Family law is complex and the emotional stress that clients face makes it more difficult to navigate the legal system. Often, domestic issues can be resolved amicably and outside of a courtroom. When that is no longer possible, lawyers are required to restore order to families and resolve disputes reasonably and fair. Many believe that family law is only about a divorce, however, it encompasses a wide range of issues including child and spousal support, custody and access, property and even domestic violence. Our office of lawyers will assist you in understanding your rights and provide you with proper guidance along each step of the way.
Family Law Practice Areas
If you and your partner are seeking a divorce, you can apply for a divorce if you meet the following requirements:
- You were legally married in Canada or in any other country;
- You intend to separate permanently from your spouse or have left your spouse already with no reasonable expectation of reconciliation;
- You and/or your spouse have lived in Ontario for at least 12 months preceding your application.
In order to obtain a divorce, Federal and Ontario law requires that you show a breakdown in the marriage. This would include one of the three following:
You and your spouse have lived apart for a period of one year with no chance of reconciliation
Your spouse has committed adultery and you have not forgiven them
Your spouse has been physically or mentally harming
A domestic contract is a written document between two partners that indicates how issues will be dealt with while you are together or through a breakdown in the relationship. One such example is the issue of spousal support. These can be contractually agreed to prior to the breakdown of a relationship.
A domestic contract is often called a cohabitation agreement, marriage contract or a separation agreement.
An agreement made between non-married partners that outlines how they will deal with their issues while they are cohabitating or after they stop cohabitating together. Cohabitation agreements are a useful way of avoiding expensive and unpleasant disputes after the breakdown of a relationship.
A marriage contract, also known as a “prenup”, is an agreement between couples who intend to get married. It creates a legally binding contact that sets out the rights and obligations of both parties should there become a breakdown in the relationship. The benefit of having a marriage contract is that it reduces legal fees, provides clarity and guidance with respect to the division of assets.
An agreement made between married or common-law partners which addresses the issues upon the breakdown of the marriage.Separation agreements have many benefits including:
1. Faster, cost-effective and less stressful than attending court
2. Allows for any verbal agreement on the division of property, support, access, custody, etc. to be put in writing.
3. Can make a separation agreement on the issues that are agreeable while continuing to make negotiate on other issues. Separation agreements are often contested and set aside by the courts for failing to comply with specific requirements. Our lawyers are here to assist you in drafting and negotiating appropriate terms and ensuring that all requirements are complied with.
Separation agreements are often contested and set aside by the courts for failing to comply with specific requirements. Our lawyers are here to assist you in drafting and negotiating appropriate terms and ensuring that all requirements are complied with.
Separation and divorce present many fears and concerns regarding the custody and access of their children. While many believe the two terms are the same, they are not. Custody refers to having the legal right to make major decisions about how to care for and raise a child. Access refers to the time a parent spends with a child they usually don’t reside with.
Under Canadian and Ontario laws, a child should maintain heathy and constant contact with both parents. While these two are very contentious issues in the litigation process, the legal test for making a claim for custody and access orders is often the best interests of the child.
A parenting plan will be devised which will outline where you children will reside, how much time they will spend with each parent, and which parent makes important decision about how the children are raised.
Under our guidance, we put your fears to rest and provide you with peace of mind regarding your rights to custody and access.
- It is a parent’s responsibility to provide for their children’s financial needs. This obligation remains even if spouses separate or divorce and is considered to be a right of the child. Child support is typically paid by the higher-earning parent in accordance with the Federal Child Support Guidelines, which set fixed amounts of child support for all families at comparable income levels. Child support has two components – monthly payment and Section 7 “special and extraordinary expenses”
- Monthly Payment
- The non-residential parent is required to pay a fixed amount (known as the “Table Amount”) of child support based on his or her income and the number of children.
- Section 7 Expenses
- The Table Amount is intended to cover a child’s regular expenses such as clothing, food, transportation and so on. Children also have other expenses that need to be paid such as extraordinary extra-curricular expenses, medical and dental expenses, childcare and post-secondary expenses to name a few. These expenses are equally divided amongst parents.
- It is important to note that child support is payable as long as the children are dependant.
- Section 7 Expenses
- Following a separation, one spouse is often left in a worse financial position than the other. The Federal Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines provide a tool to calculate spousal support amounts. However, there are many additional issues that affect the calculation of spousal support. These include:
1. The length of the relationship
2. The age and health of the spouses
3. Financial situation of the spouses
4. The roles they maintained during the relationship
5. An agreement or arrangements during the course of the relationship
There are three conceptual bases to spousal support: compensatory, contractual and non-compensatory. The courts often determine a party’s entitlement based on both a compensatory and non-compensatory basis.
- i. An amount of support that the parties agree to in a contract, such as in a separation agreement.
- i. Where one party is at an economic disadvantage caused by marriage and requires spousal support. For example, one party was involved in child-rearing and homemaking which resulted in a reduction of earning capacity.
- i. This involves a claim for spousal support based on a need and reflects the economic interdependency that develops as a result of a marriage.
One of the mostly contested issues in a family law proceeding is the division of assets. In Ontario, the law provides that married spouses are entitled to share equally in one another’s increase in net worth from the date of marriage to the date of separation. Ontario law does not provide provisions for common law partners with respect to division of assets.
The net worth is called the net family property (“NFP”). The spouse with the higher NFP will be required to provide the other spouse half of the difference between the NFPs. This is what is called the equalization payment.
In Ontario, you have within two years of obtaining your divorce or within six years from the date of separation to make a claim for equalization of NFP