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If you’re starting your research into family lawyers and feel incredibly overwhelmed with the ambiguity and complexity of prices, services, and time – you’re not alone

When it comes to family law, everyone knows their situation is unique to their lives. According to traditional legal services, every client pays the same hourly rate no matter the complexity of the service required. The process is often costly, and many turn to self-representation to save money and time. Without legal training, this can be a pretty risky way to approach such a crucial time in your life. We’ve seen this happen for years, and that’s why our team is here to provide a new look at hiring a lawyer:
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Family & Divorce Law Services

  • The Basics

    First off, you do not need to show that the other person was at “fault”, so long as you have been living separate and apart and there is no possibility of reconciliation, you can apply for a divorce.

    A divorce most commonly requires a year of separation before it can be granted however, the application process may start before the year is up. Exceptions to this rule require exceptional circumstances such as adultery or physical/mental abuse or cruelty.

    Even if the exemption does not apply to you, you may start the application for divorce before the year is up. This approach still requires a year wait, but effectively cuts down waiting time once the year is up.

    A divorce may be contested or uncontested. With the uncontested divorce process, the affected parties generally agree upon the terms of divorce, and reach consensus without the need for a trial or extensive court processes. With the co-operative nature of uncontested divorces, it is cheaper and faster than contested divorces.

    The contested divorce process essentially exists in opposition to uncontested divorces. Complex legal issues, financial issues and increased layers of court proceedings all commonly arise in contested divorces. In both scenarios, it is wise to seek legal counsel to inform an involved party of their rights, possible strategies and experienced advice.

    Notable Steps in the Process:

    Divorce requires an Application to an appropriate court. The Application will need to be served on the other partner and any other parties involved. Proof of Service also needs to be filed with the court. The person bringing the application is called the Applicant and the spouse is called the Respondent.

    The Respondent has 30 days to serve and file an Answer. Should the Respondent not do this, the process may continue with documents that may still satisfy a judge’s criteria for divorce.

    Approximate Length of Divorce Process:

    The court process may take roughly 3 – 4 months in uncontested divorces.

    Several factors may affect the length of time of divorces in general. These factors include the spouses’ location, ability to cooperate, the court in which the Application is filed, division of property issues, child custody and access, as well as any issues related to support.

    For further information regarding a the divorce process in Ontario, do not hesitate to contact us.

    Legislative Provision – Section 8 of the Divorce Act

    • (1) A court of competent jurisdiction may, on application by either or both spouses, grant a divorce to the spouse or spouses on the ground that there has been a breakdown of their marriage.
    • Breakdown of marriage

    (2) Breakdown of a marriage is established only if

    • (a) the spouses have lived separate and apart for at least one year immediately preceding the determination of the divorce proceeding and were living separate and apart at the commencement of the proceeding; or
    • (b) the spouse against whom the divorce proceeding is brought has, since celebration of the marriage,
      • (i) committed adultery, or
      • (ii) treated the other spouse with physical or mental cruelty of such a kind as to render intolerable the continued cohabitation of the spouses

    Recent Successes

    1) J. v. A.

    J and A submitted a Joint Divorce Application after 33 years of marriage. Their Application was rejected because it was unclear whether J was the same person listed in both her Divorce Application and Marriage Certificate.

    Can lack of clarity lead to a rejection of a Divorce Application?
    Yes, it can, if there is a question as there was in this case, whether J was the same person on the Divorce Application as well as the Marriage Certificate.

    AP Lawyers was able to help J by submitting Affidavit Evidence proving her identity and her Divorce Order was granted shortly thereafter.

    2) L. v. J.

    18 months after the parties separated, L retainedAP Lawyers to assist her with a simple Divorce Application. The parties had 2 children and despite multiple requests by L who lived primarily with the children, J would not pay child support. L no longer cared and just wanted a divorce.

    Are Divorce and child support connected?

    We were able to advise L that based on our experience, if parties are unable to show that the children would be adequately provided for, a court is unlikely to grant the divorce.

    We were able to assist L in getting child support for the children and being able to convince the court that the children were being adequately provided for, the Divorce Order was granted.

    As of March 1, 2021, child custody and access orders have been modified and updated to parenting orders and contact orders to better reflect the role and responsibilities of the parents and those with contact with the children and children’s best interests.

    Parenting orders replace existing custody and access orders. Parenting orders detail which parent or parents have decision-making responsibilities and include parenting time – i.e. access – to the children for both parents.

    Contact orders are for non-parents who have court-ordered visitation with children and replace existing access orders. Aunts, uncles, stepparents, grandparents, etc., can seek contact order in order to maintain relationships with children.

    Why the Change in Terminology?

    The Family Court felt the terms “access” and “custody” equated children as property owned by the parents. The new terminology better defines the role of each parent and non-parent in their duties and responsibilities to their children.

    How Is My Existing Custody and Access Orders Affected?

    Your existing custody and access orders have been automatically updated to reflect the new terminology. Your order has not changed regarding the terms and conditions. Now, you have a parenting order that includes parenting time and decision-making authority instead of custody and access orders.

    Is It Necessary to Request Changes to Existing Orders?

    There is no need to request changes to existing orders. However, if significant changes warrant a request or update to the existing orders, you should consult with our Scarborough parenting and contact orders lawyers for assistance.

    Have Parenting Duties for Existing Orders Changed?

    No, both parents need to continue to follow the existing order and prescribe parenting duties. Suppose you are filing for divorce or separating and do not have an existing order. In that case, you will need to obtain a parenting order to ensure that each parent's parenting time and decision-making responsibilities are legally enforceable.

    Who Can Obtain a Parenting Order?

    Whether cohabitating or married, any couple separating or filing for divorce should obtain a parenting order. The parenting order is necessary for the child’s parent, legal guardians with parental authority, or anyone in a parental role.

    What Does Parenting Time Mean?

    Parenting time is essentially the time each parent has with their minor children, whether the children primarily live with the parent or only see the parent on a prescribed visitation schedule. Parenting time is the time when a parent has responsibility for the care of their children, regardless of whether the children are physically present or not, like when they are at school or participating in extracurricular activities outside the home.

    What Responsibilities Are Part of Parenting Time?

    Parenting time requires parents to be responsible for their children when they are in their care. Parents can make day-to-day decisions for the children without consulting the other parent, such as what they will eat, establishing bedtimes, and deciding what their children will wear.

    Although, depending on the particular circumstances of your case, your parenting order could contain unique requirements regarding day-to-day- decision-making based on the child’s best interest.

    Which Parent Is Allowed to Make Significant Decisions?

    Significant decision-making authority will be defined in the parenting order based on the child's best interest. It could include making decisions regarding the child’s education, religion, health, language, culture, and so on. The extent of this authority is dependent on the following conditions of the parenting order:

    • Divided-Decision Making – This is a type of joint custody, now joint decision-making authority where one parent will make certain significant decisions, and the other parent will make the other significant decisions. To illustrate, one parent may be allowed to make decisions regarding healthcare and education, and the other parent may be responsible for making decisions regarding extracurricular activities and religion.
    • Joint Decision-Making – Formerly known as joint custody, joint decision-making is when both parents are tasked with jointly making significant decisions for their children.
    • Sole Decision-Making – Previously known as sole custody, this is where one parent has the authority to make all significant decisions for the children without having to consult or obtain approval from the other parent.
    How Is Decision-Making Authority Established?

    Parents are empowered by the Family Courts to establish a decision-making agreement that reflects the child’s best interest. In cases where there is conflict, or the agreement would create a power imbalance, the Family Court will decide what type of decision-making authority each parent will have.

    How Is Parenting Time Determined?

    Family courts want parents to have sufficient parenting time with their minor children. The parents can create a suitable parenting time schedule as long as it maintains structure, promotes stability, and ensures predictability for their children while also being in their best interest.

    However, the court will get involved when parents cannot reach a suitable agreement or the agreement is not in the best interest of the children.

    How Have Access Arrangements Changed?

    Previous access arrangements have been updated to reflect one of the new parenting time arrangements as follows:

    • Shared Parenting Time – This is the new term to refer to joint custody or shared custody. Each parent is given at least 40% of parenting time with their children to ensure children get about the same amount of time with each parent.
    • Spilt Parenting Time – Previously referred to as split custody, split parenting time is where the amount of time with each parent is split between the children, such that each parent ends up having at least 60% or more time with one child. This type of arrangement can occur when a couple has two or more children.
    • Majority Parenting Time – If you were the custodial parent or had sole custody under an existing order, you now have a majority parenting time arrangement. You have at least 60% or more parenting time with your children.
    Is Child Support Now a Part of a Parenting Time Order?

    No, child support is still considered a separate order and agreement. However, parenting time is used to determine the amount of financial support each parent should contribute towards their minor children following the appropriate Child Support Guidelines.

    What Else Can Parenting Orders Include?

    Parenting orders can include more than parenting time and decision-making authority. Parents can request their parenting order include other details, such as restrictions on child relocation, preferred communication method between the parent, switching schools, etc.

    How Is Parenting Time Established?

    The Family Court wants both parents to have as much parenting time as possible with their minor children. However, the amount of time each parent has will be based on the best interest of the children.

    The court will consider each parent's conduct when deciding what is in the child's best interest. For instance, if one parent has a history of physical violence or substance abuse, the court will place restrictions on parenting time, such as requiring supervised parenting time. Supervised parenting time would be considered as being in the child’s best interest in this context as it allows the parent to spend time with the child while under the direct supervision of a responsible party, such as the other parent, a social worker, or an extended family member.

    Do I Need a Contact Order If I Have a Non-Parent Access Order?

    A contact order replaces your existing order. A contact order can also be requested by any person who has a unique relationship with a minor child yet is not regarded as their parent or legal guardian. The contact order may have been required in order to continue to have visitation with the child.

    Who Needs a Contact Order?

    Any person who is not regarded as the child's parent or legal guardian who wants visitation with a minor child needs a contact order. Some of the more common relationships where a contact order is necessary include stepparents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

    What Type of Contact Will I Have?

    Contact orders can consist of different types of contact with the minor children. You could have scheduled visits that are unsupervised or supervised. You could have contact with other forms of communication, including scheduled phone calls and video chats. Text messaging may also be allowed.

    How Can I Obtain a Parenting Order or Contact Order in Scarborough?

    Suppose you do not have existing child custody and access orders. In that case, it is highly recommended to file for a parenting order or contact order with assistance from our family lawyer in Scarborough. Agreements regarding parenting orders and contact orders can be reached when both parties are willing to negotiate and cooperate.

    However, if necessary and requested, the family court will review any agreements to ensure they follow the Children’s Law Reform Act (CLRA) and the Divorce Act guidelines. The CLRA is used when parents are separating and not filing for divorce, for cohabitating couples that are separating, and for non-parents seeking a contact order.

    The Divorce Act is used when the parents are seeking divorce and dissolution of the legal marriage.

    Statutory Factors for Parenting and Contact Orders

    The most important statutory factor the Family Court will use when establishing parenting and contact orders is deciding what is in the child’s best interest – not on what the parents, non-parents, or child wishes.

    The court will consider the child’s physical safety, security, psychological and emotional state, and well-being. Additionally, the court evaluates the relationships, specific needs, and age of the child and their parents or non-parents. Other factors may be considered if they are relevant to your circumstances.

    Who Enforces Parenting and Contact Orders?

    The Family Court establishes specific conditions in parenting and contact orders when one party refuses to comply with the order. The court views any refusal to adhere to the order as contempt. The court can include language where parents can get assistance from police agencies to return and/or remove children from the non-compliant parent.

    Your Scarborough parenting and custody order lawyer can also aid with the enforcement of the order. They can contact the other party’s lawyer to obtain their assistance with compliance. If need be, they can also file the non-compliance with the Family Court.

    However, parents and non-parents should attempt to remain somewhat flexible when issues do arise. For instance, the children were not returned on time, and the other party failed to notify you of the delay. Instead of involving law enforcement or your lawyer, you could simply remind the other party about notifying you when they are running late and the importance of maintaining stability for the children by returning them on time.

    Filing for a Parenting Order or Contact Order in Scarborough

    Are you getting ready to separate? Maybe you are already separated and preparing to file for divorce? Do you have concerns about your existing order? Get the help you need by contacting AP Lawyers in Scarborough to schedule a confidential consultation today!

    Our family law firm in Scarborough has assisted parents, and non-parents obtain parenting orders and contact orders. We have worked on complex cases, modifications to existing orders, and litigating matters in court when necessary.

    Children typically will spend more time with one parent than the other when parents separate. Therefore, child support is an important issue that needs to be dealt with when parents separate. Parents do not have to file for divorce, nor do they need to be legally married to request child support.

    When children live and spend more time in one parent’s care, the expenses for the children are typically more. Yet, one parent should not be burdened with providing 100% of the children’s financial support. They are entitled to seek financial support from the other parent in the form of child support payments.

    The Family Courts require parents to be financially responsible for their children. The parent responsible for child support payments is meeting this requirement by paying their share of childcare expenses.

    What is a dependent child?

    The definition of a dependent child is typically any child that is less than 18 years old. However, if they get married, voluntarily withdraw from parental control, or become fully independent once they reach age 16, they are no longer considered dependent.

    However, there are certain exceptions parents need to be aware of that could affect the duration of child support payments. For instance, if the child is disabled or has special needs, or is enrolled in a full-time university degree program, child support payments can continue after the child turns 18.

    Who creates the child support agreement?

    The parties can enter into these Agreements themselves, or they can bring an Application to the Family courts, asking for a child support order.

    How are child support payments determined?

    Initially, financial information, such as income tax returns, business statements, pay stubs, and other such documents, are reviewed to determine the income and earning capacity of each parent. From there, the courts rely on the Child Support Guidelines to determine the exact amount of child support.

    Can child support payments change?

    Yes, child support payments can change and should change yearly based on the payor’s income. The payor is the parent paying child support. The obligation to change child support payment especially where the payor’s income has increased, exists independent of whether or not request is made by the recipient for them to update their financial information. The payor can also request the other parent update their financial information if there has been a change in earning capacity that can impact the amount of child support payable (for e.g. in shared parenting situations) or if there are special and special expenses being paid by both parents.

    How are child support payments enforced?

    Family Courts will fill all child support orders with the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) to begin enforcement once the order is signed and becomes legally binding. The FRO is responsible for enforcing child support payments using the following methods:

    • The FRO takes necessary action when payments are missed.
    • The FRO serves as the intermediary between the parents on behalf of the court to ensure payments are collected and issued.
    • The FRO collects payments from a parent who lives outside the jurisdiction where their children primarily live and issues those payments to the other parent.
    What are the Child Support Guidelines?

    The Child Support Guidelines provide a reference for the parents and the Family Courts to use to determine how much child support the payor will need to pay. Each province and territory in Canada has its own tables, and amounts can vary from one area to the next.

    Are There Any Exceptions?

    There are a few exceptions where the Family Court could lower child support amounts from the Table Amount. For example, in cases of undue hardship, where the payor’s income is very high, or a stepparent, grandparent, or another legal guardian has a financial responsibility to a child, the amount can be reduced.

    Does the court look at both parents Table Amounts?

    Yes, in cases involving shared parenting, the Family Court will review the Table Amount for each parent to determine their respective payments. The smaller amount is deducted from the larger amount. The difference is typically the amount of the child support payment.

    Additionally, when there are extraordinary and special expenses, like daycare, healthcare insurance premiums, medical bills, extracurricular activity expenses, etc., the Family Court will take these into consideration when the payor is fully covering these expenses. As such, child support payments could be reduced. Alternatively, when parents split these expenses, then the amount of child support may not change.

    How do I know my Table Amount?

    Your Scarborough child support lawyer can assist you in determining your Table Amount. For example, if you reside in Ontario and the children reside in Ontario, then the Ontario Table Amount is used.

    On the other hand, if you reside in British Columbia and the children reside in Ontario, the British Columbia Table Amount is used. For payors who reside outside of Canada, and the children reside in Ontario, the courts will use the Ontario Table Amount by default.

    What is Imputing Income?

    The Family Court judge has the right to impute income as allowed by the Child Support Guidelines. Imputing income is used in various situations such as where the payor has a higher earning capacity and intentionally quit their job, is underemployed, or attempting to circumvent their financial obligation to their children.

    The details about imputing income are contained in Section 19 of the Child Support Guidelines as follows:

    • 19. (1) The court may impute such amount of income to a spouse as it considers appropriate in the circumstances, which circumstances include the following:
      • (a) the spouse is intentionally under-employed or unemployed, other than where the under-employment or unemployment is required by the needs of a child of the marriage or any child under the age of majority or by the reasonable educational or health needs of the spouse;
      • (b) the spouse is exempt from paying federal or provincial income tax;
      • (c) the spouse lives in a country that has effective rates of income tax that are significantly lower than those in Canada;
      • (d) it appears that income has been diverted, which would affect the level of child support to be determined under these Guidelines;
      • (e) the spouse’s property is not reasonably utilized to generate income;
      • (f) the spouse has failed to provide income information when under a legal obligation to do so;
      • (g) the spouse unreasonably deducts expenses from income;
      • (h) the spouse derives a significant portion of income from dividends, capital gains, or other sources that are taxed at a lower rate than employment or business income or that are exempt from tax; and
      • (i) the spouse is a beneficiary under a trust and is, or will be in receipt of income or other benefits from the trust.

    The judge has complete discretion to decide if imputing income is necessary by reviewing situations listed in Section 19 and considering scenarios not covered in this section.

    It is essential to remember the courts will always place the child’s best interest first and foremost, including when deciding whether to impute income. To ensure children are receiving financial support from both parents, the judge will intervene when necessary and impute the payor's income to ensure both parents are contributing fairly to the financial support of their children. This financial obligation is covered in in Section 26.1(2) of the Divorce Act and Section 31 of the Family Law Act.

    To illustrate, imputing income is common for many parents who are self-employed or are a small business owner. Since there are deductions and tax write-offs they can utilize to lower their gross income, their tax returns do not accurately reflect their earning capabilities. As such, the judge can decide to impute the income of the payor.

    How likely will the judge impute my income?

    The judge could impute your income for any of the nine reasons covered in Section 19 of the Child Support Guidelines. Equally so, your income could be imputed if you are self-employed, underemployed, own a small business, attempting to hide income, or deliberately quit working. The primary issue when imputing income is holding the parent accountable for their financial responsibilities towards their children.

    Can the court stop me from starting a business?

    No, the court cannot stop you from becoming self-employed or starting a business. This is entirely up to you to decide. However, the court can hold you accountable for child support and impute your income accordingly. It is the payor’s responsibility to plan ahead so they can continue to maintain their child support payments regardless of their decision to become self-employed or start a business.

    What other discretion do courts have regarding child support payments?

    The Family Courts can rely on case law relating to other imputing income cases, as well as unique circumstances, to use their discretion to vary child support payments as they see fit while protecting the child’s right to be financially supported by his or her parent.

    Past Imputing Income Cases
    • In Quintal v. Quintal (1997), 9576 (ON SC), the father was forced to resign and take early retirement. He asked the court to reduce child support payments because his income was drastically reduced from $51,577 to a pension of $12,288. The family court agreed to reduce the child support payments for six months as the father was actively seeking employment, after which the payments would revert to the former amount whether he found employment or not.
    • In LePage v. Porter (2000), 7 R.F.L. (5th) 335 (S.C.J.), the court held since the parent decided to leave working as a social worker to engage in a stock speculation and real estate investing venture, and choose to venture into a self-start-up career outside their usual profession, according to Section 26.1(1) of the Divorce Act, the parent still had an obligation to pay child support. Even though the parent’s income plummeted, the court still imputed his income.
    • In Visnijic v. Visnijic (2000), 7 R.F.L. (5th) 195 (S.C.J.), the court stated if the payor parent wished to pursue self-employment, they must continue to meet their child support financial responsibility either through borrowing or using their business capital.
    • In Depace v. Michienzi (2005), 5 R.F.L. (5th) 40 (S.C.J.), the court held they might allow for a grace period to allow for start-up business losses a payor parent may face when starting a business.
    • In Risen v. risen (1998) AC.W.S (3d) 669 (Ont. Ct.) (Gen Div), the family court held that while Section 19 of the Child Support Guidelines establishes a non-exhaustive list of reason to impute income, the court has the discretion to deviate from the list, as the case bears some similarity to the reasons on the list.
    • In Mascarenhas v. Mascarenhas (1999), 44 R.F.L. (4th) 131 (Ont. Ct.) (Gen Div), the family court held that in any situations where the court has to use their discretion outside the list in Section 19, it should have some resemblance to the items on the list.
    Is a child support agreement dependent on parenting and contact orders?

    One common misconception parents have about their child support agreement, and parenting orders is they are dependent on each other. Some parents believe if one parent prevents parenting time for the payor, then the payor does not have to make child support payments.

    However, this is not true, and both parents could end up in trouble with the court. Child support orders are considered a separate agreement. So, the payor is required to make payments even when the other parent is preventing them from having parenting time with their children.

    Conversely, the payor has a right to parenting time even when they are not making child support payments. When these situations arise, it is best to resolve them with assistance from our Scarborough family lawyers.

    Why get help from Scarborough child support lawyers?

    There are all sorts of scenarios and situations that vary from one case to another. The circumstances in your case are often different from someone else. Our child support lawyers can provide assistance in determining the financial contribution of each parent to help you get an idea of how much child support you will receive or will need to pay.

    Furthermore, we perform an in-depth financial analysis and utilize the Child Support Table to determine the amounts. If you have concerns over situations where imputing income may be necessary, it is better to obtain legal representation.

    It is worthwhile to be prepared for child support matters when they arise, whether you will be receiving child support payments or are the payor.

    AP Lawyers have been assisting parents with child support matters for numerous years. Our experience with Family Courts, child support payments, and situations where imputing income can occur can be of great value when you need legal advice and representation to resolve child support issues.

    For further information or to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your child support matters, please feel free to contact AP Lawyers in Scarborough.

    What is spousal support

    In the eyes of the law, spousal relationships are essentially financial partnerships. Accordingly, when a relationship ends through divorce or separation one party may be required to assist the other through financial support – legally referred to as spousal support. Judges on a case-by-case basis determine whether spousal support is appropriate, the amount and length of time that it should be paid.

    Who can claim spousal support

    In order to claim spousal support you must fall within the legal definition of a “spouse.” There are two statutes that define “spouse”: the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act (FLA). When claiming for support you must do so under one of these statutes.

    The Divorce Act is a federal statute, which can be applied any in province. Under this statute, either of two persons who are married to each other can claim for spousal support (s. 2). If a divorce has already been granted, support claims can only be brought under the Divorce Act and not the FLA.

    The FLA is a provincial statue, which governs family issues within Ontario. Under s. 1 of the FLA “spouse” includes:

    • Either of two persons who are married to each other or have entered into a marriage that is voidable or void in good faith;
    • Either of two persons who are not married and have cohabited continuously for a period of at least three years in a conjugal relationship; and
    • Either of two persons who are not married but who are in a relationship of some permanence if they are the natural or adoptive parents of a child.

    If spousal support has been decided under the FLA and the parties then decide to get a divorce, the spousal support order remains in force until the Divorce Act puts a new order in place. In the event the parties have an order from the FLA and choose not to pursue a claim for spousal support under the Divorce Act, there will be no changes made to the support order under the FLA.

    Factors considered in determining spousal support

    Both the Divorce Act (s.15.2) and FLA (s. 33(8) have a set of principles to establish entitlement. The courts have held that the main concern is to redress the economic consequences of spousal relationships. The factors taken into consideration to determine this are: length of the relationship, the parties’ financial circumstances, and the roles the parties fulfilled while together.

    The Supreme Court of Canada, in Bracklow v Bracklow identified three models in determining the basis for spousal support:

    • Contractual: where the court will consider agreements between the parties to create or limit mutual support obligations
    • Compensatory: where the court will compensate a spouse who suffered economic disadvantage due to the marriage or where a spouse has contributed to the economic advantage of the other spouse
    • Needs based: where the court will consider the needs, means, and other circumstances of the spouse in order to determine if they are able to support themselves without the assistance of the other party.

    The Role of Conduct in determining spousal support payments

    Misconduct is not a consideration in spousal support orders under the Divorce Act (s. 15.2(5)). However, under subsection 33(10) of the FLA the court may consider misconduct in rare cases. For instance, whether a spouse has been unfaithful will not be taken into account under the Divorce Act, but it can be a consideration in making a spousal support order under the FLA. The misconduct must have obviously and grossly attributed to the breakdown of the marriage.

    Moreover, entering a new relationship does not disentitle you to spousal support. However, it is a factor in assessing need and will mitigate the amount of spousal support based on the contribution of the new partner.

    Factors considered in assessing the amount and duration of spousal support

    Neither statute specifies directions as to the quantum of spousal support. The process requires that both parties exchange financial information and prepare budgets showing spending patterns during the relationship and current need. The standard of living during the marriage is the main factor in assessing the appropriate level of support. However, the payor’s income will also be considered and may limit the ability to replicate the pre-separation standard of living. The court will look at the payor’s income throughout the relationship, their present employment, as well as potential earnings. In other words, if the payor ceases to be employed shortly before or after separation, their obligation to pay spousal support does not cease.

    Other examples of factors that may be considered by the court are: mental and physical health, amount of child support, need for education/training to become self sufficient, duration of marriage, domestic contracts and loss of career opportunities due to responsibilities to the household during the marriage.

    Unlike child support, there are no mandatory guidelines in assessing spousal support. Since 2008, Ontario courts have used the advisory Spousal Support Guidelines as basis for determining how much spousal support should be paid and for how long. Although they are not mandatory, lawyers and judges regularly use them. Essentially, information in the particular case is factored into a very complex formula to calculate a low, middle and high range of support amounts to be considered. It is important to note, the courts maintain discretion in assessing spousal support on case-by-case basis and as such there is no guarantees as to how much will be awarded.

    Where there is a material change of circumstances after an order has been made, either spouse may apply for re-assessment of amount and duration. For instance, in the event the judge states that child support has been used to limit spousal support, it is possible to apply to the court to have spousal support increased once child support is no longer necessary.

    Final Spousal Support Orders

    The court will give a final support order that may be indefinite, time limited or subject to review. An indefinite order means spousal support will only be varied if there is a material change in circumstances. For instance, if the recipient spouse becomes financially independent the payor may be able to apply to reduce or eliminate spousal support. Time limited orders are often provided in short-term marriages where there is evidence that the recipient spouse will find employment in a specific time frame or where they are not making reasonable efforts to find employment. Finally, where there is uncertainty at the initial decision, the court may order that a review of the spousal support order take place after a fixed period. Review orders are available under the Divorce Act, however, it is discretionary under the FLA.

    Temporary Spousal Support orders (interim spousal support)

    Where a spouse requires financial support immediately it may be possible to attain temporary relief pending a final order. This can be achieved by either having both parties agree to an arrangement or by bringing a motion and requesting an order from the court. For interim spousal support. The purpose for interim spousal support is to permit the dependent spouse to live in reasonable comfort in accordance with the parties’ means, pending a final decision on the issue.

    Lump-sum spousal support

    A lump-sum payment is a one time payment where no further spousal support may be provided thereafter. A party can request a lump-sum payment subject to the availability of sufficient resources. This would be most appropriate where the parties want a clean break; where the payor spouse is at high risk of default, or; after a short-term marriage where the award is minimal. For tax purposes, it should be noted that a lump-sum payment is not taxable in the recipient’s hands or tax deductible to the payor.

    AP Lawyers can assist you with your spousal support issues. Contact us for a consultation to discuss how we can help you.

    Property Claims and Equalization of Family Property

    Property Claims:
    Upon separation or divorce, couples have to deal with the often complex issue of dividing their property. It’s worth noting that unlike support, property division is an area in which common-law partners without cohabitation agreements often run into difficulties.

    Common-law partners do not enjoy the same privileges that outright married couples do. It might be easier to say that common-law partners, although often honoured legally, do not have the same extent of privileges as married couples in the eyes of the law. For example, there is a significant difference is in the treatment of the home in which the couple cohabited. For married couples matrimonial homes are treated specially in relation to other family property.

    Also, common-law spouses are not automatically entitled to equalization of net family property, there are other common-law rules however that can be used to ensure that common law spouses get a reasonable share of the family property upon separating from a partner who has title to the property

    Married couples are entitled to more rights and privileges in regards to property claims and this includes the matrimonial home. Both parties have equal rights to reside in the home. Also, exclusive possession of the home may be granted to either partner regardless of the name on the ownership documents, or if it is jointly owned, regardless of the perception that one person is entitled to the property if they earn more or brought more assets into the marriage or accumulated more at the end of the relationship. The law sees the marriage as an equal partnership between the two partners.

    Section 24(3)(4) of the Ontario Family Act which determines whether the court will make an order for exclusive possession states that the court shall consider,

    • (a) the best interests of the children affected;
    • (b) any existing orders under Part I (Family Property) and any existing support orders;
    • (c) the financial position of both spouses;
    • (d) any written agreement between the parties;
    • (e) the availability of other suitable and affordable accommodation; and
    • (f) any violence committed by a spouse against the other spouse or the children.

    At AP Lawyers we always start by looking at the issue of ENTITLEMENT. By asking the right questions and understanding the nature of the relationship, we can determine the threshold question – is there any entitlement to spousal support in this particular case?

    Income disparity alone does not create entitlement to spousal support.

    An often-overlooked factor, is the basis of entitlement to spousal support? This affects how much spousal support will be payable.

    Recent Successes

    J. v. A.

    In J v. A the parties were married for 7 years. They had a son – who was 6 years old. J was the primary caregiver to their son and worked for himself on a part time basis so he could care for the child. Upon separation, the parties agreed to a shared parenting plan but in reality, the child was in J’s care for most of the time.

    We were able to negotiate spousal support at the high range for J as it is important for the child to enjoy a similar standard of living in both homes. We achieved this despite A’s position that she should pay no support because of the shared parenting arrangement.

    P. v. A.

    P retained Angela Princewill after unsuccessfully trying for years to get a variation of child and spousal support to be in line with A’s income increases as initially agreed to by the parties.

    We got A to pay a substantial amount for retroactive child and spousal support.

    A wanted income imputed to P who intended to return to school to retrain for a new career. Angela Princewill successfully set ongoing spousal support for another 5 years with no income imputed to P. This would allow P complete two years of school, find a job and get more stable in her job before spousal support terminates.

    J. v. M.

    Shortly after separation, J moved aggressively for a sale of the matrimonial home. M was concerned about her survival as she was unemployed and could not afford to qualify for a mortgage or even rent a place with no income.

    We vehemently resisted the home being listed for sale, until the issue of spousal support was resolve by a court Order.

    K. v. R.

    K and R had a very amicable separation. R helped K find a new home, secure a mortgage and even helped with the actual move.

    R then drafted a Separation Agreement which he convinced K was heavily in her favour and asked her to sign it, without independent legal advice.

    Thankfully, K sought legal advice from Angela Princewill.

    K was offered $0 in child support, $3,000 in spousal support and half the proceeds of sale of the matrimonial home only. Angela Princewill got K $2,300 for child support, $3,200 in spousal support, half the proceeds of sale of the matrimonial home, plus an additional equalization payment of $360,000.00.

    When a marriage breakdown, or parties who are cohabiting separate, they must resolve certain issues which could include:

    • Custody
    • Child support
    • Division of Property
    • Access
    • Spousal Support

    These issues can be resolved by the parties through negotiation, mediation and/or Arbitration.

    Physical separation is not a prerequisite. In Ontario, separation is recognized even though the parties continued to live in the same home.

    The best-case scenario at the end of a relationship is entering into a Separation Agreement, which articulates the parties’ settlement terms and ensures the parties avoid the difficult and expensive litigation process.

    The end of a relationship is always difficult and uncertainty about the legal ramifications can compound the difficulty.

    It is important to seek legal advice from competent legal professionals even when you and your partner are “amicable”. This is where AP Lawyers come in. As experienced negotiators, we work with our clients to get them the best possible deal while maintaining the spirit of co-operation necessary to reach a final deal.

    Too often, parties who believe they are amicable negotiate, draft and sign their Separation Agreements without the involvement of lawyers. We strongly advice against this. Here are a few of the issues we have observed in scenarios where parties have drafted their own Separation Agreement:

    • Lack of clarity on terms of the Agreement
    • One party gives too much due to a lack of understanding of the law
    • One party receives too little because they did not understand the law and even if they did, they were coerced into the agreement
    • Fail to address foreseeable future events
    • No mechanism provided for change
    • Contradictory provisions that affect the interpretation of the agreement
    • Insufficient financial disclosure either due to lack of knowledge or manipulation by one party
    • Issues inadvertently left unresolved
    • Lack of independent legal advice which makes it easy to set aside the Separation Agreement.

    We could go on, but we think you get the idea. Unfortunately,the costs and consequences of a poorly drafted Separation Agreement greatly exceeds the cost of getting it right the first time.

    Angela Princewill and her Associates at AP Lawyers have negotiated and drafted hundreds of Separation Agreements. These Agreements have ranged from the simple to the complex, involving various other financial, tax and medical professionals.

    S. v. C.

    The parties negotiated, drafted and signed their Separation Agreement without involving lawyers.

    10 years later, the parties were in litigation over the issues of child and spousal support.

    S understood one thing, C understood another, and the Separation Agreement was not clear. Even worse, the terms were contradictory. S sought back payment of about $350,000 because of significant post separation increases in C’s income. We believed C owed S nothing based on his understanding of what he signed.

    Ultimately, we settled the matter for only a fraction of the $350,000 and an amount that was much less than the legal fees if we were to take the matter through to Trial.

    C is a busy professional and was thrilled with the result. Not only did he not have to waste time and money attending court, he was able to protect his future income.

    This was a very expensive lesson for both parties who spent tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. The animosity could have been avoided and a Separation Agreement could have been prepared for 1% of the legal fees the parties had to later incur.

    C. v. M.

    After 26 years of marriage, C and M agreed they will be happier apart, than together.

    C consulted with AP Lawyers and Angela Princewill advised her that given the level of cooperation between C and M, and the simplicity of the issues, C could actually negotiate settlement ideas with M directly.

    Angela Princewill educated C on her rights and obligations. She advised C on various options that would work for C’s family and armed with this knowledge, C and M were able to agree on settlement terms, subject to each one obtaining independent legal advice.

    Angela Princewill believed the settlement terms were fair and proceeded to draft a Separation Agreement for the parties.

    M was given a chance to review the draft to ensure the draft reflected what the parties had agreed to. He also obtained independent legal advice, so he also understood the legal ramification of the Agreement. M signed the Separation Agreement with his lawyer while C signed hers with us.

    Many couples in Canada choose to live together without getting married. Approximately 17% of couples living together are cohabitating in a common-law relationship.

    However, this number does not accurately reflect the real rate of couple cohabitating together, which in fact is much higher.This is because many couples just choose to live together without reporting that they’re in a common-law relationship. Other relationships are so short-lived that the parties do not meet the definition of common-law under the Income Tax Act, or the Ontario Family Law Act.

    The Canada Revenue Agency considers you to be in a common-law relationship when you have cohabited for 12 months, however, common-law relationships for family law purposes are defined differently all-around Canada.

    In Ontario, for spousal support purposes¸ it means two persons who are not married to each other and have cohabited,

    (a) continuously for a period of not less than three years, or

    (b) in a relationship of some permanence, if they are the parents of a child as set out in section 4 of the Children’s Law Reform Act.

    Regardless of the situation, it is important to protect yourself, especially when you choose to own property with your partner or are bringing in valuable property into the relationship.

    A cohabitation agreement typically lays out terms for division of assets and spousal support when a common-law relationship comes to an end. This is similar to a marriage contract in that it outlines each spouse’s rights and responsibilities. Such written agreementbecomes enforceable if unfortunately,the relationship ends.

    Should you get married to your partner, your cohabitation agreement automatically becomes a marriage contract without any further action required.

    Many people have misconceptions about cohabiting, thinking their assets and finances are protected because they did not get married. This could not be further from the truth.

    Firstly, marriage is not a prerequisite for entitlement to spousal support. Secondly, when it comes to property division, there are Trust Laws that can be applied so that property is divided as though the parties were married.

    The only way to achieve some level of certainty is to enter into a property negotiated and drafted cohabitation agreement.

    At AP Lawyers, we follow our standard 6-step process of:

    1. Consultation
    2. Communication
    3. Disclosure
    4. Negotiation
    5. Drafting
    6. Execution

    We have helped people from all works of life to draft cohabitation agreements that they are happy with. Some own significant assets, while others want to protect assets they will acquire in the future. The one thing they all have in common is that they want to define the terms should the relationship fail, rather than leaving things to chance and uncertainty.

    Commonly referred to as a ‘prenup,’ a marriage contract, under section 52 Family Law Act, is an agreement outlining the terms parties have agreed to usually on how to resolve certain issues on a breakdown of the marriage.

    It will usually address how you and your spouse will divide your finances and assets. Everyone can benefit from a marriage contract, even if you only have a small amount of assets. This agreement will protect your separate property, support your estate plans, define what property is considered marital or not, save money in reducing conflicts, outline special agreements, and establish any procedures/protocols you may want to follow for deciding on future matters between you and your partner.

    The valuable characteristic of marriage contracts is that the couple have the autonomy to decide almost everything. If a marriage contract is non-existent, divorce becomes a nightmare and each spouse is essentially left unprotected and vulnerable. By outlining rights and responsibilities, it becomes easier to divide everything and adhere to any special arrangements regarding support, property, education, etc. without having a court decide for you.

    It is the dreaded conversation that no one wants to have before marriage; however, the consequences of this may lead to difficult months and sometimes even years settling everything.

    One of the most common mistakes a couple makes regarding marriage contracts is not knowing that they can still enter into an agreement after they are married. Should a couple choose not to address a marriage contract before marriage, they are able to enter into one after marriage as long as they are not doing so with the intention to get divorced in the near future.

    At AP Lawyers, we follow a 6-step process with a couple who want to draft a marriage contract

    1. Initial consultation – We spend time at this stage clarifying your objectives. Before providing any advice. It is imperative that we understand what you are trying to accomplish.

    We then advise you on the legal implications of your goals and show you how we can draft an agreement that helps you achieve your objectives, while also ensuring that the possibility of it being challenged in the future is minimized.

    2. Following the consultation, you can either discuss with your partner, or we can write to him or her, outlining the proposed terms of the marriage contract.

    3. You exchange disclosure documents.

    4. If your partner would like to incorporate some of his or her goals or negotiate different terms, we advise them to retain their own counsel and the negotiations is done through counsel to avoid any friction between the parties.

    5. We draft the marriage contract and the party who is not our client must obtain independent legal advice

    6. The marriage contract is signed by both parties and their lawyers.

    Most marriage contracts cover:

    • What happens with property each party brought into the marriage?
    • What happens to the matrimonial home if it was owned by one party prior to marriage?
    • How would property be divided if the parties separate?
    • Are there specific assets that a party wants to exclude for various reasons?
    • What happens to their property in the event of death?
    • Would spousal support be payable on separation?

    Remember, that if you do not answer and define what you want, you are left at the mercy of the law in force at some point in the future and chances are, you will not be happy with that result.

    At AP Lawyers, we always recommend alternative dispute resolution processes, always starting with negotiations between lawyers.

    Many matters settle at the negotiation phase. Others progress to mediation and/or arbitration.

    However not all cases settle, and many others are unsuited for alternative dispute resolution. This means, the parties would have to resort to the courts to settle their disputes.

    Parties always have the right to go straight to court to resolve their disputes except there is an earlier Agreement in which the parties have agreed to an alternate process.

    If litigation is the next logical step or if the client already started the process before retaining us, we go over in detail, the steps in a Family Law Litigation matter.

    STEPS IN A CASE – Family Law Matters:

    PLEADINGS

    • Application
    • Financial Statement
    • Custody Affidavit
    • Answer to Claim
    • Respondent’s Financial Statement
    • Respondent’s Custody Affidavit
    • Reply

    FIRST APPEARANCE
    CASE CONFERENCE

    • Case Conference Briefs
    • Financial Statements OR Affidavit (if no change or minor change)

    SETTLEMENT CONFERENCE

    • Settlement Conference Briefs
    • Financial Statements OR Affidavit (if no change or minor change)
    • Offers to Settle
    • Net Family Property Statement

    TRIAL MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

    • Trial Management Conference Briefs

    TRIAL

    OFFERS TO SETTLE –

    • Can be made at any point throughout the case to settle some or all issues

    MOTIONS –

    • These are proceedings brought to deal with issues that cannot wait to be determined at Trial.
    • Absent a situation of urgency, motions cannot be heard before a Case Conference.
    • Orders at motions are usually temporary if it is for a substantive issue e.g. spousal support.
    • Motions may also be effective for procedural matters such as getting an adjournment where it is contested or getting basic disclosure where it is overdue.

    When parties who are parents of minor children separate or divorce, it is important that they articulate their agreement on how they will co-parent following separation or divorce.

    The terms they agree to are then written in a document called a parenting plan. Parenting plans can also be included in a Separation Agreement.

    Parenting plans are also helpful where the parties are in the litigation process, cannot come to an agreement and are relying on the judge to make the appropriate order.

    By having a carefully thought out parenting plan, you demonstrate to the judge that you have thought through the idea of what is in the best interest of the child.

    Indeed, a great parenting plan forces you to consider various aspects of the care of the child and you can plan in advance how to approach various aspects of the child’s life.

    Without a plan, parties can often make merely emotional decisions without thinking of their responsibilities to the child and the challenges that follow co-parenting after separation.

    A parenting plan should include/answer the following questions:

    • How are important decisions affecting the child going to be made?
    • Who makes the day-to-day decisions?
    • Where will the child live primarily?
    • Will the time be shared equally or will the child live with one parent most of the time?
    • Are the times for pick up and drop offs specified to avoid confusions?
    • Is the location for pick up and drop off specified?
    • Does a long weekend or PA day alter time and location for pick ups and drop offs?
    • How will holidays be shared?
    • How will the parties exchange information regarding the children?
    • Can belongings be shared between the homes or would each parent provide separately for when the child is in their home?
    • How will the parents communicate with the child when he or she is in the care of another?
    • If travelling with the child, what kind of notice is required.
    • Do both parents have access to information regarding the child, if no, why not?
    • What is the arrangement for parent-teacher nights? Does only one party attend? Do both attend together or separately?
    • Can both attend school field trips? How will this be scheduled?
    • How would changes be incorporated into the parenting plan?
    • Is there a dispute resolution mechanism in place?These are just a few of the questions we consider at AP Lawyers in drafting a parenting plan.

    Recent Successes

    1) A. v. M.
    When A and M separated there was a lot of animosity between them but surprisingly within 2 months, the parties were able to agree to a parenting plan for their daughters who both had special needs.

    They agreed the children would live primarily with A and M would pick them up for dinner every Wednesday and would have the girls in his care from Friday after school to Sunday at 8pm.

    M started to miss visits and leave A in a bind. She needed the time to herself as she cared for the children solely at all other times and it was no easy task given their special needs. Babysitters for special needs kids are expensive and A could not afford it.

    We were able to assist the parties in drafting a new agreement that considered the children’s activities, M’s schedule and A’s needs as an individual. Most importantly, we included provisions whereby M would incur the cost of babysitting if he missed his scheduled parenting time. We also included processes for making decisions regarding the girls that eliminated the conflict that existed.

    2) J. v. S.
    For J and S the issue was, the defacto parenting arrangement the parties defaulted to after separation was simply not working for anyone except perhaps S, who was adamant in maintaining the status quo. The unspoken concern appeared to have been child support payments S was receiving from J for their 3 children. Since J also had a spousal support obligation, we were able to show S that a change in the parenting schedule would not necessarily lead to her receiving less support payments from J.

    Ultimately, with a focus on the best interests of the children, the parties were able to agree to a detailed parenting plan and a parenting schedule that worked better for the children and parents.

    When one parent wants to move with their child or children, and they are separated or divorced, child relocation issues arise, which is one of the more unpredictable areas of family law.

    While the courts may recognize the benefits of the parent moving, they must balance those benefits with what is in the child’s best interest and its effects on parenting time for the other parent.

    One of the top cases family courts use when hearing child relocation requests is the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Gordon v. Goertz (1996) 2 SCR 27. The results of this case helped establish several essential factors for the lower courts to use when ruling on child relocation cases.

    There is no legal presumption in favour of the decision-making parent. Although, the court does take their views into consideration.

    The court views each child relocation request as having its own set of unique circumstances. The court emphasizes the child’s best interest – not the rights and interests of the parents.

    The judge considering the relocation request evaluates the following:

    • a) The current decision-making and parenting order.
    • b) The relationship between the child and the decision-making parent.
    • c) The relationship between the child and the non-decision-making parent.
    • d) The desire of both parents to maximized parenting time with their child.
    • e) The concerns and views of the child.
    • f) The reason for the relocation request by the decision-making parent and its relevance to their ability to meet their child’s needs.
    • g) How a disruption to the child could occur by changing the decision-making parent.
    • h) How the relocation from the community where the child resides, family friends, and school could cause a disruption to the child.

    Please note, the term “access” was replaced with “parenting time,” and the term “custody” was replaced with “decision-making responsibility,” as of March 2, 2021.

    Supreme Court Justice McLachlin summarized the factors as follows:

    “In the end, the importance of the child remaining with the parent to whose custody it has become accustomed in the new location must be weight against the continuance of full contact with the child’s access parent, the extended family, and the community. The ultimate question in every case is this: What is in the best interest of the child in all circumstances, old as well as new?”

    There was already an existing decision-making and parenting order in effect In Gordon v. Goertz. In cases where there is no order in effect, one will be established first before the family court decides on a child relocation request.

    The family court judge will use their discretion when reviewing the above factors and the child’s best interest to decide whether to approve the child relocation request.

    What Child’s Best Interest Considerations Does the Court Evaluate?

    To evaluate the child’s best interest in a child relocation case, the judge reviews:

    • The reason the parent has for relocating the child.
    • The impacts relocating the child could have on them.
    • The amount of parenting time each parent has and how parenting time may be impacted.
    • Whether necessary notice requirements have been followed by the parent requesting the child relocation.
    • What, if any, geographic restrictions there could be.
    • The reasonableness of the proposal to relocate the child.
    • Whether the current decision-making and parenting order has complied with other agreements, family law orders, and arbitral awards.
    What Are the Notice Requirements for Child Relocation?

    The parent requesting the relocation of the child must provide a 60-day notice to the other parent and/or those with contact orders. The notice should include:

    • The proposed moving date.
    • The child’s new address and contact information.
    • A proposal on how contact, decision-making, and parenting time will occur after relocating the child.
    How Can Child Relocation Lawyers in Scarborough Help?

    Child relocation cases can be rather complex. At AP Lawyers, we will review the circumstances for your request when you schedule a consultation at our office. We examine the thousands of cases decided since Gordon v. Goertz to determine the strengths and weaknesses in your request, whether you are the parent wanting to relocate your child or the parent opposing relocating the child.

    For a confidential consultation and assistance with child relocation issues, please feel free to contact AP Lawyers in Scarborough today!

    Our Scarborough family law firm has assisted parents with child relocation requests, appeals to existing orders, requests for modifications to existing orders, and litigates matters in family court on complex cases.

    It is important to get independent legal advice prior to agreeing to a settlement or signing off on a domestic contract.At AP Lawyers, we respect the parties’ right to negotiate a “fair” settlement and our goal is to ensure that our clients make informed decisions. In other words, the deal may not be “perfect” but provided it is made with complete awareness of the client’s options, we respect it.

    Steps to get Independent Legal Advice at AP Lawyers

    • 1. Call or email to schedule your consultation.
    • 2. Arrive early with a copy of your Agreement.
    • 3. A lawyer will review it and make notes on areas of concern or confusion.
    • 4. You meet with the lawyer who discusses your goals and objectives, and any questions you may have and gets clarification on their notes.
      • You will receive advice on our legal opinion of the deal reached.
      • We would advice if the deal reached achieved your objectives. If it does not, we would make recommendations that would help you in reaching an agreement that achieves your objectives, while also being legally viable.
      • If there is an agreement drafted, we would advice you if it reflects what was agreed.
      • If there are any errors in drafting, we would recommend changes.
    • 5. If the Agreement meets your objectives and the drafting reflects what was agreed to, we will sign off on the Agreement otherwise, we will schedule a follow up signing appointment free of charge.

    Under the Ontario Family Law Act, divorced or separated partners are entitled to an equalization of their net family properties. The person with the higher net worth pays to the other, half the difference in their networth.

    At a consultation with AP Lawyers we start by reviewing any marriage contracts to determine its validity.

    If there is no marriage contract, we go over what would be required in calculating the parties’ net family property. We pay attention to assets and liabilities that existed on the date of marriage as well as properties such as gifts, inheritance and life insurance proceeds which can be excluded from the net family property.

    We consider the length of the marriage. If it is less than 5 years, we review the facts in each case to see if equalization would be unconscionable. If it is likely that a case would meet the stringent test of unconscionability, we consider how much, if any, equalization should be paid.

    When dividing your family property after divorce or separation, the value of an experienced family law lawyer cannot be overstated. Otherwise, you may find out too late that you overpaid, or that you were short-changed. Neither situation is ideal.

    We make sure you get the benefit of every applicable exclusion and deduction. We consider the tax implications for each asset. We ensure each party’s assets are properly valued. We listen and pay attention to the details to identify unusual assets that could otherwise have been missed.

    Recent Successes

    1) M. v. A.
    M and A cohabited for 33 months and married for 18 months. There were factors in the case that justified a departure from the usual 50 – 50 division of net family properties. AP Lawyers applied every possible deduction to reduce M’s net family property. AP Lawyers also got a 70 – 30 split of the net family property in M’s favour.

    2) W. v. E.

    In W v. E, the parties were married for 23 years but the relationship was a tumultuous one. The central issue here was the date of separation as it significantly impacted the equalization payment payable by W to E.

    We were able to show that though W and E were still married and living together in the matrimonial home, they were living separate and apart for the last 3 years. The effect of this was a $500,000+ saving to W for the growth in her assets (mostly stock options) in the last 3 years.

    3) T. v. R.

    T retained us following the end of her 6 year marriage to R. Both parties had counsel and detailed financial statements were prepared. The main issue here was despite being represented by counsel, R still wanted to receive a deduction for the value of the matrimonial home which he owned for several years and had paid off the mortgage just before marriage.

    T and R did not enter into a marriage contract.

    Ultimately, T got half the full value of the matrimonial home as there was no reason in law to justify a date of marriage deduction for R.

    4) B. v. S.

    S received over $1,000,000 inheritance from her father’s estate. Prior to separation, she deposited $375,000 into the parties’ joint bank account. There was $175,000 left in the account on the date of separation.

    AP Lawyers only asked to exclude the $175,000 of the inheritance left in the joint account but B, through his lawyers insisted that since the money was deposited into the joint account, it had lost its exclusionary value.

    AP Lawyers was successful in getting S the exclusion.

    5) H. v. Q.

    H received a $500,000 payout from his father’s life insurance policy 4 years prior to the parties’ separation.

    H was able to receive a full exclusion with the assistance of AP Lawyers.

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AT AP Lawyers, We have a set of core values that are aimed at providing client-focused legal solutions. This is not just a fancy catchphrase and we have gone to great lengths to define what it means to us as a Firm. In short, at AP Lawyers we believe we are redefining the practice of law.

Here is what it means to us to be #1 in client care:

  • Compassion: We are a compassionate team, recognizing that our clients don’t always come to us at the highest points in their lives.
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  • Speed: With a team behind our clients they can trust that their work will be completed quickly and accurately.
  • Respect: Everyone deserves respect. Plain and simple.
  • Relentless: in working to achieve our client’s objectives.
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  • Money: We are responsible with our client’s resources and are always fair and transparent in our billing practices.
  • Innovation: We are constantly innovating. Thinking of faster and better ways to meet our client’s legal needs, while keeping costs lower.

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Family & Divorce Law Services

  • The Basics

    First off, you do not need to show that the other person was at “fault”, so long as you have been living separate and apart and there is no possibility of reconciliation, you can apply for a divorce.

    A divorce most commonly requires a year of separation before it can be granted however, the application process may start before the year is up. Exceptions to this rule require exceptional circumstances such as adultery or physical/mental abuse or cruelty.

    Even if the exemption does not apply to you, you may start the application for divorce before the year is up. This approach still requires a year wait, but effectively cuts down waiting time once the year is up.

    A divorce may be contested or uncontested. With the uncontested divorce process, the affected parties generally agree upon the terms of divorce, and reach consensus without the need for a trial or extensive court processes. With the co-operative nature of uncontested divorces, it is cheaper and faster than contested divorces.

    The contested divorce process essentially exists in opposition to uncontested divorces. Complex legal issues, financial issues and increased layers of court proceedings all commonly arise in contested divorces. In both scenarios, it is wise to seek legal counsel to inform an involved party of their rights, possible strategies and experienced advice.

    Notable Steps in the Process:

    Divorce requires an Application to an appropriate court. The Application will need to be served on the other partner and any other parties involved. Proof of Service also needs to be filed with the court. The person bringing the application is called the Applicant and the spouse is called the Respondent.

    The Respondent has 30 days to serve and file an Answer. Should the Respondent not do this, the process may continue with documents that may still satisfy a judge’s criteria for divorce.

    Approximate Length of Divorce Process:

    The court process may take roughly 3 – 4 months in uncontested divorces.

    Several factors may affect the length of time of divorces in general. These factors include the spouses’ location, ability to cooperate, the court in which the Application is filed, division of property issues, child custody and access, as well as any issues related to support.

    For further information regarding a the divorce process in Ontario, do not hesitate to contact us.

    Legislative Provision – Section 8 of the Divorce Act

    • (1) A court of competent jurisdiction may, on application by either or both spouses, grant a divorce to the spouse or spouses on the ground that there has been a breakdown of their marriage.
    • Breakdown of marriage

    (2) Breakdown of a marriage is established only if

    • (a) the spouses have lived separate and apart for at least one year immediately preceding the determination of the divorce proceeding and were living separate and apart at the commencement of the proceeding; or
    • (b) the spouse against whom the divorce proceeding is brought has, since celebration of the marriage,
      • (i) committed adultery, or
      • (ii) treated the other spouse with physical or mental cruelty of such a kind as to render intolerable the continued cohabitation of the spouses

    Recent Successes

    1) J. v. A.

    J and A submitted a Joint Divorce Application after 33 years of marriage. Their Application was rejected because it was unclear whether J was the same person listed in both her Divorce Application and Marriage Certificate.

    Can lack of clarity lead to a rejection of a Divorce Application?
    Yes, it can, if there is a question as there was in this case, whether J was the same person on the Divorce Application as well as the Marriage Certificate.

    AP Lawyers was able to help J by submitting Affidavit Evidence proving her identity and her Divorce Order was granted shortly thereafter.

    2) L. v. J.

    18 months after the parties separated, L retainedAP Lawyers to assist her with a simple Divorce Application. The parties had 2 children and despite multiple requests by L who lived primarily with the children, J would not pay child support. L no longer cared and just wanted a divorce.

    Are Divorce and child support connected?

    We were able to advise L that based on our experience, if parties are unable to show that the children would be adequately provided for, a court is unlikely to grant the divorce.

    We were able to assist L in getting child support for the children and being able to convince the court that the children were being adequately provided for, the Divorce Order was granted.

    As of March 1, 2021, the terms “custody” and access” have been replaced with the term “parenting”. This means that custody and access orders will now be referred to as “parenting orders” or “contact orders”.

    A “parenting order” is a court order allocating decision-making responsibility and/or parenting time to parents of the child, whereas a “contact order” is an order allowing a person other than a parent to have contact with a child and provides details of how such contact is to be conducted. More on these orders are explained below.

    Before March 1, 2021 After March 1, 2021
    Custody Decision-making and parenting time
    Access (parent) Parenting time
    Access (non-parent) Contact

    These new terms are concerned with the child’s best interest and the parents’ role and responsibilities in caring for the child(ren); whereas custody and access were terms commonly associated with property ownership.

    What happens to your existing custody and access order?

    You can continue to rely on your existing custody and access order that was made before March 1, 2021, because your order will assume the effect of the new provisions. For instance, parents with existing custody orders are now parents with parenting time and decision-making responsibilities. Similarly, persons with an access order are considered to have parenting time. (s. 35.4 of the Divorce Act)

    Making changes to an existing order

    Changes in the law are not a reason for a change to your existing order. To request a change to an existing custody or access order, you must show that there has been a “material change in circumstances” in you or your child’s life.

    Any changes to existing custody or access orders will reflect the new Divorce Act rules. For example, if you would like to change the time each parent spends with the child(ren), the new order will reflect the term “parenting time” and the court will consider the additional factors added to determine the best interests of the child (see below).

    New Duties of Parties to a Proceeding:

    Each party involved in a proceeding or is subject to an order made by the court must:

    • Exercise parenting time, responsibility or contact in a manner that is consistent with the best interests of the child.
    • Protect the child from conflict arising from the proceeding.
    • Where appropriate, try to resolve matters through family dispute resolution.
    • Provide complete, accurate and up-to-date information as required which would include:
      • Income and asset disclosure.
      • Information about other orders and proceedings e.g. criminal court orders.
    • Comply with orders made until no longer in effect.

    Parenting orders

    A parenting order is an order providing for the exercise of contact, parenting time and/or decision-making responsibility in respect of a child.

    Who Can Apply for a Parenting Order?
    • A parent of a child; or
    • A person, other than a parent of the child, who stands in the place of a parent or intends to stand in the place of a parent; and
    • Any other person other than a parent of the child, such as a grandparent.
    PARENTING TIME

    Parenting time means the time that a child spends in the care of either parent, whether or not the child is physically with the parent during that time. In other words, parenting time is the time during which a person is primarily responsible for the child, including when the child is in school or daycare.

    Responsibilities during Parenting Time

    Unless the court orders otherwise, a person with scheduled parenting time has sole responsibility to make day-to-day decisions affecting the child during their parenting time. This includes decisions regarding bed times and what the child should eat, without the need to consult any other person with decision-making responsibility in relation to the child. However, a court could make a specific order about certain day-to-day decisions if it would be in the best interests of the child.

    The parent with parenting time still has the right to be informed of the child(ren)’s health, education and welfare (Divorce Act s.16(5); Children’s Reform Act(CLRA) s.20(5)).

    How to get Parenting Time?

    Parenting time may be allocated by way of a schedule which may be determined by the court or by the parties themselves.

    The advantage of having a schedule is that it provides structure as to when each parent is primarily responsible for the child and promotes stability and predictability for the child in knowing when they will be with each parent.

    Types of Parenting Time Arrangements

    The following reflect the changes in terminology that is used in the Child Support Guidelines for the purposes of child support and the time the child spends with each parent. They do not refer to who has responsibility to make major decisions about the child because that is determined by a decision-making order (explained further below).

    Before March 1, 2021 After March 1, 2021
    Custodial parent Parent with the majority of parenting time (60% or more parenting time)
    Split Custody Split Parenting Time
    Shared Custody Shared Parenting Time
    Access Parenting Time

    1. Majority of parenting time (formerly sole custody)

    Majority of parenting time refers to a situation where a child spends more than 60% of the time with one parent over the course of a year.

    2. Split parenting time (formerly split custody)

    Split parenting time involves multiple children, and each parent has the majority of parenting time (over 60%) with at least one of the children. For example, in a family with two children, mom will have the majority of parenting time (over 60%) over one child and dad will have the same with the other child.

    3. Shared parenting time (formerly joint or shared custody)

    Shared parenting time refers to circumstances where a child spends at least 40% of their time with each parent over the course of the year.

    The court will determine the amount of child support to be paid according to the Child Support Guidelines, the parenting time awarded, and the condition, means, needs, and other circumstances of the parties.

    Decision making responsibility

    Decision-making responsibility refers to the authority to make “significant decisions about a child’s well-being”. Section 2(1) of the Divorce Act and the Children’s Law Reform Act which applies to non-married parent, define decision-making responsibility as “the responsibility for making significant decisions about a child’s well-being and in respect of the following:

    • health;
    • education;
    • culture, language, religion and spirituality; and
    • significant extra-curricular activities.
    Types of Decision-Making Arrangements

    You can make important decisions in a number of different ways:

    • Sole decision-making responsibility, previously known as sole custody, gives one parent the ability to make all major decisions for the minor child(ren).
    • Joint decision-making responsibility, formerly joint custody, allows both parents to consult each other and make the decisions together.
    • Divided (parallel) decision-making responsibility is a type of joint decision-making responsibility where one parent is responsible for some decisions (for example, on health and religion), and the other parent is responsible for other decisions (for example, on education and extra-curricular activities).
    Making Appropriate Decision-Making Arrangements

    In determining which approach is appropriate in your circumstances, the most important consideration is your children's best interests.

    Joint decision-making may be appropriate if you and the other parent can cooperate well with each other on parenting issues. However, if you and the other parent are constantly conflicting or there is a power imbalance because of abuse or violence, joint decision-making or divided decision-making may expose your child(ren) to conflict.

    It is also important to think about safety as you develop parenting arrangements.

    Contact order (formerly access by non-parent)

    A contact order is a court-ordered time that a person who is special to a child but is not their parent, spends with that child. Upon application by a person other than a parent, a court can make an order providing for contact between that person such as a grandparent and a child.

    Contact can be in the form of in-person visits or any form of communication such as telephone calls, texts and video chats.

    Who can apply?

    A person other than a parent can apply for contact with respect to a child.

    In other words, a non-parent such as stepparents, grandparents or any other third party can apply for contact with a child and to have time reserved to spend with the child.

    There are special requirements for non-parents, such as a mandatory police records checks. They must also authorize the Children’s Aid Society in their area to provide a report that outlines the individual’s involvement in any CAS cases. Court records will also be checked for any previous family cases involving the non-parent.

    Contents of parenting and contact orders

    Besides allocating parenting time and decision-making responsibilities, a parenting order may also include any other orders necessary such as communication between the parties or between a party and the child, prohibiting a party from changing the child’s residence, school, or day care, prohibiting a party from removing the child from Ontario, etc.,

    Applying for parenting and contact orders in Ontario

    In Ontario, parenting and contact orders are governed by the federal Divorce Act and the Children’s Law Reform Act(CLRA). The Divorce Act applies to those who are married and getting a divorce. Under the Divorce Act, courts in Ontario can hear and determine the case if your spouse has been living in Ontario for at least one year preceding the proceeding. If the child is connected to another province, the proceedings may be transferred on application. Elements that may connect the child to another province can include the school they attend, how much time they spend in the province and/or where their physician is location.

    The CLRA applies to parents who are not married or those who are not getting a divorce. In these cases, Ontario courts have jurisdiction to hear and determine the case where:

    • The child’s normal residence is in Ontario; or
    • If the child’s normal residence is not Ontario but
      • the child is physically in Ontario at the start of the application,
      • there is evidence that the best interest of the child is in Ontario,
      • no application for decision making responsibility, parenting time or contact with respect to the child is pending in another place,
      • no extra-provincial order has been recognized by an Ontario court,
      • the child has a real and substantial connection to Ontario; and
      • on the balance of convenience, it is appropriate to exercise jurisdiction in Ontario.

    It should be noted that courts have the ability to decline to allow the case in their jurisdiction if they believe that another court is more appropriate.

    Statutory Factors considered when making a parenting or contact order.

    The benchmark for resolving parenting and contact issues is the best interests of the child. The test is set out in both the Divorce Act (s. 16(8)) and the CLRA (s. 24). The court considers ONLY the best interests of the child when making a parenting or a contact order. The court must consider all factors relating to the circumstances of the child and must give primary consideration to the child’s physical, emotional and psychological safety, security and well-being.

    Factors to be considered when determining a child’s best interest include:

    • the child’s needs, given the child’s age and stage of development, such as the child’s need for stability;
    • the nature and strength of the child’s relationship with each parent, each of the child’s siblings and grandparents and any other person who plays an important role in the child’s life;
    • each parent’s willingness to support the development and maintenance of the child’s relationship with the other parent;
    • the history of care of the child;
    • the child’s views and preferences, giving due weight to the child’s age and maturity, unless they cannot be ascertained;
    • the child’s cultural, linguistic, religious and spiritual upbringing and heritage, including Indigenous upbringing and heritage;
    • any plans for the child’s care;
    • the ability and willingness of each person in respect of whom the order would apply to care for and meet the needs of the child;
    • the ability and willingness of each person in respect of whom the order would apply to communicate and co-operate, in particular with one another, on matters affecting the child;
    • any family violence and its impact on, among other things,
    • the ability and willingness of any person who engaged in the family violence to care for and meet the needs of the child, and
    • the appropriateness of making an order that would require persons in respect of whom the order would apply to co-operate on issues affecting the child; and
    • any civil or criminal proceeding, order, condition or measure that is relevant to the safety, security and well-being of the child.
    Parenting time consistent with the best interest of the child

    Under section 16(10) of the Divorce Act and section 24(6) of the Children’s Law Reform Act there is a legal consideration called the “maximum contact principle,” which essentially states that a child should have as much parenting time with both parents as is in the child’s best interest.

    This principle is now also subject to the “primary consideration” that a court must consider a child’s physical, emotional and psychological safety, security and well-being above all else. This may be particularly important in cases of family violence.

    It is important to note that maximum contact does not equate to shared parenting. This is a common misconception. The law simply requires each parent to have as much time as possible with the child as is in the child’s best interest. In some cases, that may mean shared parenting, in other cases, it may equate to what others may perceive as minimal parenting time. The best interest of the child would be the prevailing consideration.

    Parental conduct

    A parent’s conduct or misconduct is only taken into consideration if it affects the child or the parent’s ability to care for the child. Alcohol and drug abuse are two of the primary concerns. Violence towards the other spouse, child, or any other household member will be taken into consideration. Self-defense or action taken to protect another person is not considered violence or abuse.

    Supervised parenting time

    Supervised parenting time is where a parent is permitted to interact with the child only under the supervision of another adult. This can be at a specialized center where a social worker, counselor or any other designated party is assigned to be present. It can also include parenting time where the other parent is present or an extended family member is present.

    Supervised parenting time is usually enforced where the child is at risk in a parent’s care due to violence, alcohol or drug addiction or has health problems that may limit their ability to care for the child. The parent seeking the supervised parenting time has to demonstrate that it is necessary.

    Enforcement of a parenting or contact order

    There are a number of measures in place to have these orders enforced. Failing to follow a temporary or final order of the court is considered contempt, which can result in a fine or imprisonment.

    In exceptional circumstance, there could be a clause in the order that allows any police agency (Toronto Police, OPP, RCMP) to assist in removing the child from the parent who took the child and have them returned to the parent named on the order. Lawyers may also assist by contacting the opposing counsel and eliciting their assistance in having the child returned without police interference.

    It is always wise to be as courteous as possible in such cases. If the other party is late in returning the child back a few minutes, it may be best to simply talk to them about the importance of timing. Police assistance should be a last resort.

    Child is withheld or abducted:

    The following are enforcement options when a child is withheld or abducted:

    • Abduction of a child under the age of 14 by a parent or guardian in contravention of a custody order is a criminal offence under ss. 282–283 of the Criminal Code.
    • Under the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act, a federal government agency assists in tracing an abducted child or abducting parent. Either a police force or a parent with decision-making responsibility under a court order or an agreement may seek assistance from this unit.
    • If a child has been abducted to a state that is signatory to the Hague Convention, the parent with decision-making responsibility may contact the Central Authority in this jurisdiction, which will in turn contact the Central Authority in the receiving jurisdiction to take steps for the recovery of the child.
    • Under the CLRA, the court has authority to make orders directing the appropriate police force to locate and apprehend a child, including search and entry orders.

    Are you recently separated? Do you have a pareting issue?
    AP Lawyers can help. Contact us today for a confidential consultation.

    AP Lawyers has assisted clients with negotiating simple parenting plans. We have also worked on complex cases that have involved taking the matter to Trial and in some cases, appealed final custody and access orders.

    Angela Princewill has been interviewed extensively on the subject including with the Law Times and Advocate Daily.

    Recent Successes

    1) M v. A.

    Following M & A’s separation, M retained AP Lawyers to help him negotiate parenting time for the parties’ child.

    This matter went to trial because M wanted equal parenting time with his child and joint custody so he could be involved in making important decisions affecting the child. A wanted sole custody and only minimal access to M.

    At Trial, Angela Princewill was able to show that M is a loving, capable and experienced father and that it was in the child’s best interest to spend maximum time with him. M was also able to get share decision-making with A.

    2) C.F. v. C.M.

    C.F. retained AP Lawyers to negotiate a custody and access schedule that worked in the best interest of the parties’ two children. One child was school age, the other was not. C.F. worked from 9am – 4pm while C.M. did shift work. His shifts were usually 12 hours or longer, but he insisted on having the children half the time.

    We were successful in having the children live primarily with C.F. as she clearly was the parent who would be better able to meet their needs, such as pick up and drop off to school, attending extracurricular activities, be available to receive calls in the event of an emergency, etc.

    The only important question when dealing with custody and access issues, is “what is in the best interest of the child?”

    Our success lies in looking at what our client is asking and looking at how it fits with the child’s best interest. Our focus is always on the child not on the convenience or mere preference of the opposing party.

    We employ all tools possible to advance our client’s objectives starting with negotiation. Mediation and Arbitration where appropriate can be a great tool in resolving the issues. We have a team of experienced and passionate

    Once parents with children separate, the issue of support for the children needs to be dealt with as quickly as possible. .

    During the separation process (whether culminating in a divorce or not), a child will likely spend most of his or her time at one parent’s home versus the other. When a child spends most of their time at one home, the parent in that home will likely rack up higher expenses for raising the child. That parent isn’t left out in the cold as they must get help from the other parent. The other parent must pay money to the parent/primary caregiver to help with the expenses of child raising; this is called child support.

    Dependent Children

    There is a legal duty for parents to support their dependent children. The law defines a dependent child as anyone under the age of 18 unless they have married or have voluntarily withdrawn from parental control and became independent by the age of 16. In the case that a child is enrolls in a full-time post-secondary degree and/or has a disability, child support may extend beyond the age of 18.

    Parents/caregivers can work out a support agreement for themselves. When this is not possible, getting legal services (which we can certainly provide) can help hammer an agreement out that both parents can agree upon or pave the way for an order of support. A parent can apply to court for an order of support. An order of support is the main way in which child support becomes legally binding.

    Information required to determine Child Support Payable

    Naturally, financial information is required including things like income tax returns, statements of earnings from employer (or from the parent if they own a business), and notices of assessment/reassessment. The parent paying (payor) the child support must update their financial information if the other parent requests it. Generally, updates can be requested once a year.

    The Family Responsibility Office

    The Family Responsibility Office of Ontario (FRO) is the legal enforcer of payments. In several ways, the FRO acts as a buffer or intermediary for the courts and each parent by handling things between the parties such as receiving and forwarding payments, taking necessary action where payments are missed and collecting payments from payor parents outside the jurisdiction. The court automatically files all support orders with the FRO.

    Child Support Guidelines

    The Child Support Guidelines is used in determining how much a payor parent should pay for child support. The Child Support Guidelines has a table for each province and territory which shows how much support should be paid, based on the payor parent’s gross income.

    If you are a step-parent, the court may order that you pay an amount lower than the Table Amount.

    Also, in Shared Custody situations an amount less than the Table amount may be ordered. In these cases, the court will figure out the Table amount payable by each amount and will subtract the smaller amount form the larger amount. The same could also apply in Split Custody situations.

    Special or Extraordinary Expenses

    In addition to paying support according to the table amount, payor parents may have to contribute towards expenses such daycare, medical or dental insurance premiums, medical expenses, extra-curricular activities, etc.

    Which Table applies to me?

    The table amount to be applied depends on the circumstances. For example: if the payor parent lives in Saskatchewan and the child lives in Ontario, the Table for Saskatchewan will apply. If both parents live in Ontario, then the Ontario Table will apply but if the payor parent lives in the United States as an example, and the other parent lives in Ontario then the Table for Ontario will be used.

    Imputing Income

    The Child Support Guidelines allows the courts to imput income to a parent in certain circumstances, most often where a parent is intentionally unemployed or underemployed. The relevant provision reads as follows:

    Imputing income

    • 19. (1) The court may impute such amount of income to a spouse as it considers appropriate in the circumstances, which circumstances include the following:
      • (a) the spouse is intentionally under-employed or unemployed, other than where the under-employment or unemployment is required by the needs of a child of the marriage or any child under the age of majority or by the reasonable educational or health needs of the spouse;
      • (b) the spouse is exempt from paying federal or provincial income tax;
      • (c) the spouse lives in a country that has effective rates of income tax that are significantly lower than those in Canada;
      • (d) it appears that income has been diverted which would affect the level of child support to be determined under these Guidelines;
      • (e) the spouse’s property is not reasonably utilized to generate income;
      • (f) the spouse has failed to provide income information when under a legal obligation to do so;
      • (g) the spouse unreasonably deducts expenses from income;
      • (h) the spouse derives a significant portion of income from dividends, capital gains or other sources that are taxed at a lower rate than employment or business income or that are exempt from tax; and
      • (i) the spouse is a beneficiary under a trust and is or will be in receipt of income or other benefits from the trust.

    Child Support and Access

    Lastly, payment of child support is not dependent on whether a person gets access to the child or not. A parent may be obligated to pay child support even if they have zero access to the child. Conversely, a parent can continue to have access to a child even where child support payment is owing.

    Imputing income for Child Support

    One of the most fundamental issues that accompanies a separation/ divorce for parties with children is the matter of child support. In Canada, a judge can effectively ‘impute’ the income of a parent to be paid for child support purposes. Parents have an obligation to jointly support their children based on their income and ability pursuant to Section 26.1(2) Divorce Act.

    Family lawyers are experts when determining how much of a parent’s income is accountable for child support. This is based on the payor parent’s gross income compared to the value in the corresponding Federal Child Support Table. The judge has the discretion to establish the amount of income to be imputed based on that parent’s earning capacity and not necessarily what that parent currently earns. This is a result of complications that can arise in situations when a parent is self-employed and their income tax documents do not accurately emulate their income or when the payor parent intentionally chooses to be unemployed or in a position with a low salary in order to avoid their moral and legal obligation to pay child support.

    Section 19 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines (“the Guidelines”) outlines situations that a judge can order income imputed to a parent. As the court has the autonomy to use their discretion in such scenarios, income can also be imputed in situations not listed in Section 19 of the Guidelines. Courts will always place the interests of the child first and place precedence on the child’s right to support over the parents interests. Therefore, should child support payments become an issue in a family law matter, the court can effectively intervene and critically analyze a parent’s career decision and/or how they operate their business. The onus of proof will be placed upon the parent owing child support payment.

    When is income likely to be imputed to a payor?

    Section 19 of the Guidelines states that imputed income can occur in any of the following nine scenarios. Note that this is a non-exhaustive list:

    • The payor parent is exempt from paying federal or provincial income tax.
    • The payor parent receives their income from a trust that they are a beneficiary of.
    • The payor parent did not comply with their legal obligation to disclose income information.
    • The payor parent is unreasonably deducting expenses from their income.
    • The payor parent is not reasonably generating an income from the use of their property.
    • The payor parent intentionally continues to remain unemployed or under-paid in their employment.
    • The payor parents lives in a country where the tax rates are much lower than Canada’s.
    • The payor parent is diverting their income to alter the amount of child support paid.
    • The payor parent acquires a portion of their income from dividends, capital gains and/or other sources that have a lower tax rate or are exempt from tax.
    • In the case of Risen v. Risen (1998) AC.W.S (3d) 669 (Ont. Ct.) (Gen Div), the court stated that although Section 19 of the Guidelines sets out a non-exhaustive list, and the court has the discretion to deviate from it, the case must bear some similarity to the scenarios enumerated. Also inMascarenhas v. Mascarenhas (1999), 44 R.F.L. (4th) 131 (Ont. Ct.)(Gen Div), the court held that any scenarios where the court must use their discretion outside of the list enumerated in Section 19, should bear some resemblance.

    In the case of Risen v. Risen (1998) AC.W.S (3d) 669 (Ont. Ct.) (Gen Div), the court stated that although Section 19 of the Guidelines sets out a non-exhaustive list, and the court has the discretion to deviate from it, the case must bear some similarity to the scenarios enumerated. Also in Mascarenhas v. Mascarenhas(1999), 44 R.F.L. (4th) 131 (Ont. Ct.)(Gen Div), the court held that any scenarios where the court must use their discretion outside of the list enumerated in Section 19, should bear some resemblance.

    Case Law

    Case law is imperative to the matter of imputed income as the courts have a broad discretion on determining the amount of child support to be paid.

    In Contino v Leonelli-Contino 2005 SCC 63, the court initially imputed the father’s income according to the Federal Child Support Table. However, after analyzing the child’s custody and access, the court determined that the father owed less than what was specified in the table because the child lived with the father approximately 50% of the time.

    Another case that displays the courts discretion is Quintal v. Quintal 1997 9576 (ON SC) where a father who was forced to resign for his retirement asked the court to vary his child support payments because his income significantly plummeted from $51,577 to a pension of $12,288. The court reduced his child support payments for six months as he stated he was actively seeking employment elsewhere and therefore unable to make his child support payments. Actively seeking employment is a debateable point in almost all cases as the father could have intentionally been unemployed. However, the court granted him six months until his payments increased again whether he was employed or not because his health, desire and expectation to find employment justified imputing income to him in the reasonably foreseeable future, if not immediately.

    The main issue among all imputed income cases is that the court will always place the child’s interest first as it is not fair for them to bear the financial consequences of a parent’s misconduct.

    One of the most popular circumstances where a court will impute income as mentioned above is when a parent intentionally leaves a secure employment to pursue self-employment. This can be for whatever reasons the parent chooses as they have the autonomy to do so. However, the parent must be responsible to still maintain their child support payments regardless of their endeavours. The court can exercise their discretion and may vary support payments for a specific time period.

    In Depace v. Michienzi(2000), 5 R.F.L. (5th) 40 (S.C.J.), the court stated that they may allow a “grace-period” to account for start-up loses a parent may face.

    Further expressed in Visnjic v. Visnjic (2000), 7 R.F.L. (5th) 195 (S.C.J.), the court held that if a parent wishes to engage in self-employment they must continue to meet their financial responsibilities out of their capital or through borrowing. Where a parent chooses to venture into a self-start-up career outside of their usual domain, a court will most likely impute income as displayed in Le Page v. Porter (2000), 7 R.F.L. (5th) 335 (S.C.J.) where the parent left working as a social worker to engage in stock speculation and real estate investing. The parent did not speculate that his income would plummet as much as it did; however, pursuant to Section 26.1(1) Divorce Act, he had an obligation to pay child support and his income was imputed effectively.

    Conclusion

    A court can impute income from a parent in many different scenarios based on their discretion. There are many different circumstances that will warrant an income to be imputed, as displayed above, and many that are reasonably foreseeable based on the non-exhaustive list under Section 19 of the Guidelines.

    It is important to be prepared in such matters and to know if income may be imputed to you. At  AP Lawyers, we have many years of experience and know what the court is looking for when they are determining whether or not to impute income to a parent. We can represent and assist you should you find yourself in a vulnerable position and either require child support payments from a spouse or are the spouse owing child support payments.

    Contact us online, by email at [email protected], or call 289-622-7662.

    Recent Successes

    1) L. v. P.

    When L and P separated following a very short affair, they agreed to a shared custody arrangement. They believed that because parenting time was shared, they did not have to deal with child support as each would provide for the child when the child was in his or her care. L earns $70,000 per annum; P earns $120,000 per annum.

    Five years after, L brings an Application for ongoing and retroactive child support. L also claimed the child lived primarily with her. Angela Princewill was able to negotiate a favorable settlement for P where he only had to pay the set-off amount of child support and $0 for retroactive child support. This saved P thousands of dollars in retroactive child support payments and both parties saved tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

    2) W. F. v. W. M.

    The parties were married for 10 years. They had no biological children. W.F. had a child from a previous relationship who lived primarily with W.F. and W.M.

    W.M. believed he shouldn’t have to pay child support because he was not the child’s biological father.

    Angela Princewill was able to prove that W.M. stood in loco parentis (in place of a parent) and so should pay the full table amount of child support.

    3) V.J. v. U.B.

    V.J. brought a Motion to change child support because the child in question now attended post-secondary school, outside the province. AP Lawyers was successful in ensuring child support payments continued to our client U.B.

    4) E. v. T

    In this case, E was unable to get T to pay for the children’s daycare. She felt her child support payment was enough to cover the cost of daycare. Through negotiations, we were able to get T to recognize through her counsel that child support payment does not include daycare which is considered a special/extraordinary expense.

    T then only agreed to paying half the cost of the children’s daycare. While a step in the right direction, it was insufficient as you see, T made 70% of the parties’ NDI (Net Disposable Income.)

    Also, given that T was self-employed, there were concerns if her full income was being disclosed.

    T decided to bring a Court Application, which we thought was ill advised. AP Lawyers representing E, requested extensive disclosure on T’s business activities and the appropriateness of a lot of her business expenses.

    An Order was issued on consent with E receiving $800 more in child support payments monthly and T paying 70% of the child’s daycare.

    It was a huge win for E given the children were aged between 4-8 years old.

    What is spousal support

    In the eyes of the law, spousal relationships are essentially financial partnerships. Accordingly, when a relationship ends through divorce or separation one party may be required to assist the other through financial support – legally referred to as spousal support. Judges on a case-by-case basis determine whether spousal support is appropriate, the amount and length of time that it should be paid.

    Who can claim spousal support

    In order to claim spousal support you must fall within the legal definition of a “spouse.” There are two statutes that define “spouse”: the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act (FLA). When claiming for support you must do so under one of these statutes.

    The Divorce Act is a federal statute, which can be applied any in province. Under this statute, either of two persons who are married to each other can claim for spousal support (s. 2). If a divorce has already been granted, support claims can only be brought under the Divorce Act and not the FLA.

    The FLA is a provincial statue, which governs family issues within Ontario. Under s. 1 of the FLA “spouse” includes:

    • Either of two persons who are married to each other or have entered into a marriage that is voidable or void in good faith;
    • Either of two persons who are not married and have cohabited continuously for a period of at least three years in a conjugal relationship; and
    • Either of two persons who are not married but who are in a relationship of some permanence if they are the natural or adoptive parents of a child.

    If spousal support has been decided under the FLA and the parties then decide to get a divorce, the spousal support order remains in force until the Divorce Act puts a new order in place. In the event the parties have an order from the FLA and choose not to pursue a claim for spousal support under the Divorce Act, there will be no changes made to the support order under the FLA.

    Factors considered in determining spousal support

    Both the Divorce Act (s.15.2) and FLA (s. 33(8) have a set of principles to establish entitlement. The courts have held that the main concern is to redress the economic consequences of spousal relationships. The factors taken into consideration to determine this are: length of the relationship, the parties’ financial circumstances, and the roles the parties fulfilled while together.

    The Supreme Court of Canada, in Bracklow v Bracklow identified three models in determining the basis for spousal support:

    • Contractual: where the court will consider agreements between the parties to create or limit mutual support obligations
    • Compensatory: where the court will compensate a spouse who suffered economic disadvantage due to the marriage or where a spouse has contributed to the economic advantage of the other spouse
    • Needs based: where the court will consider the needs, means, and other circumstances of the spouse in order to determine if they are able to support themselves without the assistance of the other party.

    The Role of Conduct in determining spousal support payments

    Misconduct is not a consideration in spousal support orders under the Divorce Act (s. 15.2(5)). However, under subsection 33(10) of the FLA the court may consider misconduct in rare cases. For instance, whether a spouse has been unfaithful will not be taken into account under the Divorce Act, but it can be a consideration in making a spousal support order under the FLA. The misconduct must have obviously and grossly attributed to the breakdown of the marriage.

    Moreover, entering a new relationship does not disentitle you to spousal support. However, it is a factor in assessing need and will mitigate the amount of spousal support based on the contribution of the new partner.

    Factors considered in assessing the amount and duration of spousal support

    Neither statute specifies directions as to the quantum of spousal support. The process requires that both parties exchange financial information and prepare budgets showing spending patterns during the relationship and current need. The standard of living during the marriage is the main factor in assessing the appropriate level of support. However, the payor’s income will also be considered and may limit the ability to replicate the pre-separation standard of living. The court will look at the payor’s income throughout the relationship, their present employment, as well as potential earnings. In other words, if the payor ceases to be employed shortly before or after separation, their obligation to pay spousal support does not cease.

    Other examples of factors that may be considered by the court are: mental and physical health, amount of child support, need for education/training to become self sufficient, duration of marriage, domestic contracts and loss of career opportunities due to responsibilities to the household during the marriage.

    Unlike child support, there are no mandatory guidelines in assessing spousal support. Since 2008, Ontario courts have used the advisory Spousal Support Guidelines as basis for determining how much spousal support should be paid and for how long. Although they are not mandatory, lawyers and judges regularly use them. Essentially, information in the particular case is factored into a very complex formula to calculate a low, middle and high range of support amounts to be considered. It is important to note, the courts maintain discretion in assessing spousal support on case-by-case basis and as such there is no guarantees as to how much will be awarded.

    Where there is a material change of circumstances after an order has been made, either spouse may apply for re-assessment of amount and duration. For instance, in the event the judge states that child support has been used to limit spousal support, it is possible to apply to the court to have spousal support increased once child support is no longer necessary.

    Final Spousal Support Orders

    The court will give a final support order that may be indefinite, time limited or subject to review. An indefinite order means spousal support will only be varied if there is a material change in circumstances. For instance, if the recipient spouse becomes financially independent the payor may be able to apply to reduce or eliminate spousal support. Time limited orders are often provided in short-term marriages where there is evidence that the recipient spouse will find employment in a specific time frame or where they are not making reasonable efforts to find employment. Finally, where there is uncertainty at the initial decision, the court may order that a review of the spousal support order take place after a fixed period. Review orders are available under the Divorce Act, however, it is discretionary under the FLA.

    Temporary Spousal Support orders (interim spousal support)

    Where a spouse requires financial support immediately it may be possible to attain temporary relief pending a final order. This can be achieved by either having both parties agree to an arrangement or by bringing a motion and requesting an order from the court. For interim spousal support. The purpose for interim spousal support is to permit the dependent spouse to live in reasonable comfort in accordance with the parties’ means, pending a final decision on the issue.

    Lump-sum spousal support

    A lump-sum payment is a one time payment where no further spousal support may be provided thereafter. A party can request a lump-sum payment subject to the availability of sufficient resources. This would be most appropriate where the parties want a clean break; where the payor spouse is at high risk of default, or; after a short-term marriage where the award is minimal. For tax purposes, it should be noted that a lump-sum payment is not taxable in the recipient’s hands or tax deductible to the payor.

    AP Lawyers can assist you with your spousal support issues. Contact us for a consultation to discuss how we can help you.

    Property Claims and Equalization of Family Property

    Property Claims:
    Upon separation or divorce, couples have to deal with the often complex issue of dividing their property. It’s worth noting that unlike support, property division is an area in which common-law partners without cohabitation agreements often run into difficulties.

    Common-law partners do not enjoy the same privileges that outright married couples do. It might be easier to say that common-law partners, although often honoured legally, do not have the same extent of privileges as married couples in the eyes of the law. For example, there is a significant difference is in the treatment of the home in which the couple cohabited. For married couples matrimonial homes are treated specially in relation to other family property.

    Also, common-law spouses are not automatically entitled to equalization of net family property, there are other common-law rules however that can be used to ensure that common law spouses get a reasonable share of the family property upon separating from a partner who has title to the property

    Married couples are entitled to more rights and privileges in regards to property claims and this includes the matrimonial home. Both parties have equal rights to reside in the home. Also, exclusive possession of the home may be granted to either partner regardless of the name on the ownership documents, or if it is jointly owned, regardless of the perception that one person is entitled to the property if they earn more or brought more assets into the marriage or accumulated more at the end of the relationship. The law sees the marriage as an equal partnership between the two partners.

    Section 24(3)(4) of the Ontario Family Act which determines whether the court will make an order for exclusive possession states that the court shall consider,

    • (a) the best interests of the children affected;
    • (b) any existing orders under Part I (Family Property) and any existing support orders;
    • (c) the financial position of both spouses;
    • (d) any written agreement between the parties;
    • (e) the availability of other suitable and affordable accommodation; and
    • (f) any violence committed by a spouse against the other spouse or the children.

    At AP Lawyers we always start by looking at the issue of ENTITLEMENT. By asking the right questions and understanding the nature of the relationship, we can determine the threshold question – is there any entitlement to spousal support in this particular case?

    Income disparity alone does not create entitlement to spousal support.

    An often-overlooked factor, is the basis of entitlement to spousal support? This affects how much spousal support will be payable.

    Recent Successes

    J. v. A.

    In J v. A the parties were married for 7 years. They had a son – who was 6 years old. J was the primary caregiver to their son and worked for himself on a part time basis so he could care for the child. Upon separation, the parties agreed to a shared parenting plan but in reality, the child was in J’s care for most of the time.

    We were able to negotiate spousal support at the high range for J as it is important for the child to enjoy a similar standard of living in both homes. We achieved this despite A’s position that she should pay no support because of the shared parenting arrangement.

    P. v. A.

    P retained Angela Princewill after unsuccessfully trying for years to get a variation of child and spousal support to be in line with A’s income increases as initially agreed to by the parties.

    We got A to pay a substantial amount for retroactive child and spousal support.

    A wanted income imputed to P who intended to return to school to retrain for a new career. Angela Princewill successfully set ongoing spousal support for another 5 years with no income imputed to P. This would allow P complete two years of school, find a job and get more stable in her job before spousal support terminates.

    J. v. M.

    Shortly after separation, J moved aggressively for a sale of the matrimonial home. M was concerned about her survival as she was unemployed and could not afford to qualify for a mortgage or even rent a place with no income.

    We vehemently resisted the home being listed for sale, until the issue of spousal support was resolve by a court Order.

    K. v. R.

    K and R had a very amicable separation. R helped K find a new home, secure a mortgage and even helped with the actual move.

    R then drafted a Separation Agreement which he convinced K was heavily in her favour and asked her to sign it, without independent legal advice.

    Thankfully, K sought legal advice from Angela Princewill.

    K was offered $0 in child support, $3,000 in spousal support and half the proceeds of sale of the matrimonial home only. Angela Princewill got K $2,300 for child support, $3,200 in spousal support, half the proceeds of sale of the matrimonial home, plus an additional equalization payment of $360,000.00.

    When a marriage breakdown, or parties who are cohabiting separate, they must resolve certain issues which could include:

    • Custody
    • Child support
    • Division of Property
    • Access
    • Spousal Support

    These issues can be resolved by the parties through negotiation, mediation and/or Arbitration.

    Physical separation is not a prerequisite. In Ontario, separation is recognized even though the parties continued to live in the same home.

    The best-case scenario at the end of a relationship is entering into a Separation Agreement, which articulates the parties’ settlement terms and ensures the parties avoid the difficult and expensive litigation process.

    The end of a relationship is always difficult and uncertainty about the legal ramifications can compound the difficulty.

    It is important to seek legal advice from competent legal professionals even when you and your partner are “amicable”. This is where AP Lawyers come in. As experienced negotiators, we work with our clients to get them the best possible deal while maintaining the spirit of co-operation necessary to reach a final deal.

    Too often, parties who believe they are amicable negotiate, draft and sign their Separation Agreements without the involvement of lawyers. We strongly advice against this. Here are a few of the issues we have observed in scenarios where parties have drafted their own Separation Agreement:

    • Lack of clarity on terms of the Agreement
    • One party gives too much due to a lack of understanding of the law
    • One party receives too little because they did not understand the law and even if they did, they were coerced into the agreement
    • Fail to address foreseeable future events
    • No mechanism provided for change
    • Contradictory provisions that affect the interpretation of the agreement
    • Insufficient financial disclosure either due to lack of knowledge or manipulation by one party
    • Issues inadvertently left unresolved
    • Lack of independent legal advice which makes it easy to set aside the Separation Agreement.

    We could go on, but we think you get the idea. Unfortunately,the costs and consequences of a poorly drafted Separation Agreement greatly exceeds the cost of getting it right the first time.

    Angela Princewill and her Associates at AP Lawyers have negotiated and drafted hundreds of Separation Agreements. These Agreements have ranged from the simple to the complex, involving various other financial, tax and medical professionals.

    S. v. C.

    The parties negotiated, drafted and signed their Separation Agreement without involving lawyers.

    10 years later, the parties were in litigation over the issues of child and spousal support.

    S understood one thing, C understood another, and the Separation Agreement was not clear. Even worse, the terms were contradictory. S sought back payment of about $350,000 because of significant post separation increases in C’s income. We believed C owed S nothing based on his understanding of what he signed.

    Ultimately, we settled the matter for only a fraction of the $350,000 and an amount that was much less than the legal fees if we were to take the matter through to Trial.

    C is a busy professional and was thrilled with the result. Not only did he not have to waste time and money attending court, he was able to protect his future income.

    This was a very expensive lesson for both parties who spent tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. The animosity could have been avoided and a Separation Agreement could have been prepared for 1% of the legal fees the parties had to later incur.

    C. v. M.

    After 26 years of marriage, C and M agreed they will be happier apart, than together.

    C consulted with AP Lawyers and Angela Princewill advised her that given the level of cooperation between C and M, and the simplicity of the issues, C could actually negotiate settlement ideas with M directly.

    Angela Princewill educated C on her rights and obligations. She advised C on various options that would work for C’s family and armed with this knowledge, C and M were able to agree on settlement terms, subject to each one obtaining independent legal advice.

    Angela Princewill believed the settlement terms were fair and proceeded to draft a Separation Agreement for the parties.

    M was given a chance to review the draft to ensure the draft reflected what the parties had agreed to. He also obtained independent legal advice, so he also understood the legal ramification of the Agreement. M signed the Separation Agreement with his lawyer while C signed hers with us.

    Many couples in Canada choose to live together without getting married. Approximately 17% of couples living together are cohabitating in a common-law relationship.

    However, this number does not accurately reflect the real rate of couple cohabitating together, which in fact is much higher.This is because many couples just choose to live together without reporting that they’re in a common-law relationship. Other relationships are so short-lived that the parties do not meet the definition of common-law under the Income Tax Act, or the Ontario Family Law Act.

    The Canada Revenue Agency considers you to be in a common-law relationship when you have cohabited for 12 months, however, common-law relationships for family law purposes are defined differently all-around Canada.

    In Ontario, for spousal support purposes¸ it means two persons who are not married to each other and have cohabited,

    (a) continuously for a period of not less than three years, or

    (b) in a relationship of some permanence, if they are the parents of a child as set out in section 4 of the Children’s Law Reform Act.

    Regardless of the situation, it is important to protect yourself, especially when you choose to own property with your partner or are bringing in valuable property into the relationship.

    A cohabitation agreement typically lays out terms for division of assets and spousal support when a common-law relationship comes to an end. This is similar to a marriage contract in that it outlines each spouse’s rights and responsibilities. Such written agreementbecomes enforceable if unfortunately,the relationship ends.

    Should you get married to your partner, your cohabitation agreement automatically becomes a marriage contract without any further action required.

    Many people have misconceptions about cohabiting, thinking their assets and finances are protected because they did not get married. This could not be further from the truth.

    Firstly, marriage is not a prerequisite for entitlement to spousal support. Secondly, when it comes to property division, there are Trust Laws that can be applied so that property is divided as though the parties were married.

    The only way to achieve some level of certainty is to enter into a property negotiated and drafted cohabitation agreement.

    At AP Lawyers, we follow our standard 6-step process of:

    1. Consultation
    2. Communication
    3. Disclosure
    4. Negotiation
    5. Drafting
    6. Execution

    We have helped people from all works of life to draft cohabitation agreements that they are happy with. Some own significant assets, while others want to protect assets they will acquire in the future. The one thing they all have in common is that they want to define the terms should the relationship fail, rather than leaving things to chance and uncertainty.

    Commonly referred to as a ‘prenup,’ a marriage contract, under section 52 Family Law Act, is an agreement outlining the terms parties have agreed to usually on how to resolve certain issues on a breakdown of the marriage.

    It will usually address how you and your spouse will divide your finances and assets. Everyone can benefit from a marriage contract, even if you only have a small amount of assets. This agreement will protect your separate property, support your estate plans, define what property is considered marital or not, save money in reducing conflicts, outline special agreements, and establish any procedures/protocols you may want to follow for deciding on future matters between you and your partner.

    The valuable characteristic of marriage contracts is that the couple have the autonomy to decide almost everything. If a marriage contract is non-existent, divorce becomes a nightmare and each spouse is essentially left unprotected and vulnerable. By outlining rights and responsibilities, it becomes easier to divide everything and adhere to any special arrangements regarding support, property, education, etc. without having a court decide for you.

    It is the dreaded conversation that no one wants to have before marriage; however, the consequences of this may lead to difficult months and sometimes even years settling everything.

    One of the most common mistakes a couple makes regarding marriage contracts is not knowing that they can still enter into an agreement after they are married. Should a couple choose not to address a marriage contract before marriage, they are able to enter into one after marriage as long as they are not doing so with the intention to get divorced in the near future.

    At AP Lawyers, we follow a 6-step process with a couple who want to draft a marriage contract

    1. Initial consultation – We spend time at this stage clarifying your objectives. Before providing any advice. It is imperative that we understand what you are trying to accomplish.

    We then advise you on the legal implications of your goals and show you how we can draft an agreement that helps you achieve your objectives, while also ensuring that the possibility of it being challenged in the future is minimized.

    2. Following the consultation, you can either discuss with your partner, or we can write to him or her, outlining the proposed terms of the marriage contract.

    3. You exchange disclosure documents.

    4. If your partner would like to incorporate some of his or her goals or negotiate different terms, we advise them to retain their own counsel and the negotiations is done through counsel to avoid any friction between the parties.

    5. We draft the marriage contract and the party who is not our client must obtain independent legal advice

    6. The marriage contract is signed by both parties and their lawyers.

    Most marriage contracts cover:

    • What happens with property each party brought into the marriage?
    • What happens to the matrimonial home if it was owned by one party prior to marriage?
    • How would property be divided if the parties separate?
    • Are there specific assets that a party wants to exclude for various reasons?
    • What happens to their property in the event of death?
    • Would spousal support be payable on separation?

    Remember, that if you do not answer and define what you want, you are left at the mercy of the law in force at some point in the future and chances are, you will not be happy with that result.

    At AP Lawyers, we always recommend alternative dispute resolution processes, always starting with negotiations between lawyers.

    Many matters settle at the negotiation phase. Others progress to mediation and/or arbitration.

    However not all cases settle, and many others are unsuited for alternative dispute resolution. This means, the parties would have to resort to the courts to settle their disputes.

    Parties always have the right to go straight to court to resolve their disputes except there is an earlier Agreement in which the parties have agreed to an alternate process.

    If litigation is the next logical step or if the client already started the process before retaining us, we go over in detail, the steps in a Family Law Litigation matter.

    STEPS IN A CASE – Family Law Matters:

    PLEADINGS

    • Application
    • Financial Statement
    • Custody Affidavit
    • Answer to Claim
    • Respondent’s Financial Statement
    • Respondent’s Custody Affidavit
    • Reply

    FIRST APPEARANCE
    CASE CONFERENCE

    • Case Conference Briefs
    • Financial Statements OR Affidavit (if no change or minor change)

    SETTLEMENT CONFERENCE

    • Settlement Conference Briefs
    • Financial Statements OR Affidavit (if no change or minor change)
    • Offers to Settle
    • Net Family Property Statement

    TRIAL MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

    • Trial Management Conference Briefs

    TRIAL

    OFFERS TO SETTLE –

    • Can be made at any point throughout the case to settle some or all issues

    MOTIONS –

    • These are proceedings brought to deal with issues that cannot wait to be determined at Trial.
    • Absent a situation of urgency, motions cannot be heard before a Case Conference.
    • Orders at motions are usually temporary if it is for a substantive issue e.g. spousal support.
    • Motions may also be effective for procedural matters such as getting an adjournment where it is contested or getting basic disclosure where it is overdue.

    When parties who are parents of minor children separate or divorce, it is important that they articulate their agreement on how they will co-parent following separation or divorce.

    The terms they agree to are then written in a document called a parenting plan. Parenting plans can also be included in a Separation Agreement.

    Parenting plans are also helpful where the parties are in the litigation process, cannot come to an agreement and are relying on the judge to make the appropriate order.

    By having a carefully thought out parenting plan, you demonstrate to the judge that you have thought through the idea of what is in the best interest of the child.

    Indeed, a great parenting plan forces you to consider various aspects of the care of the child and you can plan in advance how to approach various aspects of the child’s life.

    Without a plan, parties can often make merely emotional decisions without thinking of their responsibilities to the child and the challenges that follow co-parenting after separation.

    A parenting plan should include/answer the following questions:

    • How are important decisions affecting the child going to be made?
    • Who makes the day-to-day decisions?
    • Where will the child live primarily?
    • Will the time be shared equally or will the child live with one parent most of the time?
    • Are the times for pick up and drop offs specified to avoid confusions?
    • Is the location for pick up and drop off specified?
    • Does a long weekend or PA day alter time and location for pick ups and drop offs?
    • How will holidays be shared?
    • How will the parties exchange information regarding the children?
    • Can belongings be shared between the homes or would each parent provide separately for when the child is in their home?
    • How will the parents communicate with the child when he or she is in the care of another?
    • If travelling with the child, what kind of notice is required.
    • Do both parents have access to information regarding the child, if no, why not?
    • What is the arrangement for parent-teacher nights? Does only one party attend? Do both attend together or separately?
    • Can both attend school field trips? How will this be scheduled?
    • How would changes be incorporated into the parenting plan?
    • Is there a dispute resolution mechanism in place?These are just a few of the questions we consider at AP Lawyers in drafting a parenting plan.

    Recent Successes

    1) A. v. M.
    When A and M separated there was a lot of animosity between them but surprisingly within 2 months, the parties were able to agree to a parenting plan for their daughters who both had special needs.

    They agreed the children would live primarily with A and M would pick them up for dinner every Wednesday and would have the girls in his care from Friday after school to Sunday at 8pm.

    M started to miss visits and leave A in a bind. She needed the time to herself as she cared for the children solely at all other times and it was no easy task given their special needs. Babysitters for special needs kids are expensive and A could not afford it.

    We were able to assist the parties in drafting a new agreement that considered the children’s activities, M’s schedule and A’s needs as an individual. Most importantly, we included provisions whereby M would incur the cost of babysitting if he missed his scheduled parenting time. We also included processes for making decisions regarding the girls that eliminated the conflict that existed.

    2) J. v. S.
    For J and S the issue was, the defacto parenting arrangement the parties defaulted to after separation was simply not working for anyone except perhaps S, who was adamant in maintaining the status quo. The unspoken concern appeared to have been child support payments S was receiving from J for their 3 children. Since J also had a spousal support obligation, we were able to show S that a change in the parenting schedule would not necessarily lead to her receiving less support payments from J.

    Ultimately, with a focus on the best interests of the children, the parties were able to agree to a detailed parenting plan and a parenting schedule that worked better for the children and parents.

    A parent moving with a child is one of the most unpredictable areas of family law.

    While courts may recognize the benefit of moving to a parent with the majority of parenting time, these benefits must be balanced against the effect the move would have on the parenting time allocated with the other parent.

    The leading case on relocation remains the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Gordon v. Goertz (1996) 2 SCR 27. The court set out the following factors to be considered in relocation cases (note that since March 1, 2021, there has been a change in terminology and decision-making responsibility has replaced “custody” and parenting time has replaced “access”:

    • 1. The parent applying for a change in the custody or access order must meet the threshold requirement of demonstrating a material change in circumstances affecting the child.
    • 2. If the threshold is met, the judge on the application must embark on a fresh inquiry into what is in the best interests of the child, having regard to all the relevant circumstances relating to the child’s needs and the ability of the respective parents to satisfy them.
    • 3. This inquiry is based on the findings of a judge who made the previous order and evidence of the new circumstances.
    • 4. The inquiry does not begin with a legal presumption in favour of the custodial parent, although the custodial parent’s views are entitled to great respect.
    • 5. Each case turns on its own unique circumstances. The only issue is the best interests of the child in the particular circumstances of the case.
    • 6. The focus is on the best interests of the child, not the interests and rights of the parents.
    • 7. More particularly the judge should consider inter alia:
      • a) The existing custody arrangements and relationship between the child and the custodial parent;
      • b) The existing access arrangement and the relationship between the child and the access parent;
      • c) The desirability of maximizing contact between the child and both parents;
      • d) The views of the child;
      • e) The custodial parent’s reason for moving, only in the exceptional case where it is relevant to that parent’s ability to meet the needs of the child;
      • f) Disruption to the child of a change in custody; and
      • g) Disruption to the child consequent on removal from family, schools and the community he or she has come to know.

    Justice McLachlin summarized the factors by stating:

    In the end, the importance of the child remaining with the parent to whose custody it has become accustomed in the new location must be weighed against the continuance of full contact with the child’s access parent, the extended family, and the community. The ultimate question in every case is this: what is in the best interests of the child in all the circumstances, old as well as new?

    Gordon v. Goertz dealt with a case where there was an existing custody and access order. If there is no existing order regarding custody, the court will decide this first, before deciding the relocation issue based on the factors above.

    Whether or not a move will be permitted depends on the judge’s discretion based on the facts of each case.

    Relocation – best interest of the child considerations

    In deciding whether to authorize a relocation of a child, the court shall, in order to determine what is in the best interests of the child, take into consideration the following factors:

    • Reason for the relocation
    • Impact of the move on the child
    • Amount of time and involvement of each person who has parenting time
    • Whether person proposing the move has complied with notice requirements
    • Geographic restrictions
    • Reasonableness of proposal
    • Whether those with parenting orders have complied with family law orders, arbitral awards and agreements
    Notice Requirements

    Before relocating, the person requesting to move must give 60 days notice to other persons with parenting or contact orders. The notice must include the moving date, new address and contact information, a proposal as to how parenting time, decision-making responsibility and contact will occur after the move.

    At a consultation with AP Lawyers, we will review the facts of your case and based on the thousands of cases decided since Gordon v. Geortz, we can advise you on the strengths and weaknesses of your case, whether you are the party who wants to move, or the party opposing the move.

    It is important to get independent legal advice prior to agreeing to a settlement or signing off on a domestic contract.At AP Lawyers, we respect the parties’ right to negotiate a “fair” settlement and our goal is to ensure that our clients make informed decisions. In other words, the deal may not be “perfect” but provided it is made with complete awareness of the client’s options, we respect it.

    Steps to get Independent Legal Advice at AP Lawyers

    • 1. Call or email to schedule your consultation.
    • 2. Arrive early with a copy of your Agreement.
    • 3. A lawyer will review it and make notes on areas of concern or confusion.
    • 4. You meet with the lawyer who discusses your goals and objectives, and any questions you may have and gets clarification on their notes.
      • You will receive advice on our legal opinion of the deal reached.
      • We would advice if the deal reached achieved your objectives. If it does not, we would make recommendations that would help you in reaching an agreement that achieves your objectives, while also being legally viable.
      • If there is an agreement drafted, we would advice you if it reflects what was agreed.
      • If there are any errors in drafting, we would recommend changes.
    • 5. If the Agreement meets your objectives and the drafting reflects what was agreed to, we will sign off on the Agreement otherwise, we will schedule a follow up signing appointment free of charge.

    Under the Ontario Family Law Act, divorced or separated partners are entitled to an equalization of their net family properties. The person with the higher net worth pays to the other, half the difference in their networth.

    At a consultation with AP Lawyers we start by reviewing any marriage contracts to determine its validity.

    If there is no marriage contract, we go over what would be required in calculating the parties’ net family property. We pay attention to assets and liabilities that existed on the date of marriage as well as properties such as gifts, inheritance and life insurance proceeds which can be excluded from the net family property.

    We consider the length of the marriage. If it is less than 5 years, we review the facts in each case to see if equalization would be unconscionable. If it is likely that a case would meet the stringent test of unconscionability, we consider how much, if any, equalization should be paid.

    When dividing your family property after divorce or separation, the value of an experienced family law lawyer cannot be overstated. Otherwise, you may find out too late that you overpaid, or that you were short-changed. Neither situation is ideal.

    We make sure you get the benefit of every applicable exclusion and deduction. We consider the tax implications for each asset. We ensure each party’s assets are properly valued. We listen and pay attention to the details to identify unusual assets that could otherwise have been missed.

    Recent Successes

    1) M. v. A.
    M and A cohabited for 33 months and married for 18 months. There were factors in the case that justified a departure from the usual 50 – 50 division of net family properties. AP Lawyers applied every possible deduction to reduce M’s net family property. AP Lawyers also got a 70 – 30 split of the net family property in M’s favour.

    2) W. v. E.

    In W v. E, the parties were married for 23 years but the relationship was a tumultuous one. The central issue here was the date of separation as it significantly impacted the equalization payment payable by W to E.

    We were able to show that though W and E were still married and living together in the matrimonial home, they were living separate and apart for the last 3 years. The effect of this was a $500,000+ saving to W for the growth in her assets (mostly stock options) in the last 3 years.

    3) T. v. R.

    T retained us following the end of her 6 year marriage to R. Both parties had counsel and detailed financial statements were prepared. The main issue here was despite being represented by counsel, R still wanted to receive a deduction for the value of the matrimonial home which he owned for several years and had paid off the mortgage just before marriage.

    T and R did not enter into a marriage contract.

    Ultimately, T got half the full value of the matrimonial home as there was no reason in law to justify a date of marriage deduction for R.

    4) B. v. S.

    S received over $1,000,000 inheritance from her father’s estate. Prior to separation, she deposited $375,000 into the parties’ joint bank account. There was $175,000 left in the account on the date of separation.

    AP Lawyers only asked to exclude the $175,000 of the inheritance left in the joint account but B, through his lawyers insisted that since the money was deposited into the joint account, it had lost its exclusionary value.

    AP Lawyers was successful in getting S the exclusion.

    5) H. v. Q.

    H received a $500,000 payout from his father’s life insurance policy 4 years prior to the parties’ separation.

    H was able to receive a full exclusion with the assistance of AP Lawyers.

Testimonials

Areas we serve

    • Toronto
    • Brampton
    • Mississauga
    • Vaughan
    • Woodbridge
    • Newmarket
    • Markham
    • Richmond Hill
    • Oshawa
    • Ajax
    • Pickering
    • Whitby
    • Peterborough
    • Clarington
    • Caledon
    • Lindsay
    • Etobicoke
    • Brighton
    • Aurora
    • Cobourg
    • Kawartha Lakes
    • Port Hope
    • Bowmanville
    • Uxbridge
    • Port Perry
    • Baltimore
    • Colborne
    • Fraserville
    • Whitchurch
    • Stouffville

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