The Modern Divorce

The Modern Divorce: Episode 3

ANNOUNCER (Intro): This is the modern divorce show with Anna-Marie Musson. Featuring Steve Cassar and family lawyer Anna-Marie Musson.


Steve:  Hello everyone! And welcome once again to The Modern Divorce Show, where we are changing the conversation around divorce. And there is lots to talk about today.

Today, we focus on the children. It’s hard enough, for separating and divorcing parents to deal with the challenges of their own decaying relationship. But when kids are in the picture, it can be heartbreaking for everyone.

Anna-Marie, as a very experienced family lawyer you must have very strong feelings when it comes to finding solutions that help the kids, and maybe some haunting memories.


Anna-Marie:  Steve, the number 1 concern I get from every parent who calls me, every parent who comes into the office is I just want to make sure my kids are okay. And the way you communicate throughout your divorce to your kids matters. And it matters, a lot.

If you do this one thing right, you will see how your kids will be able to navigate, to manage and to recover from this life change so much faster and so much better. And if you do this wrong? You will see how your kids will struggle and the damage can even be long term.

But we’re going to share with you today, ways that you can do this right.


Steve:  Okay, this is a big deal, this is important. Let’s talk about some real sticky issues.


Anna-Marie:  Well, a few things we need to talk about is how do you tell your kids you’re getting a divorce? 

The first thing you want to do is plan what you’re going to say and plan the right time to say it. This isn’t something you want to blurt out impulsively, or in an emotional moment, and I get it, parents want to get this out their chest, but it will not go well.

Or you might also feel that you want your children to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about your relationship. You know, “Mom had an affair, Dad is leaving us”. Your kids don’t need this burden. They don’t need to know all the details of your relationship and quite frankly, it’s not fair to burden them with this. 

Another important point is the most important thing kids want to know is how your divorce is going to affect them, and so you want to reassure them about all the things that are going to stay the same. They’re staying at the same school, they’re going to keep their friends, they’re going to be on the same hockey team, they still get to see grandma on Sundays.


Steve:  Okay. So those are some of the hot button issues and there’s much much much more to talk about this.


Anna-Marie:  We’re fortunate to have an expert on this matter with us this week. Sara Dimmerman is a well-known psychologist and author of 5 self-help books. As a parenting and relationship expert, she’s been working with parents and couples for decades. Sara has her own radio show so we are very fortunate to have her with us today on The Modern Divorce Show. Sara welcome!


Sara:  Thank you! Thanks for having me.


Anna-Marie:  So, Sara, we’re talking today about kids and divorce. How do you talk to your kids about divorce? Especially, when one parent is vindictive or bitter and maybe there’s even an affair involved. How do we deal with this?


Sara:  Well, you know, the best, the rule of thumb is to not involve the kids and anything that’s going on in your relationship. So, often issues say that there’s been an affair, then there often is a lot of bitterness or vindictiveness. But really, the kids should be kept out of the issues regarding the breakdown of your relationship as much as possible no matter how old they are. 


Anna-Marie:  And in terms of details, how much detail do we give our kids? I mean I hear what you’re saying, we don’t want to involve them in a lot of these real adult issues but sometimes it’s inevitable.


Sara:  Not really inevitable, unless they’re a little bit older, and they’re hearing, I mean kids hear so much more than what we think they will. So, sometimes they’ll have heard in a 14 or 15 or even a little bit younger, then they have heard the conversations that you had with your partner or if you had conversations with the people and then they’ll pick up on that and they might ask you a leading question such as “Is dad, does dad have a girlfriend?” or “Does mom have a boyfriend?” and that situation even with an older child, I think is best not to deny what they know, but to say you know what I know you might have heard us arguing but really my preference is to, not talk to you about the kinds of things that have happened in my and dad’s relationship, I don’t think it’s really fair to bring you in to that.


Anna-Marie:  In terms of the conversations you would have with your kids, I expect it would be very different when you’re speaking with a 5-year old versus a 12-year old.


Sara:  Right.


Anna-Marie:  What kind of advice can we provide people in terms of dealing with these ages?


Sara:  Well, there’s a great book I’d like to recommend called “Putting Children First by Joanne Pedro-Caroll. What I like about the book other than giving lots of advice about how parents can navigate through this with their children is they have a chart in there which actually breaks down according to age, and what the child’s development be capable of hearing and processing. So, I think that’s very helpful cause as you said, what you’ll say to a 5-year old is very different. The opening conversation, however, would be the same. So, the opening conversation would be, hopefully, with mom and dad sitting there together. Having decided, having worked up the finer details in advance. And then being able to talk together even as much as who’s going to tell them? Will I say this? Will I say that? So that it doesn’t appear that once person is in charge.

So, the basic information is that, you know, “You’re mom and I/Your dad and I have decided that we’re going to be separated or divorced”, and the reason I say separated or divorced is people may know 100% that the separation is going to lead to divorce, in which case they could say, you know, we’re going to get divorced. Although, a lot of parents liked to say separated first because it softens the blow a little bit. If they say separated and then your kids say something like “What does that mean? You’re going to get divorced?, and if you know with sure certainties I mean, as certain as anybody can be that you’re going to get divorced then it’s very important to say yes probably we’re going to get divorced after separation.

That’s how it typically starts out. And then as I said earlier, the younger kids will ask about basic needs like “Where will we live? Will I have to move school?” that kind of thing. The older kids that I’ve seen tends to not ask very many questions especially at the beginning, they tend to internalize and hold things in more, so they also may not want to show to much emotions, so they may need more time to process it and in fact they could become very quiet

So, I think then it would be helpful for a parent to go to them like half 24 hours or something and say “You know, I noticed that you’ve been very quiet, it’s normal to feel a whole lot of emotions after hearing this news but your dad and I/mom and I really need you to know that we’re here to answer any questions you may have”. 

But to expect all the children to take longer to process and to talk about what they’re going through tend to hold things a little bit longer than younger kids that will talk more freely. And I always say to parents that the divorce is not the biggest tell-all in terms of how the kids will do, it’s how the parents handle the aftermath of the separation or divorce that really counts. How amicable they are, how they speak about one another, how they don’t speak badly about one another even if they hate one another.

So, I think that’s vital in any divorce situation.


Anna-Marie:  Thank you so much Sara. We really appreciate you taking time and providing this really valuable information to parents. Sara, where can listeners get in touch with you?


Sara:  Well, they can go to my website which is helpmesara.com, I have lots of information on there including other podcast and articles about divorce and looking with kids in divorce or they can email me thru the website or at info@helpmesara.com .


Anna-Marie:  Thank you. That was psychologist and author Sara Dimmerman.


Steve:  Coming up on The Modern Divorce Show, we explored the options divorcing parents have these days when it comes to finding new living arrangements for themselves and their children. It’s a challenging prospect finding two homes near a school, making sure there’s ample space in the home for teens when one home becomes two. Some valuable insights from our experts. Up next.


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Steve:  Welcome back to The Modern Divorce Show! Anna-Marie, we just heard some compelling stories about the impact of separation and divorce have on children. But, we also heard there is hope. Big part of moving forward in divorce revolves around finding new homes for both spouses, homes that can handle the kids and become a home itself, and that’s not easy.


Anna-Marie:  It can be extremely difficult. So many options and sometimes financial constraints. Real-estate agent Sean Mahoney is here to offer us some guidance.

Sean is with Harvey Kalles and is the principal of the Mahoney Real Estate Group. Sean what’s the first thing you usually hear from clients who have children and are getting divorced?


Sean:  The first thing I usually hear when we’re talking about this is that they want to minimize the overall stress, or taking the kids out of their normal habit within a house, so they want to make sure that disturbs as least as possible, whether that means when they sell their home, they want to make sure all the kids have their own bedroom if they do, they want to make sure that they’re, trying their hardest to stay in the same neighborhood, their friends are there, their sports are there, whatever extra-curricular activities that they have aren’t distracted, and certainly I would say that those are factors that play heavily on the parents especially in most cases when they recognized that kids don’t know or they know that they has nothing to do with the children so they try to mitigate that aspect as they can.


Anna-Marie:  So, it really is a child focused approach. I think that’s really important.


Sean:  I definitely think so too, I think home is where definitely the heart is, and you want to keep a stable environment as possible especially if they’re younger or really any age because you know, it can be difficult and whatever can be done to mitigate that and have a safe transition makes all the difference.


Anna-Marie:  So, on that same line, Sean, buying a house is stressful enough. But the pressure of doing it in the midst of a divorce and then with children in the picture, all that must be very difficult.

How do you approach these clients differently?


Sean:  From a very early stage, my team and I made a commitment that we will not be transactional with our clients meaning we’re not just in it for selling real-estate. Although, ultimately in many cases that’s the end goal. We understand that each situation is different and we have to be patient and understand fully what the fears, the goals that answer all of the questions, allow our clients to be vulnerable in the situation so that at the end of the day when we do execute whatever it is they’re doing with us, buying, selling, keeping the house, whatever that ends up doing, all of the things that are most important within that family cohort is done in the best interest of that family.

And the only way you can really do that is to really get deep, allow yourself to just listen, ask the right questions, always be there and ultimately, help them make the best decision and the best choice moving forward. You’re a huge part of this chapter that they are in and the next chapter, and that’s a big responsibility for people.


Anna-Marie:  How much harder would you say it is for an agent like yourself to find solutions for people who might have specific housing needs? What I mean by this is after the divorce, often times you need kids to live close to the other parent or within the same school district, how much harder is your job because of these parameters?


Sean:  I wouldn’t say that the job is harder. It could be, if you didn’t do all the things that we just spoke about. But, ultimately, when you fully understand the situation when you put a plan together and I think where it would be hard is if you weren’t being upfront or if you weren’t helping providing the right information so when they came to the time to do it and if there was incorrect or if it wasn’t what they said that could be really hard and that could be extra stressful, but, ultimately, if you’re doing your job, asking the right questions, or fully upfront, allow the clients to fully understand what that situation can look like whether be price, area, whether be any of the many factors, close proximity, as long as those are done, I don’t think that it’s that much harder. I mean again, it’s a hard situation so my goal, my team’s goal, our goal is to mitigate that as much as possible.


Anna-Marie:  And Sean, with prices so high in so many Canadian cities, is it likely that a lot of splitting couples with children will end up in the basement apartments? And I asked this question because it usually comes up a lot with phone calls that we get, which is “I don’t want to end up in a situation where my kids are living in an undesirable apartment”. Are you able to help families find other solutions?


Sean:  Well, I mean, it’s definitely not the most desirable situation and every situation obviously is different, what we try to do with the resources that we have is to lay out the best foundation to your point. I mean if the basement apartment is their option versus moving a little bit farther into a house, maybe the country house isn’t as close as they want to be, however, the home is a better atmosphere and environment for the child, I think the define balance between that I would say with regards to affordability, definitely, the city is becoming that unaffordable place. If there are extra properties for example, then maybe you can divest that asset to help the other parents to purchase something more, better for the family.

But, there are lots of options out there, again from all different means it’s just really taking the time being adventurous and making sure that you’re comfortable with it at the end of the day.


Anna-Marie:  I think that was an excellent point. It really highlights how important it is to be flexible with coming up solutions for the family.

Thanks Sean! Sean, where can people reach you?


Sean:  Definitely! You can catch me on my website at enjoyyourwealth.ca, feel free to give me a call at 647-444-6683, or you can find me at LinkedIn at SeanMahoney.


Anna-Marie:  Thanks Sean looking forward to next week’s chat.


Sean:  Have a great day! Thank you.


Steve:  And, if divorcing with children and finding a new place to live isn’t hard enough, there are often financial realities that leave couples feeling gutted and hopeless. Getting new mortgages can be really difficult for divorcing couples. John Panagakos is a mortgage broker who’s written a book on mortgage solutions, he’s also the person who created the Separation Mortgages, for this very situation.


Anna-Marie:  We’ve reached John today by phone. John, thanks for being here today.

John:  Great! Thanks for having me.


Anna-Marie:  So, this is such an important part of the divorce process. Securing enough financing for both parents to get a home after they split. How do you approach this?


John:  So, what we do is we ask a simple question, is one person keeping the property and buying out the other person, so he or she can purchase the property or are both people selling the property and each buying two new properties? So, each process has a different strategy and solutions attached to it, that’s the first question that we ask.

And, so, if they’re buying two new properties, it’s important to take into consideration, bridge financing is also important to take into consideration, are they using the same mortgage broker? And if they are, or if they aren’t, then, the left hand always needs to know what the right hand is doing, so it’s important that those professionals have communication or that the separating parties communicate with each other’s broker accordingly so that the finances can meet deadlines in order for the other person to be able to purchase the property and close on time.


Anna-Marie:  Would you recommend that the divorcing spouses use the same mortgage broker?


John:  If it doesn’t create a conflict, it’s often preferred because then there’s full transparency for one mortgage professional to know what’s going on and what each person need. For example, how much of a down payment does Mrs. Smith need? Or when is the deadline? Is the deadline October 1st? Is it October 15th? Is it October 24th? And know these are really important because that often isn’t communicated amongst the two parties because sometimes there’s conflict Mr. and Mrs. Smith unfortunately.


Anna-Marie:  So, it sounds like that it would also speed up the process a bit, sharing the same mortgage broker. Now, John, tell us a little bit, you mentioned bridge financing. What is that?


John:  So, bridge financing is essentially securing the equity of the property in order to use that as a down payment of the property you attend to purchase. And that’s important because most people don’t realize that you can’t bridge finance the same property with the same lending institution. So, for example, if Mr. and Mrs. Smith both bank at bank ABC, they both can’t utilize the bridge with that financial institution. Mrs. Smith can use bridge financing from bank ABC, but MR. Smith needs to go to bank 123 in order for him to get bridge financing. So, if they both need bridge financing, there is a strategy involved in order for that to happen and both parties can be happy and move forward.


Anna-Marie:  Wow, I did not know that. I think that’s a really important tip for people. Now, John, working with both couples and this happens a lot in our area, but what happens if there are multiple properties and so, let’s say the family owns a cottage, maybe an investment property on top of the family home, how does this impact your process?


John:  Well, multiple properties, sometimes you need more than just one solution, so we’re able to do that, we do that quite often and so if there’s multiple brokers, there needs to be transparency amongst other brokers to understand that one transaction will impact property number 2, number 3, number 4, so on and so forth.

The other thing that people don’t realize is when there’s a secondary property or an investment property quite often we run into some call capital gains, and a lot of people don’t realize that they’re subject to capital gains payable for CRA, as a result of they being removed from the title of the property. When that happens, there’s a surprise bill that could pop up!

So, a few weeks ago, we we’re on a file and Mr. Smith was told that he will have a $80,000 CRA bill for capital gains on an investment property that he would be removed from. We created a strategy where Mr. Smith, what we did was increased his mortgage, Yes, increased his mortgage by $80,000 and what we did is we made an RRSP Contribution and he increased his wealth and he decreased his CRA payment to the CRA by the same proportion, So, what happened was he had to pay $80,000 for the payment to the CRA, he kept it for himself and increased his wealth.


Anna-Marie:  I love hearing about these creative solutions. Thank you so much John! Your information today has been extremely helpful. That was mortgage agent John Panagakos. John, where can people get in touch with you?


John:  Best way for people to be in touch with me is SeparationMortgages.com, thanks for having me.


Anna-Marie: Thank you.


Steve:  Coming up. Anna-Marie and I discussed how children should play a role and have a say in the divorce process. As The Modern Divorce Show continues.


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Steve:  Welcome back to The Modern Divorce Show with Anna-Marie Musson. Now, we spent a lot today talking about the impact of separation and divorce on children. Anna-Marie, I wonder, it seems collaborative law is particularly suited to give kids a voice and make them part of the solution. But what about the parents who think it’s best to shell through their kids from the break-up. What don’t you say after the divorce?


Anna-Marie:  Well, first of all the collaborative divorce is the process that really does help the kids find voice in all of this and their voice does matter because the decisions the parents make affects the kids. And, so the idea in collaborative divorce is we bring in social workers who really help to give the kids a safe place to vocalize some of their concerns, the things they’re talking about, and what’s interesting is parents are almost always surprised with the things they learn from this process and it really helps them adjust what they’re doing.

Now, once your kids are settled into that routine of shared parenting time, we can give our listeners a lot of tips and terms of something that they should never do or say to their kids after divorce.

The first one that sticks out in my head is this idea of asking your kids to keep secrets, and what I mean by that is “Don’t tell mom this happened” or “Don’t tell dad that we’re doing this”. Asking your kids to keep secrets or to lie, really puts them in this NO-WIN situation. Your kids don’t need to be bugged down with this additional stress.

Another thing we often hear from kids is one parent will say “Ugh, you’re just like your father”. And that child knows that moms not to fond of dad, and so when they hear comparisons like that it really causes the kids to feel rejected and insecure. This idea of bad mouthing the other parent, that happens unfortunately a lot as well and we really urge people not to do this, it will backfire. Your kids will lose respect for you and quite frankly they will probably resent you in the future.

And really, the last sort of tip of things that parents should never do or say to their kids after divorce is to fight at a school or other kind of event. This may sound a bit funny to you but really this happens more often than you can imagine that the two parents ran into each other at the school event and they really start trying to clear the emotions at a completely inappropriate time.

Kids want to be like their peers. They want to fit in. They don’t want to stand out, and they really don’t want to stand out because their parents are fighting. So, when it comes to your kids, it’s absolutely critical that you be selfless and really put them first.


Steve:  Yeah. And the word grace comes to mind as well as you describe that. I guess at the end of the day, it’s better for the kids to sit down with a social worker as opposed to having that intimidating audience with the judge.


Anna-Marie:  Absolutely. And the social worker’s really going to help them dive a bit deeper and really help this family find out what’s going on and some real solutions they can use. I’ve seen it happen, I’ve seen kids testify before judges, it’s awful and quite frankly unnecessary.


Steve:  Well, that was a great discussion. Thank you! And thank you to all our experts today, for their wisdom. We hope you’ve learned some things along with us. Take care everyone.


Anna-Marie:  And if you need any resources on some of the subjects we’ve talked about today, please check out our website, where you will find links to our experts and past shows. We are at TheModernDivorceShow.com, see you next week!


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Separating? Divorcing?

Before making a move, make sure you have knowledge on your side. Get the advice you need from an experienced real estate agent to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of real estate assets. Reach out to Sean Mahoney today to stop stressing about your divorce and start enjoying your wealth!

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