CUT: ONTARIO FAMILY LAW AND TV COUPLES – DAN AND DEB

Rabab Buhari

September 14, 2023

I started watching One Tree Hill for the first time ever. I know, I know, I am a fake millennial. Anyways. I started season two yesterday and I like it quite a bit actually. All the characters annoy me, it is set in a fictional small town (if it is a real town, I sincerely apologize to the Tree Hillians) where everyone knows everyone and everyone sorts of dates everyone. It is the perfect early 2000s show. Anyways, if you do not know the show, it’s about this high school kid, Luke Scott. His mother got pregnant in high school and was abandoned by the father of the child. Now the father (Dan) has another family with another son who is a few months younger than Luke and everybody thought that it would just be a swell idea for them to all live in the same town. Dan is the dictionary definition of a deadbeat but he is also somehow worse? He knows of Luke’s existence but basically just denies him and rubs it in his face that he is denying him. No deadbeat has ever deadbeated the way that Dan does. On the flip side, he focuses on his other son (Nathan) and is very present in his life but shocker but he is a terrible father to Nathan too. He also does this thing where he fosters animosity between the boys but I am told that at some point, the boys do become friends. It should not really be surprising that he is a terrible partner too. His wife Deb has had enough and decided to leave him. So, as we do, let us examine what would have happened if Tree Hill, whether real or fake, was a small town in Ontario, shall we?

 

Divorce

Dan is a terrible partner to Deb. Period. He is mean. He is dismissive. He is vindictive. Unfortunately, none of this matters regarding a divorce. Ontario is a no-fault jurisdiction. They just need to have been separated for a year and they can get their divorce. Cheating and cruelty are also other reasons for divorce to be granted but Dan was never actually unfaithful. He towed the line very carefully. Deb on the other hand did apparently have a bit of a fling at some point, so this could be the basis of the divorce. Either way, the divorce will be granted.  

 

Occupation Rent 

As we have now seen, Dan is insufferable so at some point, surprise surprise, Deb kicks him out of the house. Now I know people do this all the time but there could be unintended consequences. There is something called occupation rent. What this means is that like a landlord, Dan could ask Deb to pay him rent seeing as she has been residing in the home for this whole time and he has not. The amount would be the fair market value of rent divided by two. This is some possible exposure for Deb.  

 

Spousal Support  

Honestly, I struggle to see an entitlement here. Both of them left school when Deb got pregnant. Both of them worked. Both of them cared for Nathan. Deb worked for a non-profit but was apparently richer than Dan? Hey, movie magic huh. No one really subdued their career for the other. At certain points, both parties were the primary caregiver. The parties also seem to make similar amounts so even if entitlement can be made out, the amount would be $0.  

 

Nathan Scott  

Nathan. Interesting kid and a ball of contradictions. But to be fair, I mean, he is a kid with a father like Dan Scott. Considering everything, I think he actually turned out okay. Now, when his parents told him they were getting divorced, he wanted to stay with Deb but then Dan told them that if he didn’t get custody, he would tell everyone Deb’s secret. Deb’s secret was that she had an affair years back. So, Nathan is stuck between a rock and a hard place. He does not want to stay with Dad but feels the need to protect Mom’s secret even though he did not know what it was. Nathan finds out what this secret is and is PISSED. So, he gets emancipated. Dad is obviously awful but he feels abandoned by Mom because when she had her affair, Dad was extra mean to him and he emailed and called but she never came back.  

Now, emancipation (in this context) is the legal process of a child that is 16 or 17 years old withdrawing from parental control. Now as fast as you have learned this word, forget it. It is not a thing in Ontario. “Emancipation” in Ontario is not as formal. Pretty much a Nathan, as he decided to withdraw from parental control can just decide he doesn’t want to live at home anymore or to be controlled by Dan and Deb and this is fine. Now, the obvious issue with this is where would he get money? Seeing as he has withdrawn from parental control, there is no longer a duty on the part of Deb or Dan to support him. He would need to get a job or go on social assistance, maybe both.  

 

Equalization.  

So in episode 1 of season 2, Deb signs the divorce papers and on the first page, there is a section dealing with assets. This section states that “wife shall receive as her own and husband shall have no further rights or responsibilities regarding these assets”. It lists that Deb will get cash (on hand)  in the amount of $12,000, cash (in banks/credit unions) in the amount of $450,000 and stocks and bonds in the amount of $120,000. I did not get a glimpse of the houses that are owned or cars or jewelry and how that stuff will be divided. In Ontario, as you know, usually, a more wholistic approach is taken and the parties’ net worth is taken and divided into two the richer party pays out the poorer party so that both parties can be on the same level. I do not have all the numbers so unfortunately, I cannot do a proper calculation for equalization.  

 

I am excited about this show. But will I continue or will I abandon it by season 3? Stay tuned to find out.