THE MARRIAGE BREAKUP AND IMPENDING DIVORCE
Leon began farming in 1981, approximately 6 years prior to getting married. Upon his marriage in 1987, he brought in a net worth of approximately $100 000. Under the law, he was entitled to an exemption under the matrimonial property act for that amount. Cori brought less than $5000 into the marriage. During the time of the marriage they experienced some very difficult times in farming and had suffered substantial losses financially.
At a pretrial conference held in November 1997, the judge that oversaw the proceedings confirmed this position. Leon agreed to take the property and the debt associated with it. At that time he was not making any attempt to get Cori to cover for half of the loss they had incurred. At that time, Leon also agreed to pay child support arrears in full and continue paying child support. The offer was quite generous on his part given the financial circumstances and was made largely to o help conclude the legal proceedings.
This proposal was not accepted by Cori. A date was set for trial for April 1998.
A change in the matrimonial property law at about that time occurred which indicated that both parties were equally responsible for any loss occurred in a farming operation during the time of the marriage. This meant that Cori could have been responsible for up to $50, 000 of the farm debt. Cori was aware of this change.
On the advise of Leon's lawyer at the time, he had the farm and buildings appraised. He was told it was quite worth it, as the values were going to be contested. Leon was notified, by his lawyer, about the completion of the appraisal on March 30, 1998. Leon and his lawyer had a few details to deal with and were ready to go to court.
Cori, on the other hand, had not retained a lawyer and it appeared that she had no way to do so, nor any intention. Financially, she owed $7 500 to one law firm whom she originally began this action with, and owed the second firm for over a hundred billable hours. This without any preparation for the trial which was only two weeks away. She also hadn't taken any steps to getting any appraisals done nor had she had any other experts retained to help in her case. She was unhappy with the financial picture that was before her, but took no steps to hire a forensic accountant or take any serious steps to challenge Leon's position. Leon's lawyer commented on the lack of real effort by Cori to prepare for the impending legal battle. A letter to Cori from her lawyer paints what is a fairly realistic picture of her situation. Her situation was as follows:
She owed $7 500 to one law firm for earlier work done.
Her file was transferred on a trust basis to another firm with the understanding that the $7 500 would be paid out of the first monies available in any settlement.
The second law office had approximately 100 billable hours to charge out. This, not including the trial costs which were forthcoming.
Cori was not likely to receive any money in the settlement of the matrimonial property.
Cori may have been responsible for half of the loss incurred during the marriage for the farming operation. The total loss was in the neighborhood of approximately $100 000.
It may have been ruled that she was responsible for Leon's Legal costs which were approximately $30 000-$40 000 at that time.
Her job did not earn her an exceptional salary (somewhere under $10.00/hour) and she was making a rental payment on where she lived, as well as car payments on a 1994 Ford Tempo car.
Given these circumstances, her financial situation was something you get to being between a rock and a hard place. All this was to be fully realized by her in two weeks at the trial. In addition to all this some additional "news" was brought into light at Leon's criminal trial when Cori's cousin, Darlene Holliday, in the closing part of her testimony stated that Cori wanted full custody of her children. Cori and Leon had had joint custody of their children for approximately four years. It was highly unlikely that this arrangement would change without any major change in circumstances. The only way that Cori would have hoped to attain full custody is if Leon was no longer in the picture.
Leon was not aware of much of this information before his trial. He states "if I had known then what I know now, I would have been more cautious in the weeks proceeding our marital trial. I had no idea that things could go so wrong."
Leon also had a life insurance policy on himself worth $250 000. Cori was aware of this policy. There was no existing insurance policy on Cori.