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Family Law – What You Need To Know
So you have split up with your partner. You may be married or may be common law. Now what? You feel helpless, scared, feel like your life is over, worried about the consequences and don’t know what your rights are and how to best protect them. These are all regular feelings at this time.
Sometimes you will receive a letter from your ex’s divorce lawyer or worse, court documents. This is the time to get help and get a family lawyer on board to ensure you rights are fully protected. Do not sign or agree to anything until you have a lawyer as that lawyer will only look out for your best interest.
If the separation has just occurred and nothing has happened, the situation can be dealt with in one of two ways. The first is by having lawyers negotiate a Separation Agreement. This will deal with all the issues without the need for court intervention (other then a divorce which is not difficult and done mainly via paperwork). It is essential for both sides to be represented to make sure your rights are protected and the Agreement is legally valid and won’t be overturned later by a court if it comes to that. The only way a Separation Agreement will work is if all the issues can be agreed upon between the parties and lawyers. At least in the past, parties would draft there own Agreement’s and then a few years later, one party would challenge the Agreement because it was unfair, both sides didn’t receive independent legal advice and the Agreement provided no protection to either party. That is why parties should never draft there own Agreements. The cost of a lawyer to assist is much less then what will be spent litigating in court years later over the non legal Agreement. Disclosure must be exchanged and Financial Statements completed to give the best chance that no one will be able to challenge the Agreement later. I should also note that a Divorce must be done separate from a Separation Agreement as that process is done in court.
If the parties and lawyers cannot agree on all the issues or if you have been served court paperwork, you now have to deal with the case in court. Court is extremely complex and this article is meant to give a general overview. It would take an entire book and years of learning to go through the entire court process, strategy, etc.
The first step in the family court process is to draft the pleadings. We draft a number of documents that will be read by the court as the case proceeds. This is a very important step as if you make an error in the pleadings, they have to be amended or you could give up certain rights. Regular people should not draft pleadings. It is essential to have a lawyer do this for you.
The same is true if you are served court paperwork. You have 20 or sometimes 30 days to respond with responding material. Again, this is a very important step as if you make an error in the pleadings, they have to be amended or you could give up certain rights. Regular people should not draft pleadings. It is essential to have a lawyer do this for you.
After the pleadings, whether you are the one who brings the case or responds, the paperwork is served and filed. The lawyers at this stage should talk and exchange disclosure which is the evidence normally documents required to properly evaluate your case. The lawyers may also try to negotiate to narrow the issues down which sometimes leads to settlement or at least settlement on some issues so court is quicker and cheaper. Sometimes interim agreements are made normally regarding support and access to the children in those types of cases.
Normally the next step would be a Case Conference. Documents need to be completed beforehand and served and filed. The parties appear before a judge at a Case Conference. The judge will have read everything and go through the outstanding issues in the case. A judge will often given an opinion of the issues hoping to lead the issues towards settlement. Some cases are resolved at one Case Conference. Some cases require multiple Case Conferences. It is important to note that after a Case Conference, parties are free to bring motions. What is the difference? A judge at a Case Conference can only make procedural orders like disclosure for example but cannot force the parties to do anything. A judge at a Motion has the power to make real orders like when parties will see the kids or force the sale of a house. Normally each side pays its own costs at a Case Conference while at a Motion, the losing party generally will pay a portion of the winning parties costs although it is always at the discretion of the judge.
If the parties don’t settle, the case will lead to a Settlement Conference. A Settlement Conference is similar to a Case Conference in that briefs are done beforehand and served and filed. You must do an Offer to Settle so the judge knows what your position is on settlement. The judge again will try to get the parties to settle and end the case. You could have one or multiple Settlement Conferences.
If the parties don’t settle, the case will then proceed to a Trial Management Conference. Again, a package needs to be filled out that deals specifically with plans for trial which is the final step in the process. At the Conference, the judge will likely again try to get the parties to settle. If they refuse, the judge will give instructions on how the trial will proceed. Every jurisdiction has different rules about trials including how witnesses will testify, the type of witnesses, etc.
Trial is very rair in family law and I estimate less then 2% of cases go to trial. It is very expensive and if you lose, could pay a portion of the winning sides costs. You must be very sure you are going to win if you want to go to trial. A lot of material must be drafted and submitted in advance of the trial and trials can range from days to weeks. I am a big proponent of avoiding trial as much as possible. This is where cases get very very expensive. I believe the best lawyers don’t go to trial and are able to settle cases along the way doing a huge service to there clients.
It is important to note that this article deals with a new case that hasn’t gone to court yet. There are cases where there is a court order in place and one side wants to change the order. For example, child support is to high and doesn’t reflect a lower income of the paying party. This process is called a Motion to Change. The first step in drafting the pleadings is a bit different but the remainder of the article pretty much applies with slight differences.
I have also not touched on complexities such as issues with disclosure, Rule 1 hearings, certain types of motions, etc. Again, I could write a book with much more detail. This is meant as a general overview of the process.
Please contact Legal Solutions Law Firm at 416-274-2222 and we are happy to further discuss your case and quote for our services during a free consultation to get you out of the situation you are in your personal life. We are confident in our ability to do that.
Legal Solutions Law Firm offers flat fee arrangements and payment plans so you don’t have to worry about hourly rates or paying every time you pick up the phone to call us or send us an email.
*The above article is not meant to provide legal advice but more of a summary of the process and our experience with the criminal justice system. All cases are unique and different and results in one case do not guarantee similar results in another.
Your Family Affairs Matters – Why Hiring a Toronto Family Lawyer is Necessary
You will find a lot of reasons why you might need to call a family lawyer in Ontario. Probably, the most typical cause is filling for a divorce. For this reason alone, most family lawyers are better known as divorce lawyers. You see, divorce is one of the major responsibilities of family law. However, it’s just one of the practice areas where a lawyer can offer assistance.
Family law problems might be settled or might be resolved in a hearing or trial. It’s a misconception to think that when you maintain a divorce lawyer you in a divorce which your case will necessarily compose of a trial or a hearing. The majority of divorce cases which are precise “litigation” matters never proceed to a trial or hearing and are arranged between the parties or their Ontario lawyers.
One must employ an Ontario divorce lawyer who can litigate a case involve the significant concerns but who’s settlement oriented if that’s your goal.
Any divorce case could end up in litigation. Even those cases which show to be assured settlement cases might end up in court. Sometimes, cases settle faster which appeared to be an assured “war of the roses” cases. The route a case takes often varies on which Ontario divorce lawyers are employed.
Legal separation won’t close your marriage in the eyes of Ontario courts. However, there are still many benefits for filing a separation agreement. Take note: as a legal matter, a separation enables your lawyer to start the process of community and marital property division throughout the waiting period before the final divorce decree.
A legal separation also enables spouses to remain to take advantage of tax and health care benefits enjoyed by married couples. For those long-term marriages where neither party anticipates to remarry, a separation might be a great choice.
When divorce isn’t your ultimate goal, a legal separation safeguards your privileges through the marriage dissolution procedure.
The advantages of a separation agreement are composed of:
- Spousal support payments might be removed from taxes only when the obligation is part of the court order or separation agreement.
- You might include provisions limiting access to credit card accounts, savings and joint checking.
- You can safeguard your rights in every matter linking to child support, child custody, and alimony.
- You might remain particular benefits of married couple, usually covering health insurance benefits
- You might safeguard yourself from any debt sustained by your spouse throughout the waiting time frame before the divorce becomes final.
- The separation agreement might include particular items connecting to home use, maintenance and mortgage payments.
Child Custody and Child Support concerns come between parents going through a divorce and those parents who’ve never been married. Timeshare and child custody can be challenging and emotionally draining and could come in the dissolution procedure and remain for many years after the divorce.
In the majority of custody cases, parents should agree upon a timeshare plan which is reasonable both for the kids and for the parents, or the court will provide an agreement. Here, decisions made throughout child custody cases will have massive impact on the children.
The presumption in Ontario is that parents share joint legal custody over the child. That denotes the parents share decision-making of the relevant matters on the life of the child. Generally, parents share a virtually equal timeshare, unless some reasons are present that the arrangement won’t support the best interests of the kid.
Ontario lawyers make each effort to guarantee that kids don’t suffer and that every client has time with his or her kids. The goal here is to safeguard the interest of the kids involved in this challenging procedure while assisting a parent make the most cognizant decisions.
Is One Ontario Lawyer Enough for Your Family Law Case?
The law firm you employ should have the technical and professional resources you need. Apart from that, it might be effective to have lawyers who collaborate as a team. Some firms have various names on the door. However, each lawyer acts self-reliant.
The ideal legal team will manage your case more quickly and efficiently, and a team of lawyers working on your case will draw on one another’s experience and skills.
If you are looking for a family lawyer in Toronto for all your legal problems, it’s time to get in touch with an Ontario Family Lawyer. These lawyers promise compassionate, non-judgmental and discreet legal representation based on meeting your needs and not their own.
Call or text Legal Solutions Law Firm at 416-320-2020 for your free consultation in regards to divorce, separation or child custody.
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