"Listening and truly understanding the needs of my clients during this
difficult time is my number one priority."

>> Greg Cooper, Family Law Mediator and Arbitrator.

Toronto Ontario Family Law & Divorce Mediation Blog

Divorce mediation and equalization in Ontario

If you are going through a divorce in Ontario, you may be wondering exactly what equalization entails. Rather than exchanging an interest in property, equalization provides that one spouse will make a monetary payment to the other for his or her share of the property. Each spouse then retains his or her separate property.

In your case, you may not have the financial means to make such a payment. Instead, you may want to be able to negotiate an agreement to exchange assets rather than making equalization payments to your spouse. While a judge may not make such an order, you may be able to negotiate an agreement to exchange assets in lieu of equalization payments.

Financial tips when a marriage ends in Ontario

When a divorce occurs, both parties may face social, emotional and financial difficulties. For financial help, a recent article offers several financial tips to help someone who is ending their marriage.

The report suggests that a person should organize their paperwork and list all joint assets and debts. They will need paperwork to document this information, including bank accounts, retirement accounts, investment accounts and any other related financial information. The couple will also need to make a decision about child custody and child support during a divorce.

Understanding the Supervised Access Program and its purpose

Conflict may arise between unmarried parents during visitation with children, and the custodial parent could have concerns about leaving the children alone with the visiting parent. In such cases, the Supervised Access Program in Ontario is a method in which the parents may avoid these conflicts and concerns.

The program allows parents to have supervised visits with their children at access centres, which provide safe environments under the watchful eyes of trained volunteers and staff. The group setting facilitates on-site visits and exchanges of children from one parent to another with the goal of providing a neutral atmosphere focused on the children. The trained volunteers and staff also aim to provide for the children's sensitive needs.

Supporting children and spouses following divorce

In Ontario, both parents have the responsibility to furnish financial support to their children. Thus, in most divorces, one spouse will be ordered to pay the other monthly child support payments as a part of the divorce decree. Additionally, a party may also be ordered to pay spousal support to the other.

Child support amounts are established by the province's child support guidelines, which vary according to the number of children supported and the relative incomes of the parents. Normally, the parent who does not have primary residential custody will be ordered to pay the other parent. In the event the financial or other circumstances of one or both parents later significantly change, either one can return to court and file a motion to change which is a request of a modification to the ordered amount.

The basics of going to family court in Ontario

When Ontario couples are going through a divorce or separation, it is not uncommon for them to be unable to agree on certain aspects of the agreement, such as how custody will be arranged. In a situation such as this, couples have the option of going to court and letting a judge make the difficult decisions.

In the majority of family court cases, spouses will first be required to attend a Mandatory Information Program session. The purpose of this program is to teach spouses about the different ways disputes can be resolved, the legal issues that can come up in a separation or divorce, and how spouses and children respond to separations and divorces.

The benefit of mediation in dividing property

The division of property is a big part of an Ontario divorce settlement, and it could also be a source of disagreement, stress and confusion for you, especially in a high-asset divorce. The law has an impact on how property is divided, but when you agree to divorce mediation, you have the opportunity to choose how the division of property best suits your needs.

A high-asset divorce often means more complex financial issues, which affect the financial standing of both you and your estranged spouse. This may involve pensions, household items, land, retirement benefits or investments. If you were a stakeholder in a business along with your spouse, what happens with those assets also needs to be determined during the property division stage.

Unmarried couples and separation in Ontario

Couples in Ontario who are not married may think that they are in a common-law relationship, but in fact, the term "common law" does not legally exist in that province. However, couples in Ontario who have lived together for at least three years are considered to be in a relationship that is similar to common-law relationships in the rest of the country. Having children changes how the relationship is viewed. Couples who have lived together for only one year are considered to be in the equivalent of a common-law relationship if they have a child.

However, this status may not confer as many benefits as some individuals think. For example, if the individuals separate, their relationship has no bearing on how property is divided. When a relationship ends, an individual can file a claim on another's property on the grounds that they have contributed to its upkeep, but courts will use the law of constructed trust rather than matrimonial law in making a decision.

Dividing the marital home and pension benefits

Ontario residents who might become involved in a contentious divorce may be interested in learning about how the courts handle certain complicated assets during property division. For example, the family home and each individual's pension accounts may both be sizeable assets that are subjected to division at the end of a marriage.

In addition to the financial interests that might be inherent in the family home, the property could also represent an emotional foundation for the family. When a divorce occurs, both parties have an equal right to stay in the home. This means that neither party is able to make certain decisions regarding the property without the other individual's permission. For example, one party may not lease, sell or mortgage the estate without the permission of the other party. However, an order or agreement that establishes exclusive possession of the property may help a former couple avoid such issues.

Spousal support can be a pivotal issue

Ontario couples preparing to dissolve their marriage may be anxious about the issue of spousal support. Divorcing couples prove to be incapable of agreeing not just on the specifics of spousal support but also on the issue in general, and so it is resolved in court by a family law judge. In making determinations, the judge relies on the Divorce Act, a federal law that governs the issues pertaining to divorce.

Normally, spousal support is ordered when there is a large disparity between the incomes of the two spouses, with the higher-earning spouse being ordered to pay the lower-earning spouse a set monthly amount. However, if the lower-earning spouse owns significant assets that make up for the income difference, judges may use their discretion to deny spousal support.

Parenting plan considerations

In dealing with their divorce, parents in Ontario may find that issues related to their children are some of the most difficult. However, working through their differences to create an appropriate parenting plan is important. Such a plan allows a child to maintain a relationship with both parents while equipping parents to act in that child's best interests as important decisions are made.

A parenting plan is an overview that is recorded in written form to explain the goals and methods to be used in raising a child upon completion of divorce proceedings. Rather than using legal terms, the plan is a simple outline dealing with issues such as the approach to be used in making decisions, the manner in which information will be shared, and scheduling time to be spent with a child. The goal is to ensure that objectives are clearly defined with the needs of the child being a priority. With a formal plan, conflicts can ideally be minimized, promoting more positive relationships and a sense of stability for a child.

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