Family Lawyers Mississauga
At Campbell Bader LLP, we know from experience that a positive outcome usually involves a bumpy ride – one that can make lawyers unpopular from time to time. We’re okay with that.
When dealing with custody and parenting disputes, spousal and child support, the division of assets, and other family matters, emotions can be your worst enemy. Empathetic and pragmatic, we’ll help you stay focused if and when we feel emotions are leading you off track. We’re insightful and astute. We know how to pull essential information from your opposition.
We value and incorporate collaborative law principles in our practice, but we’re smart enough to recognize when that approach won’t work for you and we adapt our strategy accordingly.
You need practical, forthright legal representation to get you through the legal process as smoothly and as quickly as possible so that you can move on to enjoy a brighter future. That’s what we provide.
Common Law Relationships (Cohabitation)
Our family services include:
So, you and your partner have decided to move in together. It’s a big step, and amid your excitement you may be wondering how it will affect your legal rights and your obligations to one another. In Ontario, couples become common law once they have lived together continuously for a period of three years, or, if they are adoptive or natural parents of a child, “in a relationship of some permanence”.
Common law spouses have a legal obligation to support one another, in accordance with need, to the extent that they are capable of doing so. This means that in the event of a relationship breakdown, you will have the same spousal support obligation to your common law partner as you would to a married spouse.
Common law spouses do not have the right to split the family assets upon relationship breakdown, or to divide what would be the matrimonial home. If your name is not on title to the home where you reside as a common law spouse, you may be at risk of being evicted in the event of relationship breakdown, either through the separation from or death of your common law spouse.
This may not fit you and your partner’s view of your relationship at this point. How can you make sure that the law will respect the agreement you and your partner made, especially if your partner changes his or her mind down the line?
The law in Ontario allows common law spouses to make cohabitation agreements, which will allow you and your partner to set certain legal boundaries to the relationship, including spousal support obligations and rights or interests in family assets in the event of separation or death.
It is very important to have your cohabitation agreement drafted properly, and both parties should have their own legal advice. The court may set aside provisions of cohabitation agreements in certain situations, such as where one party misled the other regarding the consequences of signing the agreement, the meaning of its terms, or with regard to providing certain financial disclosure. The court may also set aside terms that are not in the best interests of a child of the relationship, or that include otherwise unreasonable terms (such as a complete waiver of claims for child support).
If you and your partner are engaged, you’re probably already aware of the stress and planning that goes into the big day. However, what about the days, months and years to follow? What if one partner brings property or debt into the marriage that you would prefer to be treated differently? Have you thought about your obligations to each other if you separated?
Like cohabitation agreements, marriage contracts (sometimes called “pre-nuptial agreements”), are permissible under Ontario law. You and your spouse-to-be can use a marriage contract to work out how to manage your property and debt during your marriage, but a marriage contract most commonly deals with what happens to property in the event of separation, as well as support obligations. Marriage contracts can also represent a way for couples to settle those issues that can raise conflicts in a marriage later, such as the education or religious instruction of children. However, marriage contracts may not be used to establish the terms of child custody or access upon marriage breakdown.
Marriage contracts must be drafted properly to be effective, and both parties should have their own representative. Marriage contracts are also like cohabitation agreements in that courts may set aside provisions of marriage contracts if they find that one party did not have legal advice, did not understand the contract, or if one party misled the other about the contract’s effects.
We can help you negotiate and draft a cohabitation agreement or marriage contract designed to protect your rights and preserve your understanding of the relationship, giving you the peace of mind you need as you enter this new phase of your life.
Child Custody and Access
Child custody and access can be divisive, overwhelming and even painful. We’ve helped our clients deal with a variety of issues, including partners withholding access as a pressure tactic, partners with concerns about the other partner’s ability to provide care, and grandparents seeking access over a parent’s objection.
“Custody” of a child refers to the right to make decisions for that child, including decisions about the child’s health care, education, religious upbringing, and recreational activities. If a parent has “sole custody”, he or she may make these decisions without consulting the other spouse, though the other spouse will be entitled to information about these decisions. If parents have “joint custody”, they are expected to have an equal share in the decision-making process.
The process can be amicable, and we will leverage that opportunity if it presents itself. Should that change or not be the case, we’ll work with you to shut down any bullying from the other side without fuelling the fire. Whether you’re looking to change an unreasonable custody arrangement or enforce your right to access, our objectivity and management of the circumstances can help you to make a custody arrangement that respects your wishes.
If you and your partner are newly separated, and have verbally or informally agreed upon on a custody arrangement for your children, we recommend you contact us about formalizing it through a separation agreement.
Relationship breakdown is a painful experience, and it leaves you and your spouse or common-law partner with many questions about your lives going forward. You will have to work out whether one of you will leave the home, how much spousal and child support will be paid, and how you and your partner will arrange how you spend time with your children. It’s not wise to rely on verbal arrangements or loose understandings with your former partner, as it could create confusion later. We recommend that you formalize your agreement in a written separation agreement.
Separation agreements are legally binding contracts made to deal with property and custody issues at the end of a relationship. Separation agreements must be in writing, freely negotiated between the spouses, witnessed by third parties, and each spouse should have his or her own lawyer.
Separation agreements can be an inexpensive alternative to bringing issues before a court to resolve, but can cause more headaches than they prevent if they are not properly drafted. Separation agreements may be struck down in some circumstances, such as where the agreement is insufficiently clear or where the practical effect of the agreement leads to a completely unjust outcome for one spouse or partner.
Trying to draft your own separation agreement without legal advice or using a standardized form is risky. Campbell Bader LLP can represent you in negotiating and drafting a separation agreement with the clarity and precision required for a settlement that not only will work for now, but will make the best provision for the future.
While you may think of your separation as the end of your relationship with your spouse, your legal marriage will not formally end until you obtain a divorce order from the courts. There are a number of requirements you and your former spouse must satisfy before a court will grant the order. Without a divorce order, you will not be able to marry again.
When applying for a divorce, you and your spouse should also resolve or have resolved any issues relating to your children, such as support, custody and access, whether through a separation agreement or a court order.
We can help you obtain a divorce order, with or without the consent of your former spouse. If you are currently separated and planning to remarry in the near future, it is a good idea to begin the divorce process promptly. Even if you and your separated spouse co-operate and fulfill all requirements, it usually takes several months before the court grants the judgment for divorce.
Child and Spousal Support
If you and your spouse or common law partner are separating, you will have to work out your obligations to each other in terms of child and spousal support. You may be wondering whether you’re entitled to child and spousal support. You may have already agreed to a support arrangement with your former spouse, but your respective financial situations may have changed to make it unworkable or unfair. You may even have a marriage contract that affects your rights to that support. Disagreements between spouses on support are very common in family practice, and you need advice that will help you focus on your economic and legal interests while minimizing the bickering.
Spousal support refers to the money one spouse pays another following separation, and applies to legally married and common law couples alike. The purpose of spousal support is to give the recipient some financial security until they are able to become financially independent. Spouses can make an agreement regarding child support in a separation agreement or one spouse may apply to the court for a spousal support order and have the court make the decision.
Unlike child support, parties may waive their entitlement to spousal support under a marriage contract. You may be able to challenge a marriage contract that limits or eliminates your right to spousal support under certain circumstances, as we have successfully done in the past.
Spousal support is not connected or part of child support, and its calculation must occur on a case-by-case basis rather than following a formula. A court will consider the recipient’s needs, the payor’s ability to pay, and the lifestyle the spouses maintained during the marriage.
Where a spousal support order is in place, the payor can apply to a court to change it where the circumstances of the spouses have experienced material change, such as the loss of or reduction in income from the payor’s job, a new job or promotion for the recipient, or the remarriage of the recipient. The court will not vary the order unless it is convinced that the change is significant enough to be considered “material” and was not reasonably foreseeable. With so much variability, you need a legal adviser in your corner to make sure you get the result you deserve.
Child support refers to the money paid to the spouse who cares for the children for the majority of the time. Child support is generally payable for children until they reach the age of 18, but can extend beyond that where the child has a disability or remains a full-time student.
Like spousal support, parents may work out an agreement for child support as part of a separation agreement or apply to the court for an order setting the amount.
When fixing the amount of child support payable, a court will generally apply the Child Support Guidelines established by the government http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/fl-lf/child-enfant/guide/, which are based on the income of the payor parent and the number of children.
However, not every separation fits the mould of the Guidelines, and courts may deviate from the amount payable under the Guidelines in a number of situations.
The court may also make the payor responsible for certain “special or extraordinary expenses”, like a child’s braces or summer activities, or for contributing a fair share of those expenses, which will have to be paid in addition to any amounts awarded for normal monthly payments of child support.
Campbell Bader LLP can help you with your child and spousal support issues at any stage of the process, but we recommend a proactive approach, starting at separation. If you are separating from your spouse, call or email us now to book an appointment with one of our family lawyers.
Division of Joint and Family Property
When a marriage ends, you and your spouse must begin the difficult and often contentious task of dividing your property. The Family Law Act allows a legally married spouse to ask the court to split the value of the property they accumulated through the marriage (“net family property”) into equal shares. If you have a larger portion of the net family property in your name, you must pay your former spouse half of the difference between your shares.
You may be looking for a way to keep certain property you brought into your marriage from being sold and split. You may be wondering whether your share in a business, an inheritance or your pension plan will have to be part of the calculation.
If you and your spouse owned the home you lived in at the time of separation, that home is the “matrimonial home” and subject to its own distinct property calculation, regardless of who owned it at the time of marriage or separation. You and your spouse may own more than one home that falls under the category of matrimonial home, such as a holiday home or cottage that you regularly used during your marriage.
As you can see, the division of net family property can be tricky, and Campbell Bader LLP can help you through it. There are circumstances when a court may allow for an unequal division of property, such as the dissipation of assets by one spouse through gambling, or one spouse brought the matrimonial home into the marriage. We’ll show you what you have to include in the calculation, which property you can keep safe from equalization, and how to tackle the division of the matrimonial home or homes.
Out-of-Province or Out-of-Country Support Orders
It’s always stressful having to chase an unwilling partner for unpaid support. If your former partner has left Ontario, you may be wondering how you can possibly get support from that person if they decide not to pay. How can you make sure your rights are respected from so far away?
Don’t despair. There are laws in place to protect your rights, and we can help you navigate them.
Ontario has made arrangements with all Canadian provinces and territories that allow you to apply for an order in those places without having to appear at court there.
There are also foreign countries that have agreed to co-operate with Ontario courts, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Hong Kong, Ghana, Poland and others.
We have helped clients obtain and enforce Ontario support orders in other jurisdictions where the clients had almost given up hope of ever receiving support.
If your former spouse or common law partner resides in a country or other Canadian province that has a reciprocal arrangement with Ontario, we can help you enforce or vary an existing support order. Call our family lawyers today to book a consultation.