SOMETIMES LOVE LEADS TO A BITTER DIVORCE

Sunshiaa Aiteeneyas

November 2, 2023

The following cases are a good reminder that sometimes love leads to a bitter divorce. If you are happily married, then perhaps appreciate your significant other a bit more or let this be a happy reminder of why you chose to be single. 

1. The legal battle over $34.84 in Canadian Tire Money 

Couples tend to usually blend all their assets during a marriage. One type of asset that parties usually pay less attention to is loyalty points that are accumulated through household shopping. In the following case, you will see the couple litigate over this matter. 

Like most divorce cases, the parties in Nikolaev v Fakhredinov, 2015 ONSC 6267 had requested the court for equalization. What is interesting is the fact the parties could not settle a difference of $34.84 concerning the value of the Canadian Tire account. The proportionate outcome was split between the parties by the court without considering the merits given the value, but it is absurd that this was even disputed. 

2. Bickering over cats and dogs 

It is no surprise that to many couples their pets are their babies, so to speak. These animal-loving former couples end up fighting in court over decision-making responsibility and ownership of their once-shared pets. Ideally, the first step in such cases is for the respective party’s lawyers to set the expectations straight namely, whether either of them has the right to have “decision-making responsibility” of a pet like they would have with children of the relationship. 

The Canadian law does not regard pets as a member of the family, and decision-making responsibility principles are inapplicable to these kinds of disputes. In other words, pets are simply possessions. This was reinforced in a recent Saskatchewan decision, Henderson v Henderson, 2016 SKQB 282 involving a couple who shared two dogs while living together. The husband wanted to keep one dog and was willing to allow the wife to choose which one, but the wife wanted both dogs. Neither of them would compromise, and the matter went before a court. 

The following was reinforced by the court: 

Dogs are wonderful creatures. They are often highly intelligent, sensitive, and active, and are our constant and faithful companions. Many dogs are treated as members of the family with whom they live.  

But after all is said and done, a dog is a dog. At law, it is property, a domesticated animal that is owned. At law, it enjoys no familial rights. 

The court went on to say:
In a justice system that is incredibly busy, where delay has virtually become systemic, and where there are cases involving child welfare and family matters that wait months for adjudication, these parties have chosen to throw this dispute into the mix. I am sure that to them, this is the most important matter. But it must be kept in perspective and measured against other matters, many of which inarguably are of more importance. The foundational rules in our Queen’s Bench rules speak to proportionality and reasonableness. Parties are bound by those rules. To consume scarce judicial resources with this matter is wasteful. In my view, such applications should be discouraged. 

The court made its legal approach clear, and the court ultimately declined to make any interim orders respecting the dogs, because the couple certainly had other personal property that would be dealt with and divided at trial. The court also noted for both parties to bear in mind that if the court cannot reach a decision on where the dogs go, the court has the discretion under the legislation to order them sold and the proceeds to be split. 

3. Spousal Support for pets  

In this 2015 case, Slongo v Slongo, 2015 ONSC 2093, the parties were married for 23 years and separated a few years after. Ms. Slongo stayed at home and raised the children while Mr. Slongo had a successful career. The court found a significant compensatory basis for spousal support to alleviate financial hardship and to rectify any economic advantage or disadvantage to a spouse caused by the breakdown of the relationship. What is interesting about this case is that among other things, Ms. Slongo requested $755 a month in spousal support for the couple’s 10 cats and 5 dogs. Slongo’s counsel argued that the relationship between spouses resulted in inequality because they had purchased the pets together, but since the separation, the financial burden had fallen on Ms. Slongo. 

Either way, the court awarded $5000 a month in spousal support to Ms. Slongo but it is not clear from the judgment whether that amount included support for the family pets.    

These are just a few examples of bitter divorce cases. The key takeaway from this is to remember that relationships do not always end up how it begins. Most people when they get married, they do not consider or plan for their separation. In fact, these parties were happily married at one point (some in a marriage of over 20 years) and probably never thought they would end up in court arguing over small things. Be mindful and prepare yourself by taking the necessary steps to protect yourself. If you have concerns, speak with one of our experienced lawyers. You can call us at (905)-492-7662 or email us at [email protected] to schedule a consultation.