Nova Scotia’s Maintenance Enforcement Mess

The Dexter government’s inexplicable decision to move the Maintenance Enforcement Program from Halifax to Cape Breton is creating massive headaches for support recipients:

More stories of confusion and uncertainty emerged Tuesday over the NDP government moving the offices and staff tasked with tracking down deadbeat dads.

As of this month, the Justice Department has closed all its maintenance enforcement offices — in Amherst, Sydney, Dartmouth, Kentville and New Glasgow — to the public. The service is to be relocated to New Waterford, with a new office opening in the spring.

Carolyn Stewart of Halifax, who last received a payment in August and is now owed $18,000, said Tuesday that she just talked to her caseworker in the Amherst office Monday and was told her file would be moved to Cape Breton. The caseworker, like others on the mainland, isn’t making the move to the new office.

Stewart said she didn’t realize the Cape Breton office isn’t open yet.


Justice Department figures showed that, as of March 31, 2011, there were more than 15,000 cases in the province’s maintenance enforcement program, which collects and distributes court-ordered payments like spousal support. More than 9,000 cases were in arrears, by a total amount of $81 million by Dec. 31, 2011, according to the department.

A single mother quoted Tuesday in The Chronicle Herald said she had been waiting six weeks to hear from a caseworker after leaving several voice messages and was having problems with the program’s 1-800 number.

Justice Minister Ross Landry said Tuesday he called the woman and left a message expressing his concern about her situation.

Another woman contacted The Chronicle Herald on Tuesday saying she also had trouble with the automated telephone message system.

Rachelle Purcell said in an interview that she’s tired of getting the runaround while chasing the court-ordered payments for her teenage daughter. The last payment she received arrived Nov. 12, and arrears total about $9,600, she said.

“I can’t get hold of one person,” she said, referring to enforcement workers on her file. “They don’t call you back.”

Eric, Lola, and division of property

This week, the Supreme Court of Canada will revisit the issue of whether common-law spouses are presumptively entitled to an equal division of family property:

They’re known as “de facto spouses.” Partners in a paperless marriage. Or, in this case, plain old Eric and Lola.

But there’s almost nothing ordinary about the tale of a 51-year-old Quebec billionaire businessman and a former Brazilian model, whose messy legal battle could change life for millions of Canadian couples.

Their case, which reaches the Supreme Court of Canada [this] Thursday, is expected to decide whether common-law spouses have the same rights as married couples to support and sharing of property after a break-up.

While the case is likely to have its greatest impact in Quebec, legal experts predict that if Lola succeeds in her landmark challenge, eight other provinces and territories that deny property rights to unmarried spouses, including Ontario [and Nova Scotia – DJP], will be forced to rethink their legislation.

As a starting point, common-law spouses should have the right to both alimony and an equal share in property, argue lawyers for the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), an intervenor in the case.


Looming over the case is a 2002 decision by the Supreme Court involving Susan Walsh, a Nova Scotia woman who sought a share of her late common-law husband’s assets. In that case, the court’s 8-1 majority upheld a section of Nova Scotia’s Matrimonial Property Act, which gives only married people a share in a partner’s property.

The court said excluding common-law couples was a way of respecting their decision to avoid marriage because of the legal obligations that go along with it.

LEAF argues it is time to revisit the Walsh decision, saying the court in 2002 did not have the benefit of social science research that shows when people move in together, they aren’t motivated by legal considerations.

In fact, North American research over the past decade has shown that most couples who live together are under the mistaken impression they already have the same rights as married couples.

Via @John_Magyar.

The legend of “Here, My Dear”

It’s one of the most enduring urban legends in music history: that a family court Judge ordered Marvin Gaye to pay his ex-wife all the royalties from his next album, so he deliberately recorded a stinker that no one would buy.

The truth, according to, is more complicated (and much more interesting):

By the time Marvin’s day of financial reckoning arrived, he had little cash and was well in arrears for a large amount of back taxes, so his attorney worked out a settlement under which Anna would be paid off from the royalties earned by Gaye’s next album. That next album turned out to be Here, My Dear, a harrowing “concept album of divorce” which chronicled the turmoil of Anna and Marvin’s relationship. The record’s symbolism was hardly subtle: The inner sleeve depicted a Monopoly-like board game emblazoned with the word JUDGMENT, across which a male hand passed a record to a female hand. On the man’s side of the board were only a piano and some recording equipment, while the female’s side of the board included money, a house, a Mercedes, and a diamond ring.

Although Marvin and Anna’s divorce settlement was indeed tied to the royalties generated by Here, My Dear, the common legend surrounding the record — that Marvin was ordered by a judge to hand over all his royalties from the album to Anna, and that Marvin was in a position to spitefully deprive Anna of those royalties by intentionally recording an album so bad it would not sell — is largely untrue. First off, the payment-through-royalties scheme was a settlement worked out through mutual agreement, not one devised and mandated by a judge. Second, rarely does a competent attorney accept (or a responsible judge impose) a dissolution of partnership settlement under which the amount of compensation received by one party is completely dependent upon a future endeavor of the other party, precisely because such a settlement could allow one side to cheat the other by deliberately underperforming. (A similar legend about producer Phil Spector is based on this premise.)

The circumstances in Marvin Gaye’s case were that he agreed to pay Anna a total of $600,000, the first $307,000 coming from the advance against royalties he was guaranteed for his next album, and the remaining $293,000 to be paid out of any royalties earned beyond the advance. But Anna would lose nothing if the record sold poorly, because the agreement specified that if the album failed to earn $293,000 within two years, Gaye was obligated to pay Anna the difference himself, and thus he had nothing to gain by tanking the sessions and purposely turning out substandard product. (In fact, he was in a position to lose a great deal by doing so, both because he was entitled to keep any royalties earned after the first $600,000, and because he stood to earn additional monies not payable to Anna through his publishing rights.)


Critical reaction to Here, My Dear was mixed. As Gaye biographer Steve Turner wrote, “Reviewers didn’t seem to know whether the double album was a huge joke at the expense of Anna Gaye and Motown, or a work of genius.” The record was not a hit, failing to sell well enough to even recoup the advance against royalties paid by Motown, so Marvin Gaye (who was by then officially bankrupt) was obligated to begin making monthly payments to Anna to cover the shortfall. However, Gaye was killed in 1984 still owing Anna the additional $293,000 due her, and monies earned by his estate since his death have gone to paying off the IRS rather than benefiting his ex-wives and children, thereby proving the maxim about life’s only two certainties.

Here, My Dear is No. 462 on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.  The track listing includes “When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You,” “Anger” and “You Can Leave, But It’s Going to Cost You.”