"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

Applying for divorce

Spouses in Ontario who want to divorce may file an application under the federal Divorce Act. Generally, the spouses need to be legally married under Canadian laws or recognized as legally married in Canada. One of the spouses also needs to have lived in Ontario for an entire year prior to applying.

The only reason that two spouses may divorce is because of a breakdown in their marriage. According to the Divorce Act, a marriage breakdown occurs when the spouses have lived apart for at least one year, if one spouse was mentally or physically cruel to the other, or if one spouse commits adultery. It is possible to qualify for a divorce if the spouses live separately but under the same roof. They may also try to live together again in an attempt to reconcile up to 90 days prior to or after filing an application. The action can continue as usual if the reconciliation does not work.

Understanding the process for relocating a child after a divorce

Ontario parents who wish to relocate with their child after a divorce may be interested in some information on how courts decide on these issues. In most cases, the judge will analyze several factors in making their decision.

When dealing with parental relocation issues after divorce, courts are often torn between the desire to allow the child to keep contact with both parents and the right of parents to move to another province for a better life. Courts generally focus on the best interests of the child as their main factor as in most issues pertaining to custody. However, it may frustrate parents to know that the facts of each situation, including the jurisdiction, judge and particular the type of move that is in question, make predicting the outcome of such a decision very difficult.

Legal assistance for spousal support negotiations

Spousal support is a divorce issue that sometimes comes up during alternative dispute resolution. Although spousal support is not an automatic part of every divorce, it is an important topic to address while negotiating a financial settlement.

At Cooper ADR, we help spouses to negotiate for a fair divorce settlement that sometimes includes an agreement for spousal support. Depending on your unique situation, we may be able to help you to negotiate for ongoing spousal support payments, payments that decline over time or one lump-sum payment. In some cases, regular spousal support payments may continue until the receiving spouse remarries or another life change triggers an end to the payments.

Spousal support and social assistance eligibility in Ontario

When people in Ontario need to use social assistance, they are required to seek spousal support from their ex-spouse that they might be entitled to. If they do not make reasonable efforts to seek spousal support, they may end up with less social assistance or their benefits may be denied all together.

Applicants for social assistance who do not already have a support order will be expected to provide information about their ex-spouse to the family support worker. If an applicant or their child has been the victim of abuse by the ex-spouse, they are not required to seek spousal support from him or her. They may also not be required to do so if the other spouse cannot be located or if he or she is not working and cannot pay the support.

Different types of child custody

Parents going through a divorce in Ontario may want to become familiar with the different kinds of child custody. Depending on the custody arrangement that is worked out during a divorce, a parent may have joint custody, sole custody or access. The custody arrangement may be arranged by parents during mediation or decided by a judge in a court hearing.

If parents are able to make decisions about their child together, a judge may approve an order for joint child custody. Because joint custody means both parents will have to agree on all major decisions about their child's life, this arrangement requires a lot of communication between the two parents. In some cases, parents with joint custody may decide to divide decision-making responsibilities rather than communicate with each other about each decision.

Arbitration to resolve family law disputes in Ontario

The Arbitration Act became law 1991, and it provides a way for Ontario residents to resolve disputes in a less formal atmosphere than a courtroom. While the law allows some latitude regarding how the parties involved will resolve their issues, it does require that the procedure chosen is fair to both sides. The process is governed by an arbitration agreement that is agreed by both parties and sets out what issues will be decided. In the case of family law arbitration, these issues could involve the division of a divorcing couples' assets, spousal support or child custody.

If a couple elects to pursue arbitration during a divorce, they will each be given the opportunity to make their position clear to the arbitrator. While the rules during arbitration are less rigid than in an Ontario courtroom, there are similarities. Both sides will be able to present evidence and call witnesses, and both may be represented by a lawyer.

How to change a child support order

A noncustodial parent in Ontario may be able to have a child support order modified to reflect the current circumstances of all family members involved. Some possible reasons why a parent might want a child support order to be changed include changes to a parent's income or the remarriage of one of the former spouses. If the child has graduated from high school and has begun working, this also could be a catalyst for a child support order to be changed.

For a child support order to be legally changed, the parents must negotiate new child support terms in their domestic contract. The Superior Court of Justice or the Ontario Court of Justice must approve the new terms before the new contract can be sent to the Family Responsibility Office.

Ontario guidelines for enforcing spousal support

Ontario couples who are divorcing may wonder how spousal support is enforced. All spousal support goes through a provincial Family Responsibility Office unless the spouse who receives the payment has opted to be paid directly by the other spouse. This may have the advantage of receiving payments more quickly and easily, but it also means that it might be necessary to refile with FRO for a fee if there are payment problems. However, the FRO does have one limitation. It can only enforce collection in countries where it has an agreement. If the person paying spousal support lives in a country that does not have an agreement with the FRO, it cannot assist an individual with collection.

The FRO has a number of strategies for collecting spousal support. It can garnish bank accounts or register a lien against the nonpaying spouse's property. It can also deduct support from an individual's income, and this is not just limited to wages. Pension, severance pay, tax refunds and more may all be subject to seizure in order to pay the spouse to whom it is owed.

Canadian housing prices and divorce

The value of real estate in Ontario has skyrocketed over the past few years, posing a unique problem for people who wish to divorce. When looking at statistics, it appears that more couples tend to divorce when housing values rise and their home equity increases.

For couples who do file after a significant increase in home equity, the house itself can end up being more of a hindrance than anything. If couples plan to sell the home in order to split the accrued equity, the prices in today's market often prohibit both from finding comparable new places to live, forcing many to move into apartments or to rent.

Can a non-parent gain custody of a child?

Residents in Ontario may benefit from learning more about how non-parents can obtain custody rights to a child. In Ontario, an individual is considered a non-parent unless they have adopted the child, are the biological parent, were declared as the parent by a court order or are presumed to be the father by the Children's Law Reform Act.

Non-parents are required to possess a court order as a proof of custody in order to apply for a passport, acquire benefits for the child, provide consent for medical treatment or register the child in school. In order to receive a custody order, non-parents are required to submit a police records check, a form that allows children aid societies to supply the applicant's personal information, Form 35.1 and Form 8. Form 35.1 is an affidavit in support of claim for custody or access, and Form 8 is the custody application.

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