B.C. Family law courts trigger suicide
The horror shows that emerge from Canada’s family courts, those aggressive high-conflict battles that can go on for years, are often complicated and nuanced.
Jeramey A.’s story — Postmedia isn’t using his last name because two of his young children carry it — is certainly one such.
It involves an ex-wife and two daughters, a former fiancée and a young son, and a current wife named Angela.
But a couple of things are straightforward and clear.
On March 8, Jeramey finally signed off on the July 11, 2016, order from B.C. Supreme Court Judge B.J. Brown.
He unsuccessfully had applied for an order varying the amount of child and spousal support he had to pay his former wife, a total of $6,500 a month. She in turn was seeking he be found in contempt of another order and fined an additional $10,000; the judge adjourned those issues.
Another woman, with whom he’d been briefly engaged and fathered a son after his divorce, was seeking retroactive and ongoing child support for their son.
Both those applications were successful, bringing his total child and spousal debt to about $8,000 a month, but then, in fairness, that woman is herself a family court lawyer.
Early on the morning of March 9, Jeramey apparently rigged his truck so that when he drove down an embankment at the end of Page Road in Abbotsford, B.C., his neck would break.
In a scrawled and bloody suicide note found in the truck, he wrote: “FAMILY LAW NEEDS REFORM. I recommend mandated lower costs and less reward for false claims of abuse. Parental Alienation is devastating. I loved my children as much as a husband and father could. I see no light. Recommend; an authority consistent during high conflict separations: It is exploited in family law.
“Sorry Dad and Angie. I’m very sorry.”
He was 45 years old when he died, and as his current wife, Angie, told Postmedia in a telephone interview from B.C. Tuesday, “He had a hard life. He could not catch a break.”
Born into a Jehovah’s Witness family, he was kicked out when he was a teenager, lived with his grandmother and was basically cut off from everyone else in his family.
He was married the first time for almost eight years.
The woman accused him of assault, he was arrested, the charges eventually stayed. But, of course, he had to pay for a criminal lawyer to defend him.
This double whammy — a spouse making criminal allegations while custody and access applications are underway in family court — is known, Angie said, as “the silver bullet.”
Jeramey had a company that built cellphone towers and microwave dishes in B.C. and the north; the business dried up about the time of his divorce, when fibre optics took over.
In the end, he had declared bankruptcy, though the judge was skeptical that he really was bankrupt and imputed an income of $181,400 to him. He paid more than $330,000, Angela said, in legal fees.
He was in arrears, owed money to almost everyone.
B.C.’s Family Maintenance and Enforcement Program was chasing him, because while he always paid something in support, it wasn’t what the court had ordered, and FMEP was moving to take away his driver’s licence and passport for failing to meet his financial obligations, Angela said. His ex was going to get his pension, if and when he retired.
He hadn’t seen his daughters, now about eight and 10, for almost 11 months. They were, Angela said, completely alienated from him. He never got to see his son by the lawyer.
In October last year, he was jailed for non-payment of support and breaching court orders. This strapping man had never been in jail before and was terrified.
Angela knew he was in despair, but weeps that she didn’t realize the depths of it. “I just didn’t know,” she sobbed on the phone. “If he could have seen those girls, he could have handled all this …
“His bank accounts were locked, he lost his homes, his vehicle, his business. You emasculate a man and take away his ability to provide … he’s a human being. He has limits.”
The two had known one another as teens and reconnected in 2014; they married on Valentine’s Day the next year. Jeramey was completely honest with her: “He told me everything,” she said. “I knew what I was getting into.”
They were in court, for one thing or another, almost every month, Angie said. “Knowing you owe so much money, and they’re taking your passport and driver’s licence, your pension is ours … On top of that, seeing what it was doing to me, not seeing his daughters … he was in despair, an emasculated man in despair.
“He thought he was burdening me,” she sobbed. “‘You’ll love me until we’re old, you didn’t ask for this. You deserve more,’ but I didn’t want more, I wanted him.”
Two days before he died, Jeramey wrote his lawyer: “I’m tired … Not only have I lost my children which by itself has torn me into two, but I have lost all my assets in life … The level of cruelty brought on by what could have been a simple divorce was and still is mind blowing and I’m simply not the same person I was, and I expect I’ll never see that person again.”
At his memorial service, his best friend gave the eulogy and said, in part, that family courts and spousal support in particular “creates an artificial right to another person’s successes.”
I LOVED MY CHILDREN AS MUCH AS (I) COULD ... I SEE NO LIGHT.