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Calgary High Net Worth Separation Divorce during COVID-19 is complicated. The COVID-19 pandemic is not over.  The second wave of infections is expected (if not already here) together with the flu season. The pandemic is expected to get worse before it gets better, and it’s not going to get better without a vaccine, not realistically expected before mid-to-late 2021. MacLean Law has a heady track record of successes in high net worth separations. Check out this record judgment our Maclean Law lawyers recently obtained for a very happy high net worth divorce client.

Our Calgary team is ready to help you but you need to reach out to us early on to improve your chances for success in a Calgary High Net Worth Separation Divorce dispute.

Calgary High Net Worth Separation Divorce 1 877 602 9900

Calgary High Net Worth Separation Divorce is complex but even more so in Calgary and the rest of Alberta. Of course, here in Alberta, we are at the same time also dealing with a major slowdown in the energy industry (the generator of almost 28% of Alberta’s GDP in 2016).  While Alberta’s economy is expected to slowly start to recover, it is not expected to fully recover until well after 2021.

Calgary High Net Worth Separation Divorce
Calgary High Net Worth Separation Divorce lawyer Peter Graburn

There is a long way to go before this is all over…

But what happens if, in the middle of these unprecedented social and economic slowdowns, your family relations also breakdown, ie. separation and divorce? Most in the legal world expected a rush of new divorce applications as COVID-19 social and physical restrictions eased (due to couples accepting the problems in their relationship as they were cooped up with their spouse). But has that happened? Not really, especially regarding “high net worth” couples in Calgary High Net Worth Separation Divorces.

Calgary High Net Worth Separation Divorce – What Makes a Divorce High Net Worth in Calgary?

“High net worth” couples are those who (generally) have accumulated $2.0 M or more in net assets (and usually associated high annual incomes). Many expected some “high net worth” spouses to start divorces during the current market conditions to settle property division while values were low. But this hasn’t really happened, with many “high net worth” spouses taking a “wait and see” approach.  So what are separating couples, especially “high net worth” spouses, encouraged to do during these (post) COVID-19 times?

There are three issues (and one suggestion) “high net worth” spouses may want to consider:   

  • how can you accurately value your property? – before one considers dividing (or selling) your property, you should have a pretty good idea of what it’s worth. There are many ways to do this (without actually having to sell it): real estate appraisers, business valuators, pension actuaries, etc. Yes, some of these have a cost, but it’s worth it to know the value of your property before getting into the process of dividing it. Most likely, COVID-19 (and the current Alberta economy) has had a significant impact on these values;
  • how can you buy/pay out your spouse? – even if you can value and agree with your spouse to divide your property, how / can you actually do that without selling some of the property to raise the cash to equalize (as much as possible) that property?  Mortgages, lines of credit, payments over time (with security and interest) – all these options should be considered. Also, you might want to consider dividing property in kind, i.e. one spouse keeps the house, the other the business, using liquid assets to equalize the two, if necessary;   
  • will your settlement be considered “fair” – some provinces (i.e. BC, Ontario) have legislation that can overturn agreements which are patently unfair?  A recent Ontario case (see: Jayawickrema v. Jayawickrema, 2020 ONSC 4444) initially declined (but eventually agreed) to divide property over concerns post-COVID-19 conditions may make the division “unconscionable.” Might some settlements be considered unconscionable in post-COVID-19 conditions (i.e. with investments currently down 15-20%; some businesses (restaurants, day-cares) expecting further social and physical restrictions)?;
  • consider Arbitration – while Courts are finally opening up after months of only considering “urgent and emergency” matters during the beginning of the pandemic, consider whether using the Courts is actually the best way to handle/resolve your separation. The court is often adversarial, time-consuming, and costly. It is also public. Arbitration (ie. mediation/arbitration) on the other hand is faster, cheaper, and better, where a senior family law lawyer decides the matter.  It is also private.  Consider whether Arbitration is not the better way to resolve the division of your family property in this (and post) COVID-19 economy.

Calgary Family Lawyers 1 877 602 9900

COVID-19 is not over.  Neither is the Alberta energy sector crash. But these (and other) unprecedented events have prompted some spouses to realize their family relationship is over. There are many factors and considerations couples (especially “high net worth” couples) should consider after having decided to end their relationship with their family partner. There is a long way to go before this is all over…