family law judge and lawyer will tell you that disclosure is the cornerstone of family law. John will have to disclose all his assets, including the ones from the bank accounts he drained and has hidden away. Both sides’ assets will then be totalled (at the date of separation) and divided equally. We know they owned the matrimonial home, a BMW, a Porsche and a Jeep Cherokee. They probably owned more because we see in the movie that they are very rich, but we cannot do a proper equalization calculation because we do not have the figures.

On the bright side, at the end of the day, Bernadine lived happily ever after and found a person to set her world on fire (pun very intended).

If you need any help with family law matters, contact Aprince Will Family Lawyers in Markham, Pickering, Scarborough, and Toronto. You can call us at (905) 492-7662 or email us at [email protected] to schedule a consultation.