This is going to be the first in a series of my monthly blog titled Cut: Ontario Family Law and TV Couples (get it? Because cut for movies and tv shows to end a scene and cut to end a marriage? No? Okay, let’s move on. The name stays though). Here I will be looking at couples from TV shows and movies and how the Ontario divorce laws will apply to their divorce/separation.
ROSS AND RACHEL
A little background for the three people on the planet who haven’t seen the show; Friends is about a group of six friends in their twenties living in New York in the nineties navigating friendships, love, loss, and everything in between. It aired between 1994 and 2004. One of the show’s main plot points is the “will they, won’t they” relationship of two of the protagonists, Ross and Rachel. In the season five finale of the show, they drunkenly get married in Vegas. They end up getting a divorce because they cannot qualify for an annulment. Although this show takes place in the Big Apple, we will apply the 2022 Ontario law here and see if they would have been eligible for an annulment and what the process would have (probably) been like if they got divorced in Ontario.
To Annul or not to Annul?
The judge in Friends refused to give Ross and Rachel an annulment because they had a previous relationship. First, let us take a few steps back- what is an annulment? This is the process whereby a court determines a marriage to be null and void. The circumstances where an annulment will be granted in Ontario are incredibly limited. They are:
- If one spouse was already married at the time of the marriage.
- If one spouse was not privy to the fact that the ceremony was actually a wedding.
- If the marriage cannot be consummated. This applies if the spouse cannot consummate the marriage as a result of a physical or mental inability that the other party was unaware of at the time of marriage. A refusal to consummate is not a ground for annulment.
- If the spouse has no mental capacity to understand what a marriage is.
- If the spouse was so intoxicated that their consent was impossible to obtain.
- If a spouse was underage and there was no parental consent.
- The marriage was fraudulent or obtained under duress.
- If the spouses are too closely related either by blood or adoption.
In Ontario, this annulment would have probably been granted. The fact that they had previously been in a relationship will have no bearing on the fact that the marriage was null and void. Both Rachel and Ross were incredibly drunk. They did not even realize they had been married until after the other friends reminded them. They were definitely not in a position to be able to give proper consent to get married.
I’ll be there for you- Not!
There are probably no corollary issues that will be heard in the matter of Geller v. Green. Equalization cannot take place; they were married for a few short weeks. Equalization is calculated on the basis of the date of separation’s net worth minus the date of marriage’s net worth. No one gained anything extra in that time. Now, if they had maybe bought a house in that time, then maybe. They also had no children together (not yet, anyway).
BUT… for argument’s sake, let’s say the couple was married for more than a few weeks, and their daughter, Emma, had been born at this time.
At the time of the marriage, Ross was a professor of Paleontology at New York University. A quick google search shows that the average salary of a professor at NYU is $153,980.00. Rachel was a marketing executive at Ralph Lauren. Another quick google search shows that executives at Ralph Lauren earn an average of a whopping $392,878.00.
In terms of property, there really would not be any issues. Neither of them owned any real property.
Emma lived with Rachel. This would mean that Ross would have had to pay child support to Rachel. The table amount would be $1,328.00 per month, based on his income of $153,980.00. If Emma lived with both Ross and Rachel equally, then Rachel would have to pay something called a set-off amount. This means that child support will be calculated on the basis of both their incomes and then the higher-earning parent pays the difference. Here, it is Rachel, and she would have to pay $1,720.00 per month. If Emma lived only with Ross, then Rachel would have to pay child support in the amount of $3,048.00 per month based on her income of $392,878.00.
Since I don’t actually have figures on what Ross and Rachel own, equalization in this matter would take too much guesswork. It will, however be Ross’s whole net worth and then Rachel’s whole net worth, and half of the difference will be given to the person with the lower net worth by the person with the higher net worth.
Okay, let’s use numbers.
Say Ross is worth $2,000,000.00 and Rachel is worth $3,000,000.00. The difference is calculated, which will equal $1,000,000.00, and then half of that ($500,000.00) will be given by Rachel to Ross.
Now, this is very simplistic. There will be deductions for date of marriage assets and/or debts, contingent or notional taxes, and possibly excluded property.
This is calculated on three levels: eligibility, quantum, and duration. The table amount for spousal is also usually calculated for low, mid, and high figures. If found to be eligible, Rachel will have to make spousal support payments to Ross, seeing as she earns more.
I hope this gives some insight into how the relationship, more importantly, the breakdown of one of the most beloved relationships on TV would have played out in 2022 in Ontario.
Oh, and Ross is still the worst.
If you need any help with family law matters, contact AP Family Lawyers in Scarborough, Pickering, Markham, and Toronto. You can call us at (905) 492-7662 or email us at [email protected] to schedule a consultation.