A bizarre divorce trial involving a man with two wives ended in the husband’s favour.
That’s bad news for Evangeline Ramirez. She had hoped that the courts would throw out the case after hearing her version of events, in which she was misled to believe that Benjamin Toquero was single when they married 16 years ago in Whitehorse.
Instead, she’s being ordered to sell the family assets, which include several vehicles and two homes, and split the difference with Toquero, after debts have been paid.
The drawn-out, six-day trial featured its share of melodrama. At one point, protesters – mostly related to Ramirez – waved placards in front of the courthouse. At another, Ramirez appeared to suffer a panic attack on the stand and was whisked away in an ambulance.
But, in the end, Ramirez’s story didn’t hold up in the eyes of Judge Leigh Gower. Given her confusing, contradictory testimony on many matters, Gower concluded that “it is more likely than not that Mr. Toquero did disclose his previous marriage and children to Ms. Ramirez at the outset as he testified.”
That’s not to mean that Toquero himself is blameless. He “clearly lied,” Gower concluded, by claiming he was single on his immigration application, marriage papers, and statement of claim.
But Toquero later admitted in court filings that he has another wife and five children in the Philippines – the country of origin of both he and Ramirez. And his story remained consistent from that point on.
Toquero never divorced his first wife for a simple reason, he maintained. Divorce isn’t allowed in the Philippines, and annulments are pricey.
Gower concluded that Toquero’s previous marriage meant his union to Ramirez was never valid. But that didn’t sway the case in Ramirez’s favour.
That’s because all of the big assets were jointly owned by both spouses. And Gower concluded both contributed their fair share to the family janitorial business.
Ramirez told the court that Toquero did little for the business. But she had to renege on this statement, after Toquero’s lawyer rattled through a list of cleaning contracts that her client regularly performed.
It was just one of many inconsistencies that came back to haunt Ramirez. Gower ticked off more than a dozen in his judgment.
Ramirez didn’t disclose the contents of one bank account or her pension statements, despite having a one-year lead-up to the trial, and under reported the value of the family homes and vehicles.
And, rather than answer financial questions while on the stand, Ramirez frequently changed the subject, and accused he husband of being a bigamist and perjurer.
That didn’t wash with Gower, who concluded that Ramirez’s “anger and vindictiveness” discredited her.
That meant he gave no weight to her allegations that Toquero abused her.
“Indeed, the evidence, of Mr. Toquero is directly opposite. Not only did he deny any physical violence towards Mr. Ramirez, he testified and deposed in an earlier affidavit that Ms. Ramirez was physically abusive towards him.”
And, while Ramirez asserts that she is the victim, Gower noted that she is materially far better off than Toquero.
She lives in a larger home and drives a newer car. She controls all cleaning contracts, which have been shifted to a new business, contrary to a court order.
Toquero wanted several contracts to supplement his income as an automobile mechanic at Walmart, but Ramirez has refused to co-operate.
So Toquero sought compensation. The court agreed, but Ramirez has only made one payment. She’s $7,000 in arrears.
Ramirez’s lawyer suggested that her client keep at least three-quarters of the assets, but “no particular rationale was put forward to justify that suggested percentage,” wrote Gower.
Nor did the judge understand how he could divvy up the couple’s assets without selling everything, given how obstructive Ramirez has been about disclosing her financial details to date.
“It puts the cart before the horse to suggest that the information be obtained after the trial,” he wrote.
“While I appreciate that this is a rather drastic remedy, once again, it has been necessitated largely because of Ms. Ramirez’ own actions and her intractable position coming into this trial.”
Ramirez continues to try to have Toquero deported from Canada. She also plans to appeal Gower’s decision.
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