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Contentious divorce serves as cautionary tale for Ontario spouses

Not every acrimonious divorce makes headlines — most people want to keep their private lives private. But when high assets are at stake, and either of the spouses is well known, there is a risk that the general public will take a particular interest in divorce proceedings.

While there is certainly no shortage of media coverage of celebrity divorces, sometimes news of such matrimonial splits can be instructive for spouses whose own divorces are not scrutinized in the limelight. One such case, which the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear in 2014, involves the prominent Halifax investor Vrege Armoyan and his former wife Lisa.

Lisa currently lives in Florida, and a court there has already ordered Vrege to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in arrears and monthly support to Lisa. However, a justice in Nova Scotia recently found that Vrege has failed to make the ordered payments.

Recently Lisa asked the Nova Scotia court to order Vrege to pay for a detailed audit of his assets to determine exactly what he can and cannot afford in terms of support for Lisa and the former spouses’ children. The court granted that request, with the cost of the audit estimated at $375,000.

The justice also noted that “a rough tabulation of Mr. Armoyan’s statement of property indicates that, at the time of separation, his net worth was about $40 million.” The justice went on to detail how Vrege allegedly transferred investments, including $20 million in proceeds from the sale of his company, out of jurisdiction. He also allegedly collapsed RRSPs, moving those funds out of jurisdiction, even though there were negative tax implications.

For his part, Vrege claims that he has more debts than assets and that he is not in a position to pay all that he is said to owe Lisa. Of course, it remains to be seen how and when the years-long dispute will be resolved.

Whether we’re talking about thousands or millions of dollars, the issues raised in this divorce are common to many divorces. Not every matrimonial split has to be litigious, but if you find that your spouse is hiding assets or unwilling to cooperate, it is crucial that you have an experienced matrimonial property lawyer to protect your rights and interests throughout the entire divorce process.

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