"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 Blog

Purpose and areas of focus for parenting plans

The development of a parenting plan is an important step in many divorces involving children in Ontario. A parenting plan is a document outlining how the children will be raised following divorce, and the parents should focus on the needs of the children while developing the plan.

There are no hard rules for the contents of the document. It should be concrete enough to be useful, but it should also be flexible. A good parenting plan will reduce the likelihood of conflict between the parents by setting out expectations and guidelines while considering the ages of the children and the parents' realistic ability to cooperate with one another.

Why mediation may be a good idea for divorcing couples

Family mediation may be worthwhile for Ontario couples who are unable to settle their differences on their own. Mediation is voluntary, and one or both parties may leave at any time. One of the main benefits of mediation is that it gives couples a chance to communicate in an effective manner. Over the long-term, this may help protect the best interest of them and any children who might be involved.

With divorce mediation, both parties must be willing to give it an honest chance. Otherwise, the process will not be effective or result in any meaningful solutions to the problems that exist. Furthermore, both parties must feel safe around each other. As mediation is a forum for compromise, both parties must be willing to listen to the other without interrupting.

Separating individuals may be entitled to spousal support

When a couple has children together, one partner will often stay at home with the children rather than work. Even couples or spouses who do not have children together but who live together for many years may wind up putting themselves at an economic disadvantage for the benefit of the relationship. The law in Ontario recognizes that spouses or common-law spouses may have a hard time getting back on their feet after a separation, and it affords individuals the right to request spousal support. Common-law couples must live together for at least three years prior to separation to request spousal support. Alternatively, common-law couples may demonstrate that there was some permanence to their relationship or that they have children together.

Spouses may work with attorneys to draft a written support agreement. If spouses cannot reach an agreement, a judge or an arbitrator may need to decide if spousal support is warranted. Judges will determine the amount of spousal support to which one spouse is entitled, and they will also establish a period of time over which the payments must be made. Payments may either be made on a monthly basis or as a lump sum. Lump-sum payments are not tax deductible for the payor spouse, but monthly payments are. Likewise, a receiving spouse will only be taxed on payments if they are made on a monthly basis.

Property division when a marriage ends

In Ontario and across Canada, a divorce means that the partnership of a marriage ends the couple's shared finances. They will need to divide their assets fairly, which can be a complicated process. Generally, the couple must split all assets evenly that they acquired during their marriage. If said assets increased in value, they will also share the proceeds.

However, some property is excluded from this rule, such as gifts, inheritances and insurance monies. In addition, special rules apply to the family home, which must be equally divided during the divorce. This is true even if one person brought it into the marriage, inherited it or received it as a gift. However, the parties can agree on a fair division of the property. While the courts might intervene, they will generally divide the home in a 50-50 split. Since the division of property can be quite complex, family law attorneys can help with the process.

Determining spousal support

Getting a divorce in Ontario may also mean dealing with issues of spousal support. Several criteria are considered regarding qualification for support, how much that support will be and for how long.

Spousal support comes in different kinds. Some couples agree to various levels of support or types of asset division in a prenuptial agreement, and that is known as contractual spousal support.

Benefits of collaborative divorce

While divorce is often considered a contentious matter, it is possible to have a smoother divorce by concentrating more on moving on with contentment than retaliating against past wrongs. Ontario courts would like to motivate individuals to talk through divorce and are considering options to fulfill this goal. Two such options are divorce mediation and collaborative divorces.

One advantage to mediation or a collaborative divorce is that spouses may be able to save money through this process. Costs are often incurred when spouses fight over the division of their assets. A contested divorce in Ontario may cost close to $15,800, and if that divorce goes to court, the average price is $23,900. However, statistics indicate that common-sense mediated divorces can save 75 per cent of the cost of going to court with a contested divorce.

Child support in Ontario

When one child lives with one parent for the majority of the time, this parent will generally end up paying the bulk of the expenses related to raising the child. However, the parent who spends the lesser amount of time with the child is responsible for paying support, and they are deemed the payor parent. This relationship is often described in a court order or separation agreement, but these arrangements are not always in writing.

It is up to parents, who can be a biological parent, adoptive parent or step-parent, to provide financially for their child or children to the best of their ability. Someone is considered to be a step-parent if the individual has treated a child as their own family, irrespective of whether they were married to the child's parent or living in a common-law relationship, and a step-parent may be obligated to pay child support.

Overview of family mediation

Couples in Ontario who are ready to end their marriage might go through an alternative to divorce court called family mediation with a trained professional who helps them resolve their differences. The parties can attempt mediation at any time during their case. If it does not work, the parties can go to court. Family mediation offers several benefits. It is voluntary, and people can try to resolve their differences while reducing expenses. The professional also keeps the focus on what is best for the children. Participants work on improving their communication in a less formal setting, which could also benefit them in the future. While court is a public matter, mediation is private.

In order for mediation to work, clients must be willing to cooperate with the other party and not feel threatened by them. They should be open to listening to the other person and clearly communicating their concerns. Mediation can address a wide range of issues, including child custody, separation agreements, property division, child support, alimony, visitation and other related issues.

Spousal support agreements in Ontario

Individuals going through a divorce in Ontario may not be completely aware of the ins and outs of spousal support. Spousal support is money paid by one former spouse to the other after a divorce or separation. The money may be used to care for a child, relieve financial hardship and balance out any advantage or disadvantage to a spouse caused by the relationship or divorce. This can be paid monthly or in a lump sum.

The payer of spousal support is typically the one with the higher income, regardless of gender. For couples who are unmarried, common-law spouses must have lived together for at least three years or must have been in a relationship with some permanence and had a child together.

Social media reveals parents avoiding child support payments

Ontario couples who are considering divorce must also negotiate child custody and child support. Generally, child support is decided according to guidelines that take into account things like income and the needs of the child. Once a child support amount is set, one parent still may have to pursue the amount that the other parent was ordered to pay.

A parent may claim that they do not make enough money for child support payments. However, in the United States, several fathers were recently charged with felonies for failing to pay child support after their social media postings suggested a higher income.

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