Toronto Sun

December 11, 2001

Pair of deadbeats expect parents to foot the bill

By HEATHER BIRD -- Toronto Sun

I guess I'm old-fashioned, but whatever happened to the notion that the people who have the children are the ones who have to pay for them?

Didn't we learn that in Grade 10 health class? That having the baby is the easy part. It's the feeding, clothing and sheltering that's hard.

But Eric and Shari Lynn Fein are not a couple of kids who got into "trouble." They're both 37 years old, well beyond the age of majority, actually almost middle-aged. But judging from court documents, neither of them have ever had the financial smarts to parent a pair of hamsters, never mind a couple of little girls.

And for the longest time, that was no problem. According to Shari Lynn's statement of claim, the feeding, clothing and sheltering of young Hayley, 9, and Lindsay, 5, fell to Eric's parents. His dad, H. Lawrence Fein, is the founder and CEO of a successful television and film company.

Shari Lynn alleges that, thanks to the elder Fein and his wife, Beverley, the girls never lacked for a thing. There was private school, religious instruction, summer camp and vacations in Palm Beach. The in-laws also provided them with a fancy $715,000 house and underwrote all their groceries, gas and clothing.

Which was all well and good, until the marriage petered out late last year. Funny, but shortly afterwards, so did the dough.

While her claims for spousal support from the Feins (!) were shot down, Judge Craig Perkins has ruled that she might -- might have a case for breach of fiduciary duty against her ex-husband's wealthy parents. In other words, a future judge may find they provided a lavish lifestyle for 12 years and now have a duty to continue it.

In ordering that the lawsuit might go ahead, Perkins noted, somewhat wryly, that these types of actions appear to "be a growth industry." And in response to arguments by Shari Lynn's lawyer that justice would be served by keeping the older Feins in the picture, he remarked it was more precise to say "the mother wants me to keep the grandparents' deep pockets in the action."

While nothing has been proven in court, it is Shari Lynn's contention that her husband has deliberately divested himself of income and assets so he won't have to pay large amounts of spousal child support.

When they were married, he held a position in his dad's company which paid some $200,000 annually. These days, he's earning between $15,000 and $18,000 a year selling magazine subscriptions.

But that, according to court documents, hasn't stopped him from living the high life that she used to enjoy. As evidence, Shari Lynn has filed an affidavit complete with pictures showing him getting into a late-model Lexus. He is living well, she claims, because his parents are continuing to support him while she struggles to get by.

The Fein vs. Fein file at the court office is more than a foot thick. And, like most family law actions, it doesn't lack for any ugliness -- some of it self-directed.

In her claim, Shari Lynn explains that during her courtship she was wooed, in part, by the rich living that the Feins enjoyed. While the son implied their married life would be a comfortable one, the parents were the ones who made it happen. "They assisted in supporting the relationship by providing social activities ... vacation venues ... and, most importantly, by providing funds to Eric through their companies so that he appeared to Shari as capable of underwriting the lifestyle and activities the couple was enjoying."

Faced with the lure of a sumptuous life and "on the basis of the perceptions instilled" by the parents, she accepted his proposal. In other words, by her own admissions, there was fertile ground for gold-digging.

PARTY'S OVER

What a couple of deadbeats. One still supported by his parents in his 30s and the other attracted by the benefits of their money. The party's over and neither one of them wants to grow up. And guess who they want to fund this mess? Us. They've both applied for Legal Aid (although he has been turned down.)

If well-heeled parents want to be generous with their adult children, they can, but they shouldn't be responsible for them. Or their kids.

Shari Lynn and Eric are losers, they brought children into the world they can't provide for. It's an ugly situation, but the tragedy is, unless these grandparents step in, the kids will wind up the biggest losers of all.


Heather can be e-mailed at hbird@sunpub.com or visit her home page.
Letters to the editor should be sent to editor@sunpub.com.

Copyright © 2001, Canoe Limited Partnership.