Podcast: Top Ten Reasons Why Marriages Fail

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In this transcribed interview with Dale Goldhawk of Zoomer Radio AM740 in Toronto, family and divorce lawyer Lorne Fine of Fine & Associates Professional Corporation discusses the top ten reasons why marriages fail. Read the interview below, or listen to the podcast at the bottom of the page.

Goldhawk Fights Back Podcast: Recorded February 26, 2014

Dale: All right it’s 12:20 on Zoomer Radio, our divorce lawyer Lorne Fine is in the studio. Lorne, it’s great to see you.

Lorne: Thank you for having me.

Dale: Lorne came in and handed me a piece of paper, I was hoping it wasn’t a summons.

Lorne: You’re being sued.

Dale: It’s not of course. It says on this piece of paper, “Top Ten Reasons Why Marriages Fail.” Now this may seem, I don’t know, counter-intuitive to be asking a divorce lawyer about how to save marriages, but Lorne, you would know just by default all the things that can go wrong.

Lorne: Who better to ask?

Dale: Well now I was thinking marriage counselor, but you see it from the very serious end when there’s apparently nothing left for the couple, except to say, “We are cancelling this merger. We’re going our separate ways,” which is always a sad and emotional experience.

Lorne: Well this is certainly not scientific and just basically based on my experience.

Dale: Well you probably handled a divorce or two, for crying out loud. How long have you been a divorce lawyer?

Lorne: 20 years.

Dale: 20 years? Just 20 years?

Lorne: Yeah, just a rookie. I can’t believe it’s been 20 years. Time flies.

Dale: Time slips by when you’re having a good time.

Lorne: Oh yes. Actually more than 20 years. I was called in ’92. More than 20 years.

Dale: Okay, all right. Okay let’s get into some of the reasons why marriages fail and we hope in there will be some instructive advice for those who may be wondering how to keep their marriage in good shape, because we’re both married and I think we know that you have to work at a marriage the same way you have to work, I think, at any partnership.

Lorne: Sure. Some people think that it’s going to be easy and then when it’s not so easy and you have to work, some people get turned off. A divorce is easy to get, which may be wrong.

Dale: May be the wrong way around.

Lorne: Right, maybe it should be harder to get a divorce, because really you should work at your relationship, right? And you should try to reconcile. Actually a divorce lawyer has an obligation, before you get a divorce, to say, “Have you thought about marriage counseling? Have you thought about reconciliations?”

Dale: Yeah, you just don’t whip them into a process. You start out by saying, “Let’s make sure that you want this to happen.”

Lorne: That’s right. You have to make that statement to them and you have to discuss it with them. But the truth is by the time someone gets to me, they’ve made that decision and they look at me like I’m nuts, because it’s not an overnight process.

Dale: But you’re still obligated to say it.

Lorne: You are obligated to say it.

Dale: Have you ever had a couple say, “Oh, you know you’re right. I think we’ll go home and think about this.” I bet it’s never happened.

Lorne: Never, never. I’ve had people reconcile during the proceedings.

Dale: Really?

Lorne: That happens. Oh yeah. I think I told you, I opened the door and the people were making out, they were reconciling. So that happens.

Dale: So you knew your case was blown right there.

Lorne: I was like, “Okay, I guess it’s settled. I guess the case is settled.”

Dale: I guess you guys are okay [with this.]

Lorne: They’re okay. Yes, exactly.

Dale: Ok, well let’s get into some of the reasons. These are your observations over 20 years of practice with divorce law. And number one on your list, are these prioritized? Or are these just, they came out of your brain, you put them down on a piece of paper?

Lorne: No, I think number ten is the least.

Dale: Oh, okay.

Lorne: Number one is the number one reason.

Dale: Okay, so it is prioritized.

Lorne: Yes.

Dale: The number one reason you have here is financial problems. So talk a bit about that.

Lorne: I think that it’s usually financial problems combined with something else, but I think financial problems can be a significant strain on a relationship, whether it’s an unequal financial status between the parties, maybe some resentment, maybe one party’s not working and is being supported by the other party and maybe, let’s say, the husband wants the wife to work and the wife doesn’t work, or just paying debts. It can be very stressful on a relationship. So I would have to think that that’s number one.

Dale: Imagine the conversation before two people are married and one says to the other one, “Honey, don’t worry, our financial situation will be much better after we get married,” when in a fact, I don’t think marriage ever solves any relationship problems, it just tests relationships, does it not?

Lorne: For sure, for sure. Like we said, it should be easy. It shouldn’t be so much work, but like any relationship. If you have friends, you’re not going have those friends unless you go out with them, unless you talk to them, unless you’re nice to them, right?

Dale: Yeah, yeah.

Lorne: So it’s like any relationship, you have to work at it you have to put some effort into it. And certainly, when there’s marriage there’s reality. Reality sets in. There’s paying bills, there’s earning money, there’s kids. All kinds of stresses.

Dale: All right, let’s get back to your list here. Number two on your list is sex.

Lorne: Sex.

Dale: Yes.

Lorne: Whether it’s infidelity.

Dale: Yeah.

Lorne: Which obviously happens quite often. People grow apart, could be lack of frequency. That’s obviously an important part of every relationship, whether it’s intimacy or whatever. If there’s a lack of intimacy then it’s only a matter of time until things break down.

Dale: Is there a year when that happens from your observation?

Lorne: A magic number? Lack of sex?

Dale: Yeah, right.

Lorne: I’m not really 100% what that magic year is.

Dale: Okay.

Lorne: But obviously as time goes on, as relationship increases in time, whether it’s 15 years 20 years, it’s sometimes difficult to keep that sexual attraction going.

Dale: I think stereotypically we think of the man complaining there isn’t enough sex in the relationship. Have you also heard that the woman has complained about not having enough sex in the relationship?

Lorne: I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that.

Dale: Really? In 20 years? Usually it’s the other way around?

Lorne: Usually yeah.

Dale: Or infidelity as you say.

Lorne: Both ways. People have affairs, right? It’s easier now with all these online sites. We know all those sites where that you can go online very easily to find a partner.

Dale: Well I don’t know if we know all these sites, maybe you do.

Lorne: You do. I would assume you do.

Dale: No, I don’t. I don’t. I’ve heard of them, okay?

Lorne: Ashley Madison.

Dale: Well yeah, that’s a website devoted to cheating spouses.

Lorne: That’s right, devoted to infidelity.

Dale: All right number three on your list, Lorne Fine, is communications problems.

Lorne: Right. So, people stop being able to communicate, they can’t talk to each other, they don’t understand each other. There has to be an ability to communicate, to discuss things with your spouse. If you don’t have that, it’s only of matter of time until things break down.

Dale: Do you have couples — you don’t have the couples, you have one side of the pair — come in and talk about why the marriage has failed and communication is a top reason?

Lorne: Yeah both will say.

Dale: Can it be that? They’ve just grown apart, that kind of thing?

Lorne: Yeah, [or go], “I can’t talk to him. I can’t deal with him. I have nothing to say to him.” It happens quite often, right? “We’re two strangers. I got nothing in common.” So that’s quite common. I guess a lot of these are interconnected, right? If you can’t talk to somebody, if you can’t deal.

Dale: Yeah, it doesn’t come packaged one by one, does it? Yeah.

Lorne: Then there is lack of sex, may lead to infidelity, and so on. But there’s always that element of not being able to communicate.

Dale: If that is a major reason, or the major reason — the drifting apart situation. Is that, generally speaking, for you as the lawyer an easier divorce to process? Because maybe there may not be all of that intense emotion that sometimes happens when couples splits up. Have you ever thought about that?

Lorne: Well, that’s a good point.

Dale: Or it may not be true, I’m just asking.

Lorne: Yeah, that’s a good point. I didn’t think about that, but you may be right that people who can’t communicate or don’t communicate may be . . .

Dale: Can’t be bothered to communicate during a divorce, right?

Lorne: . . . may be less emotional. And it’s always difficult when people separate and they’re in the same house, and they are communicating and maybe there is potential for violence or potential arguing and so on. And if they stay apart, I guess it makes things a little bit easier, I guess. On both parties.

Dale: Okay, Lorne Fine is here, he’s our divorce lawyer and we’re coming up to reason five.

Lorne: Four.

Dale: No, we’re coming up to five.

Lorne: Oh okay.

Dale: We talked about it. Okay. I’m reading this, you gave it to me. Reason five for why marriages fail.

Voiceover: Goldhawk Fights Back For You airs Monday to Friday, 11 to one, on AM 740 Zoomer Radio.

Dale: Lorne Fine is my guest, he’s our resident family and divorce lawyer and we’re going through his list of the top ten reasons why marriages fail. If you have questions or you want to add to this list — maybe you have a number 11 or a number 12, we only go to ten — give us a call at 416-360-0740 or 866-740-4740. Remember Lorne is also here to answer any questions you might have about family law.

Lorne: Sure. Yeah, not just this list. Any kind of family or divorce question.

Dale: No, that’s right. But the list is something that we thought you should present so we get a better idea. You can put this list up against your own marriage in a way, I guess, can’t you?

Lorne: Sure.

Dale: To see how you’re doing, bit of an indicator, I don’t know. We’re at number five. What’s number five?

Lorne: Are we skipping four?

Dale: No, we did — oh no, we didn’t. I’m sorry. You’re the lawyer, I should have trusted your numbering system. Number four. We’re at number four, I’m sorry.

Lorne: Right. Abuse problems.

Dale: All right, okay.

Lorne: Whether that’s mental abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse. Unfortunately, it’s quite common. And eventually it leads to a breaking point and people break up. So it’s very unfortunate, but it’s very prevalent.

Dale: These would be, I would think, some of the more difficult cases that you would have to deal with as well, right?

Lorne: Sure, sure. Whether somebody is just belittled psychologically or mentally, abused, it’s very demeaning, and mostly this is just the women that’s the recipient.

Dale: Not in every single case, but in most.

Lorne: Not every single case, but quite often. Sometimes when you act for the male and he complains about abuse, sometimes people wonder if that’s really true.

Dale: Yeah, of course.

Lorne: There’s a suspicion whether that’s true, but men get abused as well. And it’s actually interesting, because when the woman is the recipient, my experience is [when] there’s an abusive relationship, she has this image of her spouse as being powerful, and all-knowing, and really something to deal with. They’re quite concerned about the power of their spouse. That can be a very difficult case.

Dale: Is that usually in the higher income brackets or is it all income brackets?

Lorne: It’s always. It’s just common. From my experience, I’m not a psychologist, I’m not a social worker.

Dale: So you say, but in fact, a lot of what you deal with involves the psychology of relationships, doesn’t it? Inadvertently, it certainly does.

Lorne: Right. And I have to convince — usually it’s the wife — I have to convince her that her husband is not all that powerful and we can deal with him, and we can get a court order, and he is going to pay support, and that she doesn’t have to worry. Sometimes it’s an uphill battle to convince the spouse that we could help her overcome the abuse.

Dale: Well give her — as it usually is the case “her” — give her a little bit of confidence that things can be done, right?

Lorne: Confidence, confidence, yeah.

Dale: Because if you’re abused, the confidence, I would think, goes out the window.

Lorne: Oh yeah, oh yeah.

Dale: Your expectations are low to nonexistent.

Lorne: Exactly, exactly. You’re completely beaten down and it really takes a lot to overcome the lack of confidence and the belief that things will get better. So you’re right, it’s a confidence issue.

Dale: Okay, let’s go to number five. What’s number five?

Lorne: Addiction problems.

Dale: Okay. Another form of abuse. Self-abuse, really.

Lorne: Yeah and again, very prevalent, whether it’s drugs or alcohol. Usually those addiction problems lead to other problems, whether it’s losing your job, depleting assets, lying, stealing, betrayal.

Dale: Or see point four about abuse of a spouse.

Lorne: Abuse, yeah. Absolutely. They’re intertwined.

Dale: Yeah, exactly.

Lorne: But obviously, it’s important for people to seek help if there is addiction. And sometimes people just either refuse help, or don’t get the help, and it leads to a break down of the relationship.

Dale: Do you think those addiction problems, when you look a the full gamut of drugs or alcohol, do you think in your 20 years practicing that it’s increased over the years?

Lorne: You see a lot of alcohol abuse more so than drugs.

Dale: But I mean more so than, say, 20 years ago as well?

Lorne: I don’t know if there’s necessarily an increase over time, but I find that alcohol is more prevalent as far as addiction problems, and the impact that alcohol has on people’s marriages and lives. So I don’t know if it’s necessarily increased over time, but you just see it very often. And it can be a really sad situation. People that have something, develop an addiction problem, and they end up losing everything.

Dale: Well that alone, an alcohol problem alone, could destroy a marriage. I guess that would be certainly fair to say, wouldn’t it?

Lorne: Absolutely.

Dale: All right let’s go to number six, dealing with other family members. The in-laws, that kind of thing?

Lorne: Right. It’s a package deal when you marry your spouse.

Dale: You can’t pick your mother-in-law or your father-in-law.

Lorne: You can’t pick your mother-in-law and you can’t pick her family. It’s a package deal. And sometimes, the family gets involved, interferes, and there’s dual loyalty. I’m thinking of one situation where the husband, really supportive of his father, and the wife just knows that the father’s just a real son-of-a-gun, and so it’s very difficult. Do you have loyalty to your father? Or do you have loyalty to your spouse? And if people don’t get along, it can be a strain.

Dale: Well it could be a strain on both lawyers, I would think, in a case like that, because you’d be dealing with the spouses themselves and then later that evening a parent would get involved and maybe change some aspect of the negotiations that you’re involved in. In other words, meddling in what’s going on.

Lorne: Oh yes. There’s always meddling.

Dale: Really?

Lorne: Oh yeah. It’s not just family.

Dale: Meddling has a category all by itself.

Lorne: In divorce, yeah. There’s situations where we’ll give our client advice and then she’ll go off, or he’ll go off and talk to his friends or family and then come back and say, “Well, so-and-so said that we should do this, and you’re wrong, and they’re experience is this.” And really those friends and family don’t know what they’re talking about, but everyone’s influencing the situation. So it can be a strain on dealing with clients.

Dale: Okay, now this next one is dealing with what a lot of marriages deal with and that’s parenting problems.

Lorne: Parenting problems. So kids are wonderful, I have three kids.

Dale: I have two, they’re both grown up though.

Lorne: Yes, my kids are nine, 12, and 15.

Dale: Doesn’t mean you stop worrying about them, because you still do.

Lorne: No, of course. It’s a life sentence, you’re always going to worry about them.

Dale: That’s right, exactly.

Lorne: You’re always going to love your kids. But with your kids, I think people don’t necessarily realize that with kids, priorities change. Now the kids are the priority in the relationship. And there may be differences in parenting style, there may be differences in discipline, there may be problems about allocating responsibility. One parent may say, “I’m doing all the work. The other parent does nothing.” These are all stresses on a relationship. And so, usually kids can be very beneficial for a relationship, but it can add a strain to a relationship.

Dale: Well you say beneficial and I certainly agree with that, because Jill and I raised — we got lucky with our kids. They’re better than we deserve, we’ve often said that.

Lorne: You did something right.

Dale: I don’t know what it was, but apparently we did. You say, “Yeah, kids are great in a marriage.” But isn’t it fair to say that kids don’t make a marriage better, kids test a marriage?

Lorne: That’s a good point.

Dale: I mean, isn’t that true?

Lorne: You’re right. Yeah.

Dale: It doesn’t mean you don’t love the kids, I’m not saying that.

Lorne: Usually kids should bond the parents. Obviously it’s, “You came together and you created these beings,” but certainly it’s difficult. When you’re dealing with younger kids, schoolwork, and getting to bed, and discipline and so on, it’s not always fun. It’s work sometimes. And so, it can add a strain on a relationship.

Dale: I guess what I’m saying is that if you had a problem or two with your spouse before kids, they’re not going to be fixed by the addition of kids.

Lorne: You’re right, yeah. People sometimes are under the mistaken impression that if I have . . .

Dale: “Oh honey, it’ll be better when we have a couple of kids.”

Lorne: “I thought if I have a few kids, it’s going to repair our relationship.” I hear that all the time, too.

Dale: Do you hear that?

Lorne: Oh yeah. We’ll have people come to us with young kids. They have kids a year old, two, three years old. What happened? “Well I thought that if we had kids, things would improve.”

Dale: Wow.

Lorne: And it is not a solution to a problem. Kids are not going to repair your relationship. So you’re absolutely right, it’s a test.

Voiceover: Goldhawk Fights Back For You airs Monday to Friday, 11 to one, on AM 740 Zoomer Radio.

Dale: 12:48 on Zoomer Radio. Lorne Fine is here answering your questions about family law and about divorce. Let’s hear from Pat, calling form Georgetown. Pat, do you have a question for Lorne Fine?

Pat: I do, Dale.

Dale: Okay.

Pat: Now, if you’ve been married and separated, but not divorced, and you both live common law with somebody else, does the wife, because she’s not been divorced, have any recourse to your pension, etc.?

Dale: Okay.

Lorne: Okay so, you’re talking about a former wife making a claim on her . . .

Pat: Deceased husband.

Lorner: Oh, her deceased husband.

Pat: Yes. Because now, they’re separated etc. and they both have common law, but because she’s still legally his wife.

Dale: Yeah, no, there was no divorce. You just went your separate ways and lived with other people.

Pat: Right.

Lorne: Is the former husband still alive?

Pat: No, he just died.

Dale: Oh.

Lorne: Okay. So there’s a limitation period for the wife to claim property, which is six years after the date of separation, or two years after date of divorce.

Dale: What about death? How does that figure in?

Lorne: In the event of a death, when someone dies, then that’s also a triggering event. That if people don’t separate, if you die then before you separate, that’s a triggering event. And you can claim either under the will, or pursue it to the Family Law Act for division of property. So this person separated before they died and they divorced before they died.

Pat: They’re not divorced.

Lorne: They’re not divorced, sorry, they’ve separated before they died. So the separation is a triggering event and the person has a right to make a property claim if it’s within that time.

Pat: That’s six years.

Lorne: After the date of separation.

Pat: Okay.

Lorne: It’s possible that the limitation period could be extended, depending on the situation of the wife? Maybe she had health problems, maybe she can explain why she didn’t make the claim within time. So it’s not impossible for a former spouse to make a property claim, if it’s within the limitation period.

Pat: Okay. And that includes the pensions.

Lorne: Yeah, pension is property.

Pat: Pension is property. Okay.

Dale: How long ago did this happen?

Pat: Well not too long ago, but I was just curious, because you hear so many different things from people that it’s best to have everything clarified.

Dale: No, it’s true.

Lorne: Unfortunately, these parties didn’t have a separation agreement.

Pat: No.

Lorne: And obviously it would have been preferable to have a separation agreement and resolve all issues arising from the separation so you don’t have that hanging out there, right?

Pat: Right, right.

Lorne: So maybe that’s a lesson for listeners: if you’re going to separate, resolve your issues, because it may have repercussions down the road.

Pat: Well, like there was children, whatever goes on. But now what if the deceased made — like a lot of times companies have insurance policies on their employees — what if he made his “wife” wife the heir to that?

Dale: A beneficiary?

Lorne: His first wife?

Pat: Yes. Well, his wife.

Dale: His wife, not his common law wife.

Pat: Right.

Lorne: I see. Well that’s the problem, right? If he made his wife the beneficiary under the policy, then that’s who’s going to benefit. The first wife is going to benefit and not the common law wife. So that’s another lesson, and I always tell my clients, that change of beneficiaries, change of beneficiaries in your life insurance policy, change of beneficiaries in your RRSPs, because you don’t know what the future holds. And if you die, the beneficiary is going to obtain the benefit of your RRSPs or your life insurance.

Pat: Absolutely.

Dale: Pat, I hope that information helps in that particular situation. Just letting it hang loose — you and your wife, you separate, you go your separate ways, you find new relationships, and you leave it loose-ended, that would be a really bad idea, wouldn’t it?

Lorne: It’s a bad idea.

Dale: Get it resolved.

Lorne: Get it resolved.

Dale: In terms of, go through, get the divorce, then you can start your second life, or third life.

Lorne: Start fresh. Yeah, some people want to bury their heads in the sand and think it’s going to go away. It may not go away and you may have a problem just like this listener has with beneficiaries and pensions that are out there and there’s still claims, competing claims between different spouses. It’s much better to come to grips with the situation and address the issues and get it resolved.

Dale: And I think oftentimes they would do that, and they just sort of walk away and let it go at that, saving some money. They don’t want to go to a lawyer, they don’t want to spend the money. They think, “Let it fade away.”

Lorne: Yeah. Can be. It depends on what’s at issue. I say to some people, “Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Don’t try to save a few bucks if it’s going to cost you tens of thousands down the road.” Yes, lawyers are not cheap and they’re not going to work for free, and it’s going to cost money, but it may be much cheaper than litigating years down the road, right? So it’s best to try to resolve your issues.

Dale: All right, here’s George on the line from Toronto. George, what’s your question?

George: Hi guys, how you doing? This is my third time with you guys there.

Dale: Okay, good.

George: But not with a lawyer.

Dale: Not your first time with lawyers, okay.

George: No, [inaudible 27:02], my son he’s going to divorce and he’s living in Acton, Ontario there.

Dale: Mm-hmm.

George: And I see him take some pills. I say, “What is that?” He says, “I’m so stressed,” he says and they’re going to go to a divorce.

Dale: Yeah.

George: And I told him, “Son, don’t worry,” I said. “You’re not the first nor the last, so try to be yourself.” I know he lost [five] pounds, because he was worrying too much, because now two children, you know what I mean?

Dale: So do you have a specific question about his divorce?

George: Well, questions? Yeah. What we should do in this situation with my son and grandchildren? I worry, too, not only him, because if my son worries, I worry too.

Dale: I think George is wondering what role he should be playing as the father and the grandfather.

George: Yeah.

Lorne: It’s understandable that your concerned about the welfare of your son. Going through a divorce or a separation is very stressful.

George: I know.

Lorne: It’s equivalent to a death.

Dale: Well, it’s the death of a relationship, isn’t it?

Lorne: It’s the death of a relationship, right. So your son may be, it’s a form of mourning, I guess. And really, the best thing for your son to do is to get help, is not to be afraid to speak to a counselor, to speak to a social worker, or a psychologist, or a psychiatrist.

George: He’s going, yes.

Dale: Oh is he? Oh, that’s a good idea.

George: Already he’s going.

Lorne: Yeah, that’s absolutely something that he should do and not be ashamed that he’s doing it.

Dale: Well wouldn’t you include in that list of people to see, would be a divorce lawyer?

Lorne: Oh, absolutely.

Dale: So you can know what your situation is, and know what your options are for proceeding from there if the marriage has failed.

Lorne: Absolutely he should.

George: He did see a lawyer, a lady lawyer. He’s going to have [inaudible 29:13]. I told my son, don’t drag things to the lawyers, as you know your lawyers are expensive, too.

Dale: Yeah.

George: And of course, I believe on his wife’s side, parents told them the same. “Try to work it out yourself.”

Dale: Well yeah, but you can’t work all of this out yourself.

George: No, I understand that. I understand that completely, but if you decide, then you go to the lawyer, you say, “I’m going to have my kids one week and you have the kids another week yourself.”

Dale: Yeah, George, I’m sorry, I’m running out of time here, but I think you put your finger on a really good idea. Thanks for calling.

Lorne: Thank you.

Dale: Now when you come to the lawyers, your divorce lawyers, if you can have some kind of plan to present to the lawyers, you’re going to be a little ahead of the game, aren’t you?

Lorne: Sure.

Dale: Don’t just come and say, “You fix it. You’re the lawyer Lorne Fine, you fix it.”

Lorne: Right, right.

Dale: They come with a plan.

Lorne: Especially when it comes to kids. If people say, “Look we have a good parenting plan. We have a good idea how we’re going to parent these children,” obviously it reduces a lot of conflict and it solves a lot of issues. But some issues people can’t necessarily solve, or they don’t know what they should be doing, like when it comes to property issues. So that’s when you should see a lawyer.

Dale: Okay, we didn’t get to eight, nine, and ten. We’ll have to do that at a later date, just keep that in mind. I’ve marked it on my page here. We’ll talk about some of those other reasons as well.

Lorne: Thank you for having me.

Dale: Lorne Fine, thanks very much for coming in. Once again, Lorne Fine is our family law lawyer and our divorce lawyer.

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