By the time you read this page, you will feel you have an excellent grasp of the important aspects of Ontario family law.
Naturally such a big topic as Ontario family law can look overwhelming to most people.
Fortunately, you get a straightforward, easy-to-understand overview of Ontario family law and its many related topics of interest in this well-written article.
And that’s not all: You will want to take the extra time to review the in-depth articles on this site which provide excellent detailed information on the subjects discussed briefly in this article.
After you review the other articles on this site, you will be in a much better position to ask the right questions and have a much better understanding of Ontario family law when you go to your initial consultation with an experienced family lawyer.
Your specific rights and obligations in your family law situation are generally set out in the Ontario Family Law Act.
What Are Your Legal Rights When You are
Married in Ontario Family Law?
When you get married in Ontario, you and your spouse have the equal right to stay or live in your family home even if you separate.
The Ontario Family Law Act provides that you are entitled to child support from the other parent when you have the children living with you for a good amount of the time.
In fact, you could be entitled to spousal support when your spouse’s annual income is much more than your annual income.
You can even decide to get a marriage contract to deal with the various aspects of your legal rights and obligations. You can set out how the property will be divided if you get separated from your spouse. You can also describe how the issue of spousal support will be handled if your marriage ends.
Just remember that you cannot set out the terms of custody of your children and access in a marriage contract. These types of terms are not legally enforceable in Ontario family law in a marriage contract.
What Are Your Legal Rights When You Are
Living With Another Person in Ontario Family Law?
When you are living with another person for three years or more or you are raising a child with this person and living with them for less than three years, you are in what is called a common law relationship under Ontario family law.
You do not have the same rights as a married person respecting property in your common law relationship. Property, including real estate, belongs to the person who purchased the property. You cannot enjoy the increase in the value of the home when only one person owns the home.
However, you could be entitled to some of the value of the home and other property if you made financial contributions to the property, such as helping paying down the mortgage or line of credit on the home.
You really need to get the advice of an experienced family lawyer to protect your Ontario family law rights.
You can protect your family law rights by negotiating a cohabitation agreement with your common law spouse. This legally-binding agreement sets out who owns what property and usually states that a spouse cannot make a claim against the other spouse’s property. You can also deal with the issue of spousal support in a cohabitation agreement.
You cannot set out in a cohabitation agreement any terms about child custody and access if you end your relationship with your common law spouse.
You need full financial disclosure from your spouse to ensure that your agreement is fair and reasonable.
Again you need the help of a dedicated family lawyer to advise you on how to get a cohabitation agreement that safeguards your family law rights.
How to Settle Your Family Law Issues
With a Written Agreement
When your relationship with your spouse has ended, you have many important decisions to make.
You can try an informal agreement with your former spouse. However, a verbal agreement often causes too much confusion and too many problems for both spouses.
Your best approach to settle your legal issues, especially under the Ontario Family Law Act, is to negotiate a written agreement that deals with your family law issues with your spouse. This written agreement is called a separation agreement.
Clearly your spouse must co-operate and act in good faith to get a fair and reasonable separation agreement. You need full financial disclosure from your spouse to get a fair agreement. Your spouse must disclose their assets and the value of these assets as well as their true annual income.
The important benefits of a separation agreement are that you and your spouse can avoid a costly family court battle and the frustration, stress and anxiety of going to court. Your separation and divorce is often a very difficult time in your life. You don’t need the added complication of a court battle.
You can try to negotiate a separation agreement with your spouse whether you are married or you lived in a common law relationship with your spouse.
And now as you continue to read this important article, you can see more than ever the absolute necessity of getting an experienced family lawyer to help you understand your family rights and assist you with negotiating a separation agreement with your former spouse.
Think as if your family law problems were already solved. The sooner you meet with a good lawyer with a solid background in Ontario family law, the sooner you can start negotiating a solid separation agreement with your former spouse.
Your separation agreement should clearly set out how you and your spouse are dealing with these important family law issues:
- child custody
- access to your children
- child support
- spousal support
- division of property or assets
- the family home
I can see you are feeling overwhelmed with everything you must consider in your separation or divorce. That’s completely understandable.
The answer to this difficult situation is to get the help of an experienced family law lawyer in your local area.
Imagine for a minute that it’s a year from today and you have settled your difficult family law issues with your former spouse by getting a signed separation agreement that protects your legal rights. That’s exactly how an experienced family lawyer can help you! Your lawyer can assist you in negotiating an effective separation agreement with your spouse.
Sometimes You Have to Go to Family Court
When you and your lawyer have determined you cannot negotiate a fair separation agreement with your spouse, you probably have to go to family court to deal with your family law issues.
Your spouse must co-operate and act fairly and reasonably to achieve a good separation agreement for both spouses. If your spouse refuses to take a reasonable position on an important issue in your separation, you can easily have no choice but to go to court to deal with this issue.
Your lawyer can advise you on the best course of action in your separation and divorce.
When you and your lawyer have decided that family court is the best course of action, your lawyer will continue to get key information from you about your case. He needs this information to prepare the key court documents for your case. These court documents form the foundation of your success in family court.
Your lawyer will carefully draft the court documents on your behalf. Then you will take some time to reviews these documents. When you have approved these court documents, your lawyer will arrange to have your court paperwork filed in your local courthouse and served on your former spouse.
You have a number of scheduled court appearances in family court. These court appearances are called a case conference and a settlement conference. The judge will make specific recommendations at these court appearances on how to settle your outstanding family law issues with your spouse.
You should give serious consideration to the judge’s recommendations. Many spouses in family court settle their legal issues with their spouse based on some version of a judge’s recommendations. Never take the judge’s recommendations lightly. Their recommendations are based on years of experience and wisdom in family court based on Ontario family law principles.
When the issue of child custody and access in your case is particularly difficult, you might consider asking the judge for an order to get the Office of the Children’s Lawyer to conduct an investigation and prepare a report for the court with their recommendations on how to solve these difficult child custody and access issues.
Your lawyer can advise you about the benefits of getting the Office of the Children’s Lawyer involved in your case.
Your Family Law Rights and Obligations
The Family Home
Ontario family law gives special recognition or status to the family home.
When you are married, both you and your spouse have an equal right to continue living in the family home.
You can only force the other spouse to move out of the family home if you can get an order for exclusive possession from a judge. This is a difficult order to get.
When you are negotiating a separation agreement with your spouse, you must decide what will happen to the family home.
Child Custody and Access
You and the other parent must make some critical decisions about your children when you separate.
When you and your spouse act in a civil manner towards each other and co-operate about decisions affecting your children, you should create a carefully-drafted parenting plan for your children.
In a parenting plan, you set out how decisions are to be made that affect your children as well as how to deal with their sport and extracurricular activities. You deal with all aspects of your children’s lives in an effective parenting plan.
You must determine the living arrangements for your children. The traditional access arrangements are the children live with one parent most of the time and the other parent has the children every second weekend with some mid-week access.
Increasingly, however, parents are having the children on a 50/50 basis. For example, parents are having their children live with them on a “week about” basis. This means that the children live with one parent for one week and then they live with the other parent on the following week on a rotating basis.
When you cannot agree on the important issue of custody and access, you might have to go to court to resolve these issues.
The court will always base its decision on custody and access based what is in the best interests of the children. The court will often follow the existing custody and access arrangements when those arrangements are working effectively for the children and their well-being.
You have a legal obligation to pay child support when your children live with the other parent most of the time. You can even pay child support to the other parent when you have your children on a 50/50 basis and you have a higher annual income than your spouse’s annual income.
You pay child support based on your gross annual income and the number of children you have. You simply take this information and then review the Child Support Guidelines to determine the specific amount of child support you must pay to the other parent.
Child support covers the costs of the children’s residence, clothing, and food costs. You can also get your spouse to contribute to what is called section 7 expenses. These expenses include daycare costs and the costs of your children’s sports activities as long as these expenses are reasonable.
You can also get spousal support if you were married to your spouse or living in a common law relationship with your spouse. Your spousal support is based on the difference of annual income between your income and your spouse’s income as well as the length of the relationship.
Division of Property
When you are married, you can claim division of property in the marriage based on a 50/50 formula called equalization of net family properties.
When you are involved in a common law relationship, you are not entitled to a division of property based on this 50/50 formula. However, you can make a claim against your common law spouse’s property when you have made significant financial and/or non-financial contributions to acquire or maintain your common law spouse’s property, such as the family home.
How to Apply Ontario Family Law
To Your Own Personal Situation
Clearly you can see the requirement of hiring an experienced family law and divorce lawyer to help you navigate the choppy waters of Ontario family law.
Proven fact: You are much more likely to protect your Ontario family law rights when you follow the advice of a dedicated family lawyer in your local area.
When you come to your initial consultation with Thomas O’Malley, a dedicated and skilled family lawyer, you will quickly find out how to protect your legal rights in your separation, divorce or family court case.
Call Thomas O’Malley today at (905) 434-8837 to set up your initial consultation.