Andrew H. Heft in the Media

Andrew H. Heft on Television

Other Articles Featuring Andrew H. Heft

Breakup equals big expense

Be prepared to pay dearly to divorce

your dear, says lawyer Andrew Heft

Montreal Gazette

Sunday, April 21, 2002

The Ottawa Citizen

Sunday, May 12, 2002



Although it's much easier to get a divorce today than it was in the past, settlements are costing more, warns divorce lawyer Andrew Heft.


In matters of love, it pays to listen to your heart, and to your financial adviser. "Love is blind," said Andrew Heft, a prominent Montreal divorce lawyer, who sees a lot of partner-related costs on the back end of failed relationships.

"Not many people that get involved (in a relationship) think about the possibility the relationship might fail. Of those that do, not many act."

According to Heft, the expense of a failed marriage has gotten bigger in recent years.

"Twenty years ago, it used to be harder for couples to get divorced, but it did not cost as much," said Heft, who has been practicing law for 25 years.

"Today, it's much easier to get a divorce. But your financial exposure may be higher."

Heft cites a combination of legal changes, including the evolution of child- and spousal-support laws, the family patrimonial laws and compensatory-allowance legislation as reasons that the cost of failed marriages are going up.

And while data on the subject are hard to find, anecdotal evidence indicates a greater portion of those costs are borne by men.

Of the 120 to 130 matrimonial cases Heft works on each year, and of the 2,700 since he began his practice, in nearly 95 per cent of the cases men pay women alimony and child support.

It should not come as a big surprise that women get awarded money more often than men, and often, win child-custody battles. Men earn more than women on average and women tend to make bigger sacrifices to their earning potential in order to play a bigger role in the family. The courts only seek to redress the balance.

Another reason for people to assess potential costs before getting involved with a partner is the high probability the union will fail.

There were 69,672 divorces in 1999, down considerably from the high levels of the mid-1980s, but up 2.3 per cent from the previous year, according to the 2002 Canadian Almanac. In fact, about 45.4 per cent of marriages will end in failure. That's pretty close to one in two. With such high chances your marriage will tank, it is almost silly not to prepare for the possibility from the outset.

But divorce rates don't tell the whole story.

The totals do not include the number of people who have kids together without getting married. And those costs can be high.

"If you have a child with a women who earns less than you, you are going to pay child support," Heft said. "That applies whether or not you are married."

But, according to Heft, there are some economic pitfalls you can avoid when choosing your mate.

For example, traditional marriages - those in which the wife stays home to raise the children - can be prohibitively expensive. That's because in the event of a breakup, the husband would not only likely have to pay child support and alimony, but also a premium to compensate the wife for her lost earning power due to the years she spent at home.

"He could be on the hook (for alimony payments) for life," Heft said.

Similarly, a woman who became the breadwinner for the family while the husband stayed home to take care of the children would also likely have to pay alimony and child support if the father took custody of the children.

One good tool to calculate potential child-support payments is a software called Aliform, which was developed using the Quebec government's child-support determination guidelines. Just punch in key data such as your and your ex's earnings, the number of children involved, and which parent has custody, and bang, out comes a number.

A divorce lawyer will have access to the software.

Heft uses a test case to give a demonstration. In his example, a man earning $50,000 a year has a fling with a co-worker who earns $30,000 a year. She tells him she is pregnant and she will let him know in a month or two about whether or not she will keep the baby.

According to Heft, our Romeo could be on the line for $4,787.74 a year in payments. That's in after-tax dollars and does not include ancillary expenses such as daycare, sporting activities and braces.

The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to not get married unless you absolutely must, Heft said.

reprinted with the permission of the Montreal Gazette

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Lingering trauma a factor in spousal support

Toronto StarJun. 22, 2006. 08:09 AM

OTTAWA—Family law experts say a Supreme Court of Canada ruling yesterday makes clear that divorce is still a "no-fault" affair, even if the warring spouses don't see it that way.

But in what lawyers say is an important clarification, the country's highest court declared the Divorce Act does not stop a judge from considering the emotional devastation wreaked by a marriage breakdown when deciding whether to order a cheater to pay spousal support to a jilted partner.

In practical terms, the decision is likely to affect less than 20 per cent of the roughly 71,000 divorce cases a year in Canada.

That's because most divorced couples manage to sort out the separation of their affairs, and spousal support orders are made in less than a fifth of divorces. Child support orders take precedence over alimony.

In the case of Sherry Leskun, a 59-year-old woman described by lower courts as "bitter to the point of obsession" over the 1998 collapse of her marriage, the Supreme Court's ruling means her ex-husband Gary, will have to pay her $2,250 a month — plus arrears since March 2003.

Gary Leskun's lawyer Lorne MacLean said it's possible the ruling could open a "back door" for some to play a blame game.

"I hope not. It will depend on how the lower courts interpret that," he told reporters. "Depending on what side of the fence I'm on, I may be arguing that you can."

MacLean suggested if "consequences" matter, then it might be open to an individual to argue that his misconduct was a "consequence" of some action by the other spouse.

Many family lawyers and academics said yesterday courts would take a dim view of that.

Still, Montreal family lawyer Andrew Heft welcomed the ruling, saying it gives important clarity to an area of law that right now is "a twilight zone where it's not clear."

"People are very often seriously affected by the fact that their spouse has been unfaithful. This judgment just recognizes that unfaithfulness can have emotional consequences.

"Right now, when you go to court and you talk about marital misconduct, judges don't even want to hear about it. They say, `The marriage is broken, it's over, the pieces are all over the floor, let's pick them up and move on.'

"In that sense, it's new. It clarifies something which the courts have been struggling (with) and I think it's an important decision," said Heft.

An estimated 10 to 20 per cent of divorce cases involve spousal support orders or agreements, many of which do not call for payments over the long-term, according to professor Rollie Thompson of Dalhousie Law School, who is an adviser to the federal government on spousal support.

"Most people bounce back," he said, but the ruling and the law recognize the reality that some people may be so debilitated by marital misconduct and other factors they cannot bounce back.

"It doesn't mean you can say, `You committed adultery, I get more money.' It doesn't work that way," said Thompson.

In Sherry Leskun's case, those other factors — age, lack of formal education and poor job prospects, family troubles and poor health — weighed heavily.

Leskun had never quite recovered from a 1995 back injury, and was told her $45,000-a-year job at the TD Bank was being cut around the same time Gary Leskun told her he was leaving her after 20 years of marriage for another woman.

In fact, the Supreme Court of Canada indicated the reason it granted Leskun leave to appeal was to deal with a statement in the B.C. Court of Appeal judgment that many saw as re-introducing the concept of "fault" into "no-fault" divorce.

The 1985 amendments to the Divorce Act said courts can't consider marital misconduct when deciding support payments.

A break-up such as the Leskuns will "perhaps inevitably precipitate a period of shock and emotional trauma for the jilted spouse," wrote Justice Ian Binnie.

"But Parliament has concluded that the attempt to get to the bottom of all the rights and wrongs that contribute to the break-up is likely impossible and in any event irrelevant to the task of sorting out the financial consequences."

Still, Binnie said there is a difference between the emotional consequences of misconduct and the misconduct itself.

"If, for example, spousal abuse triggered a depression so serious as to make a claimant spouse unemployable, the consequences of the misconduct would be highly relevant (as here) to the factors which must be considered in determining the right to support, its duration and its amount."

Binnie said achieving self-sufficiency is not a legal "duty" of the person seeking support. It is up to a judge to figure out if the claim of incapacity is credible. For that, it's "highly desirable" but not essential for someone to present concrete evidence.

Binnie shrugged off the warnings that "legal tsunami" of applications will swamp the courts as a result of this interpretation.

Gary Leskun, 52, is re-married and has another child. He is working again and living in an unidentified U.S. city.

The court's ruling was a deeply personal victory for Sherry Leskun (and ironic in view of her successful claim she was debilitated) because the Vancouver woman represented herself at the B.C. appeal court and the Supreme Court of Canada.

She could not afford to travel to Ottawa for the February hearing, and argued via video teleconference. The high court named an amicus curiae or "friend of the court" to ensure the broad legal issues were canvassed.

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Supreme Court to rule on support:

Alberta men to appeal controversial ruling;

Law has been cloudy since decision okayed

retroactive lump sums in child-support cases

Montreal Gazette

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Supreme Court of Canada will decide if divorced people must boost their child-support payments as soon as their incomes rise, or if they are only obliged to pay higher support when their ex-spouses find out about their increased incomes and sue in court.

Millions of dollars hinge on the highly contentious question that affects thousands of divorced couples across the country, lawyer Deidre Smith said.

The Toronto divorce lawyer represents four fathers from Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer and Grande Prairie, Alta., who were ordered by the Alberta courts earlier this year to pay lump sums ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 to their respective ex-spouses.

The courts concluded those amounts represented the shortfall between the support the men actually paid for their children, and what they ought to have been paying under the federal child-support guidelines, based on their incomes. Yesterday, the high court granted the men permission to appeal.

Should the top court side with recipient parents, who are usually mothers, Smith estimated "that if every parent that this case applied to moved to change their support retroactively (in court), hundreds of thousands of dollars would change hands in Canada, and over the long haul it would be millions."

The law has been cloudy for months because appellate courts across the land have issued conflicting opinions. In its groundbreaking quartet of rulings last January, the Alberta Court of Appeal sent a strong message that retroactive child-support awards should be more the rule than the exception in cases where support payers fail to share their increased income with their children in a timely way.

In many provinces, retroactive awards are available only in cases where the payer engages in blameworthy conduct, such as misstating his or her income.

The issue confronting parents is largely the fault of the federal and provincial governments. The federal child-support guidelines explicitly state that a support recipient may ask in writing each year for the payer to make financial disclosure. But if the payer refuses, the recipient must go to court to fight the issue.

The 1997 federal child-support guidelines were designed to be accompanied in each province by a child-support services agency that would automatically require updated income information from payers each year, and then automatically update the amount of support as necessary. But because of cost concerns, not a single province has created such an agency.

Quebec, however, did sign on to the federal guidelines in 1997, according to Montreal-based divorce lawyer Andrew Heft.

He added that the guidelines can also be applied to those cases that were decided before May 1, 1997.

This Supreme Court case could affect Quebec if judges decide the federal guidelines, which use tax returns to calculate child-support payments and then notify debtors of the adjustments made, are unfair.

reprinted with permission

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Fathers fight for rights:

Activist dads say the courts continue to

unfairly favour mothers in custody battles

arising from divorces and common-law

break-ups - and they want the law changed

Montreal Gazette

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Long before extreme publicity stunts became standard practice for fathers' rights activists, Steve Osborne embarked on a cross-Canada journey, parading in front of the country's courthouses wearing a flowery dress. He carried a placard that read: "Now can I be a parent?"

"The main problem is there isn't a presumption of equal parenting when parents go to court to fight about custody," so mothers too often get sole custody, says Osborne, a New Brunswick father who lost access to his two children in 1999 and has not seen them since.

"Most men say there's no point in fighting, so the easiest thing to do is say: 'Yes, dear, you can have whatever you want.' And they save themselves the heartache."

Today, Osborne is national co-ordinator of the Canadian chapter of Fathers 4 Justice, a brash British group whose members made headlines by donning superhero costumes to scale Buckingham Palace and pelted Prime Minister Tony Blair with a flour-filled condom.

In Montreal, Fathers 4 Justice members made a splash last month. One dressed as Spider-Man scaled the cross atop Mount Royal; another climbed the Jacques Cartier Bridge decked out as Robin, Batman's sidekick.

No Fathers 4 Justice stunts are planned for today, Father's Day, Osborne says. "This is the one day of the year when a dad can almost be certain he's going to get to see his kid."

Fathers' rights activists say the courts discriminate against dads, unfairly favouring moms in custody battles in divorces and common-law break-ups.

Groups such as Fathers 4 Justice and Quebec's L'Apres-rupture rhyme off grievances: the system makes it difficult for them to get custody; allows mothers to ignore custody and child-visitation judgments with no repercussions; and hurts children by alienating them from fathers. They want the law changed to force judges to presume shared custody is the best choice, barring evidence to the contrary.

But fathers' groups get little backing from legal experts and divorce lawyers. Some of their gripes were valid 10 years ago, these observers say.

But emphasis has since shifted radically so that today, fathers willing and able to care for children can and do get custody. If a father fails to get custody, there's usually a good reason, they say. Mediation is also increasingly helping avoid bitter custody battles.

The past 100 years have seen major changes in how society views children's relationships to their parents, says Nicholas Bala, a Queen's University law professor who has studied the evolution of family law.

In the 19th century, dads were considered their children's owners. Then, for most of the last century, moms almost always won custody. But beginning in the 1970s and accelerating in the 1990s, judges have increasingly been basing decisions on the child's "best interests," with an emphasis on shared custody.

"We've had a tremendous increase in various forms of joint custody," Bala says. "And we've had a very significant increase in involvement of fathers in the lives of children post-separation, but that doesn't mean they're all seeking or getting custody."

It's easy to lose sight of the fact that in most break-ups, custody is not a contentious issue.

In about 80 per cent of cases in Canada, the two parents come to an amicable agreement, says lawyer Michel Tetrault, a Universite de Sherbrooke professor and expert on custody issues and statistics.

Canada's source for research, media monitoring and company information. In the other 20 per cent of cases, judges end up deciding.

Back in the mid-1990s, judges opted for sole mother custody in about 80 per cent of cases, sole father custody in 10 per cent and joint custody in the rest.

Times have changed. Today, shared custody is the favoured recipe in 60 per cent of cases, Tetrault says. Moms get sole custody 30 per cent of the time and fathers in 10 per cent of cases.

"When you have two parents with the same parental capacity, almost the same availability, who live not too far away from each other and who are able to communicate a bit, in most cases you're going to get shared custody - even if the mother objects," Tetrault says.

Father activists, however, point to other stats they say prove men are being wronged.

They note that, overall, 80 per cent of kids from broken homes now live with their moms. They say that's partly because fathers acquiesce after being warned they can't win in court.

"Custody normally goes to the mother because we start from the strange premise that the child should go to the parent who took care of the child the most before the divorce," says Jean-Claude Boucher, president of L'Apres-rupture, which counsels 1,200 divorced and divorcing dads annually.

"This sounds logical and everybody applauds but when you think about it, the link between mother and child isn't the same as with father and child. The father is more distant but his role is just as important."

A mother nurses the baby and puts him to bed but "the father wasn't out at the tavern during this time; he was taking care of his family in other ways - as a guide to the child rather than as a caregiver - but that part of parenting is ignored by the courts."

Most men who seek help from L'Apres-rupture "are frustrated and discouraged because they want reasonable access to their children," Boucher says. "They say, 'These are my children; another man is raising them; I see them every second or fourth weekend. ... It doesn't make sense - I'm not their uncle, I'm their father.' "

Dads and kids can't bond if they only meet two weekends a month, he says: "I don't want to be sexist, but a woman, traditionally, has a lot of emotional intelligence and a man, traditionally, has a lot of mental intelligence. Kids needs both."

Men's rights campaigners complain that even when shared custody is granted, more often than not the mother has the kids for more days, leaving kids more attached to mom than dad.

And, says Osborne, of Fathers 4 Justice, mothers use the fact that they are in the kids' primary residence to obstruct dads. "She makes the decision that, no you don't get to see your kids today, then the police don't enforce a court order, then it takes six months to go through the courts and the mother is never punished," he says. Fathers' groups also complain mothers often make false accusations about abuse or neglect.

But Tetrault, of the Universite de Sherbrooke, counters that it's rare today for moms to ignore access orders or file fraudulent charges. Why? Because such tactics backfire.

"When you have a parent that for any reason tries to block the child from seeing the other parent with no good reason, it could have the effect of giving the other parent" more access, he says. "You're going to have a very hard time with the judge because they don't accept this kind of behaviour."

One of the reasons judges now favour shared custody in the first place is that studies show that three to five years after a break up, many fathers don't see their kids as much as they have a right to. In most cases, mom isn't to blame. Rather, it has to do with fathers not being able to bond with children when they are only seeing them two days out of every 14, Tetrault says. That's why judges won't stand by and allow one parent to manipulate the system to block the other parent's access, he adds.

There can be cases where parents face unfair hurdles in custody cases, divorce lawyers say.

For example, if a parent doesn't seek custody early in the process, he or she may be left in the lurch later, says Montreal lawyer Julie Kidd, a family law specialist. In the first few weeks of a divorce, a parent can ask for an emergency temporary-custody order. In 70 per cent of cases, the parent who wins here also gets permanent custody.

Often the party who cares for the kids on a more regular basis will be the one who stays in the family home. Usually that's the mother. If she asks for an emergency order and the father doesn't object at the time because, for example, he doesn't have an appropriate residence, the wife will likely get custody, Kidd says.

"Unfortunately, not everybody is level headed when they get a divorce," she says. "Often they are people in crisis who aren't necessarily thinking clearly or thinking long term. One spouse is in a state of shock Canada's source for research, media monitoring and company information. because his or her spouse has told them their marriage is over and they don't turn around fast enough."

Lawyer Andrew Heft, another Montreal family law specialist, says some judges favour mothers over fathers - and vice-versa.

"Some judges bring their own personal baggage to the bench," he says. "It's known in the legal community that there are some judges considered so-called men's judges and some judges considered women's judges, meaning they tilt more towards one side than the other."

Even Michele Asselin, president of the Federation des Femmes du Quebec, the province's largest women's group, agrees there can be "cases of injustice" involving fathers unfairly treated by the system.

But the fact that most couples agree on custody shows the system works, she says. "You can't use some isolated cases to say the system has a built-in bias against fathers," she says.

Father's groups have long lobbied for a change in the law to avoid any bias in the system.

Telling judges to focus on "the child's best interests " sounds noble but that gives judges too much leeway, says Boucher, of L'Apres-rupture. "Now, judges calculate the best interest of the child is to stay with the mother because she was the main caregiver. Until we realize the importance of the father's role, men won't get custody. Now we say he didn't breast-feed so he's no use, he doesn't serve a purpose."

Legally favouring shared custody would change that, Osborne says. "If we create the presumption that when two parents go to court to fight, they're each going to come out with half, there's not going to be much fighting anymore," he says. "That also eliminates the profit from family law," he adds, complaining that in the current system lawyers and psychologists have a vested interest in prolonging divorces and making them very confrontational.

But Ottawa has twice studied and rejected the idea of adding a shared-custody presumption to the law.

"If the two of you can't work together, if you're going to have to have a trial, if you're going to sit there and go through what is inevitably a very negative process and you can't agree, maybe joint custody is not appropriate," says Bala, the Queen's law professor.

Asselin, of the women's federation, also insists judges should look at a child's interest above a parent's, "while favouring participation of both parents" and taking into account the fact that over the past 30 years, fathers have "taken a bigger and bigger role in the education of their children." There "can be all kinds of custody models, and obviously shared custody is a very positive one - if it's applicable."

Court custody battles are ugly, drawn out and pricey, so allegations of bias aren't surprising.

"Separation and divorce are emotionally and financially a traumatic experience," Bala says. "Some men can get past the anger, guilt, bitterness and betrayal and have a constructive relationship with the person they had a child with and have a really good relationship with the children, but often there are mixed emotions."

Bala notes divorces are the biggest source of complaints against judges, lawyers and psychologists. "Very, very few people have the maturity to go through a trial about custody, lose that trial, then say, 'You know, I think the judge was right,' " he adds.

The good news: Progress is being made on taking the acrimony out of the process. Quebec is a leader in encouraging mediation before or instead of court. This can be cheaper, faster - and less harmful to children.

"I always tell clients: Once you go to court, you surrender control to one person - the judge," Kidd says. Another option - judge-facilitated mediation - has helped settle some of her most contentious cases. "It fulfills the needs the parties have to say their spouse is an a--hole and all that," Kidd says. "Once they've said that to someone in authority, that liberates them to be able to sit down and negotiate." -

reprinted with permission

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War profiteering

The spoils of divorce are found on the real

estate market, tagged with For Sale signs.

Is it bad karma to make a low-ball offer when

a warring couple is desperate to sell their house?

The Ottawa Citizen

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Divorce may be a personal tragedy, but it was the best thing that happened to real estate.

"In the 1970s and 1980s, it created a new demographic of middle-aged people who were on the move," noted seasoned Montreal realtor Pamela Cyr, my agent and trusted confidant. "Women entered the workforce, which changed everything. They had their own income and they didn't stay in bad marriages.

It's rare to find couples who stay in the original marital home for 30 years anymore. Happy couples move up and unhappy couples move out."

After 25 years in the business, Cyr has seen affairs of the heart -- both sweet and sour -- create unexpected opportunities in real estate.

Divorce is the wild card, as is passionate love. When marriages go down in flames, the house goes on the market and prices are sometimes slashed. Tears are shed, hearts mend and the cycle starts again.

The cycle revs high after the holidays, when many unhappy couples throw in the towel.

The stress of acting civilized in front of house guests creates a perfect storm for bad marriages. All hell breaks lose after Christmas, notes well-known Montreal divorce lawyer Andrew Heft.

"Starting around Jan. 5, we get a lot of calls. It happens every year.

"The holidays are like a pressure cooker. When they're over, the lid blows off. That's when the assets, like the house, become an issue."

The love-torn nature of real estate was abstract to me until I bought my first home with my (first) husband. We found a starter condo for sale and made a bid.

Tossing and turning in bed that night, I disturbed my husband by reviewing the moral aspects of the situation: We knew the seller had fallen madly in love and bought an expensive home, so his motivation to sell was high. We knew he couldn't afford to carry two mortgages any longer. Was it wrong to take advantage of the situation with a low-ball offer?

Not according to the seller. Philippe Daviet, known as the vendor in these transactions, was thrilled to unload his first house -- even at $44,000 less than the original asking price.

"I had bought it nine years ago with my first wife, so it had some bad memories," explains Daviet, a software executive. "It was time to make new memories with my girlfriend, Estelle, in a bigger home.

"We found the perfect home near the Atwater Market and made an offer, waiving the conditional clause to sell the first property.

"I had to mortgage the first house to make the down payment on the bigger home. That left me with $50 in my pocket each week, for three months. I was so relieved to sell!"

Guilt fully assuaged, I slept soundly.

Cynthia Taylor has a different perspective on low real estate offers. The sale of her home in Lindenlea wasn't so joyous. "I got hosed," declares the marketing consultant. "I got hosed because I was divorcing. We should've fought for the full value of our house, but there was no working 'we' at that time and our agent was double-ending in a questionable fashion.

"We found out a few years later that our agent told the buyers that we didn't do any of the upgrades in the home, so we didn't get a dime over our original buying price, after living there five years."

Taylor and her ex-husband wanted $10,000 more, but they also wanted closure on the relationship.

"To hold out for a better counter offer, you need a capacity to play hardball at a time when you're emotionally bruised," she says. "Holding out for a better offer means more contact with your ex. We didn't have an ugly divorce, which is why I'm letting you print my last name, but we both just wanted out."

The house in question was unoccupied at the time of the sale. Both Taylor and her ex-husband were living elsewhere, outside Ottawa, occasionally using the home as a pied-à-terre.

"That's the worse thing you can do. Buyers and their agents smell the vulnerability," says Taylor.

"The house needs to look like a loving, happy environment. There need to be clothes in the closets and mail on the table," says Edmonton-based realtor and blogger Sheldon Johnson.

"Nothing says 'make me a lower offer' more than photos with some of the faces cut out. Nothing screams 'divorce' more than lawn chairs in the kitchen and a mid-life crisis car in the driveway."

If the sellers are coached properly, Johnson claims, they won't get low offers because their homes will be properly staged (Observe all those television shows on HGTV). Putting on a brave face can save you thousands of dollars.

"Clients selling a home in the middle of a divorce need a professional to coach them to act rationally," adds Johnson.

"You can't have a tempter tantrum and destroy everything you worked for. When buyers come to look at your property, they aren't just buying sticks and bricks; they're buying a home. They buy emotionally, and they don't want a stigmatized property. A house that looks like the cold battlefield of a divorce also signals the opportunity to low ball."

Nancy, 47, isn't giving buyers the chance. This Montreal-based scriptwriter who didn't want her last name used, is embroiled in a 21/2-year legal battle with her ex-boyfriend over the value of their home in downtown Montreal.

The real estate market is so precarious right now that she's afraid to put the house up for sale. Instead, she's trying to buy out her ex.

"It's no accident that my marriage broke down during a kitchen renovation," says Nancy, who requested anonymity to protect her two school-aged children.

"Our emotional problems are embedded in the house. Renovations test a couple's communication and we didn't survive. I knew he didn't want the new kitchen, but he OK'd the renovations to hide his affair. Instead of a new kitchen, he really wanted a sports car instead. I should've seen the red flag!"

Heartache can play havoc with people's decision-making abilities.

D.M., an editor at a film titling company, was so eager to split with his ex-girlfriend that he abandoned his stake in their home out of guilt for ending the relationship.

"I wasn't being magnanimous," says D.M., who wanted to conceal his full name to spare his ex's feelings. "For me, the house represented misery. We bought a cheap place at the dilapidated end of Dalhousie for $165,000, but there was a $1,500 emergency every month and I got laid off my job. We were there for two years, but I felt worse and worse about being in the house with her. When I finally announced I was leaving, she offered to return my part of the down payment, but I just wanted out. I gave her the washer and dryer, too."

Would he buy again?

"In a heartbeat -- with the right girl and enough cash," says D.M.

There it is again -- that love cycle. The cupid factor is equally strong when it comes to shaking up the real estate market.

"Love is one of the top reasons people buy real estate and marriage is a fantastic excuse to spend money on a home," says Montreal realtor and HGTV personality Tatiana Londono.

"But love is just as dangerous as divorce. It can cloud people's judgment just as much," says Londono.

"When people are in love and emotionally attached to the idea of buying a home and starting a life together, they will often want to buy something overpriced that they can't afford. Or, they'll want to buy beside a railway track or something too small or in a crappy neighbourhood. They need to be gently coaxed into acting rationally."

Joanne Latimer is a freelance writer and new homeowner.

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