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High-profile high asset divorce gets messy

Money is often the most contentious issue in a divorce settlement. A separating couple seldom agrees on what is fair, especially when the split is far from amicable. Even when matters seem to be settled, a new wrinkle can send proceedings back to square one. Such a wrinkle is currently plaguing one of the wealthiest women in Canada in her high asset divorce.

Eleanor McCain, of the McCain Foods family, married former Toronto Symphony Orchestra CEO Jeff Melanson in April 2014 after dating since December 2013. The marriage lasted less than a year, with the couple separating in January 2015 and McCain requesting an annulment. McCain alleged at the time that Melanson had tricked her into marriage in order to enrich his finances and avoid allegations of sexual harassment at his place of employment.  

At the centre of the current legal battle is a $5 million payout to Melanson stipulated in the original marriage contract. In an affidavit, McCain alleged that Melanson agreed to forfeit the money, waive spousal and child support, and the increase in value of the couple's home. However, subsequent to retaining a new attorney, Melanson is now seeking the $5 million and the increased property value, plus legal costs. McCain argued the payout would see her former husband "unjustly enriched," while Melanson countered by drawing attention to his ex-wife's net worth of over $366 million.

McCain is now seeking to have Melanson's lawyer removed from the case, a lawyer with a long history with the McCain family. The attorney in question has previously represented Ms. McCain's brothers' ex-wives and her own ex-husband, Greg David. In her opinion, this lawyer is privy to "highly sensitive personal and confidential information" which could be used unfairly against her, and he was chosen for that reason.

As divorces go, the McCain-Melanson case is unusually bitter, but parallels can be drawn to any high asset divorce in Canada. When large sums of money are at stake, some parties will go to great lengths to be awarded the settlements they feel they deserve. Whether one is seeking a fair settlement for him or herself or trying to ensure the protection of assets, a family law attorney can provide guidance through every aspect of divorce.

Source: thestar.com, "McCain heiress asks for removal of estranged husband's lawyer", Nick Patch, July 29, 2016

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