By Martha Chan, Editorial Director of Family Lawyer Magazine
$175,000 spousal support payment is in order
A judge ordered the CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, Michael McCain, to pay his ex-wife $175k a month as interim spousal support after she struck down parts of a signed marriage contract that says his wife is not to receive any spousal support or business assets in case of a divorce, but she will receive $7 million cash payout plus their matrimonial home. Read the story here.
Maple Leaf Foods is one of Canada’s largest food empires. The marriage contract was dictated by Michael McCain’s late father who wished to keep the family fortune within the family. The elder McCain would disown his children if their spouses did not agree to signing such an agreement back in 1997.
At the time of their separation 2 years ago, Michael McCain was worth $500 million.
Why the signed agreement was struck down by the judge
In her ruling, Justice Susan Greer said that the agreement was signed under duress and is “unconscionable” and Christine McCain, Michael McCain’s wife should not have to sold her assets to live. (She received the matrimonial home plus 2 cottages when the couple separated.)
Most comments posted online regarding this news have not been favorable. Some questioned the judge’s decision and most are amazed by how extravagant their lifestyle is.
Here is one comment that caught my attention:
“Frankly, neither the ex or McCain need anywhere near that much money so if I were judge I’d assess them both huge fines for being so unnecessarily greedy. Yes, I’d refer to it as the public greed tax.”
I have often felt that pre-nup or any agreement signed by two consenting adults should be honored. In fact, I don’t think they should be allowed to be brought to court to be contested, and if they brought black and white cases to trial, they should be fined for wasting time and resources of the court – public greed tax.
Whatever happens to being our word? A deal is a deal. Of course as time passes, the deal may look different. e.g. if the McCain empire “fell apart”, and Mr. McCain became a $50 million man, he would still have to pay $7 million and the matrimonial home, unless there are other clauses that say otherwise. But of course, we live in a democratic society, everything can be contested, and so they do, especially if you have millions.
While the millionaires fight the billionaires by bringing these cases to the courtrooms, the tax payers are paying for these disputes that two consenting adults have signed but could have chosen not to sign. I think the legal system should be used to settle disputes that are not spelled out clearly. This may reduce the stress on the legal system and tax payers.
This case is not over yet. The $175,000 monthly support payment is just an interim amount. They have not touched the assets yet. I suspect Mr. McCain is going to appeal. Wouldn’t you? The annual alimony is $2.1 million, plus the $500 million asset are at stake. Why not spend a few $ millions to protect what he’s got? That’s good return on investment.
Martha Chan, Editorial Director of Family Lawyer Magazine and Divorce Magazine and V. P. Marketing of Divorce Marketing Group.Published on:
All due respect to the writer of this article, however you missed the point of the court ruling…furthermore, when was the las time you heard of a couple with a $50 thousand dollar income in a courtroom dispute? Kudos to Christine McCain for enduring what had to have been a very stressful situation, not to mention being displayed in the public eye…I have meet Michael McCain, and I do need to express my disappoint in his behavior towards Christine, what an insult to their children and their marriage of 30 years. There was a time when I had respect for Michael! Also you read the autobiography of the late Steve Jobs…he was bi-polar!
My point is: what is the value of me signing an agreement, when I then can turn around and challenge what I have signed.
I don’t know this couple personally and my comments are not personal to them anyway. If Mr. McCain had disputed the signed contract and wanted to reduce the amount he agreed to pay his ex, I would have made the same comments. You signed it, honor it. Take responsibility.
Thank you Susan for your point of view.
The signing of an agreement can only be valid if it is between two consenting adults. A document signed under duress should never be valid.
The McCains were forced to sign or faced being disowned. That sounds like pretty heavy duress to me.
The extent of consent is blurry however. How much the duress impacted the signing of the prenup is uncertain and up to debate by the lawyers.
There is no clear ruling to make here. The judge erred on the conservative side of striking it down.
To my knowledge, the law doesnt specify the extent of duress that makes the signing of an agreement void. Therefore I believe he made the legally correct decision.