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“Custody” refers to parental decision-making in relation to children in four major areas: health, religion, education, and major recreational activities. Custody can take several forms: Sole custody, where one parent is responsible for all decision-making; Joint custody, where parents make decisions jointly or through parallel parenting, wherein one parent is responsible for some decisions (e.g. health and religion) and the other parent is responsible for the other decisions (e.g. education and recreational activities); and Split custody, where the children are separated between the two parents, and each parent is responsible for the decisions of the children living with them. “Access” refers to the physical amount of time children spend with their parents. Common residency schedules take the form of: One parent maintaining primary residence of the children while the other parent exercises visitation (such as alternate weekends or a set number of days/evenings per week); Equally shared parenting, where both the parties exercise access (such as alternating weeks). The courts always consider many factors when determining issues of custody and access, given the prevailing consideration being in the best interests of the children. Custody and access are two of the most emotionally-charged issues in family law, and a qualified lawyer is required to be able view the matter objectively and advocate for a client’s and the children’s best interests. As a matter of policy, the lawyers at Stephen Durbin and Associates always conduct themselves with an eye towards the best interests of the children and minimizing the effects of the proceedings on children following their parents’ separation. To assess your child custody or access matter today, feel free to contact Stephen Durbin and Associates today to schedule an initial consultation.
The importance of full and frank financial disclosure cannot be understated: it is the cornerstone of financial issues in family law. Parties are required to provide all financial disclosure openly and honestly during negotiations, mediation, arbitration, or litigation. Courts do not look kindly upon people who hide, deplete, or fail to disclose assets in order to defeat their partners’ claims and courts have extensive power to order parties to provide full and frank disclosure. If a person suspects the other party of hiding assets, it is important to gather any and all information and documents in their possession pointing to such assets and provide them to their lawyer, who can then request that the court order disclosure of these assets and who may be able to obtain further assistance from the court to help discover hidden assets. We strongly urge parties to refrain from hiding assets: not only do most individuals fail at this endeavour, it also prejudices courts against them. To learn more about disclosure obligations or methods to obtain disclosure from another party, feel free to contact Stephen Durbin and Associates today to schedule an initial consultation.
For many, having a court order in hand finalizes the underlying issues of a family law matter. Unfortunately, in some circumstances court orders are disobeyed or disregarded. Custody and access orders that are not being followed could give rise to the offender being held in contempt. A contempt finding may result in fines or imprisonment. Support orders are typically filed with Ontario’s child and spousal support enforcement agency, the Family Responsibility Office (FRO). The FRO has a variety of powers to enforce support such as wage garnishment, driver’s license suspension, passport cancellation, and prison. Orders for payments of money such as equalization payments or the transfer of property, may be enforceable by filing a writ of seizure and sale, placing a lien on a person’s property, wage garnishment, or a writ of possession or by bringing a motion for contempt. Navigating the Family Responsibility Office can be complex and frustrating and can be eased with the help of a skilled family lawyer. As a matter of policy, Stephen Durbin and Associates strives to resolve such processes in a timely manner, with clarity of procedure and strategy along the way. To evaluate various enforcement options for a family law order, feel free to contact Stephen Durbin and Associates today to schedule an initial consultation.
This applies only to married parties. In Ontario, marriage is treated like a business partnership. When the marriage ends, the assets accumulated during that partnership are subject to a process called “equalization.” Equalization attempts to ensure the assets are reviewed so that each party leaves the marriage on equal financial footing. Generally speaking and following the exchange of full and frank financial disclosure, both parties calculate and compare the growth in their respective net worth from the date of marriage to the date of separation. The individual with a higher net worth must give to their estranged spouse one half of the difference so that the parties are in an equal financial position in the context of the relationship. In a marriage contract or separation agreement, individuals can choose to opt out of this statutory requirement, thereby protecting the growth in assets of the wealthier party. Stephen Durbin and Associates can provide a wide range of advice to individuals with varying levels of income and assets. To learn about your rights and obligations with respect to equalizing family assets and property, feel free to contact Stephen Durbin and Associates today to schedule an initial consultation.
Under some circumstances, grandparents can apply to a court for custody, access, and/or child support for a child (in cases such as if a parent dies, is unavailable, is an incredibly poor caregiver, or if the grandparents previously cared for the child and their access was cut off). It is most common for a court will make orders in favour of a grandparent, if it is in a child’s best interest to do so and if the grandparent has had an ongoing presence in the child’s life. If you would like further information with regard to grandparents’ rights to child custody or access, feel free to contact Stephen Durbin and Associates today to schedule an initial consultation.
Complex income streams and assets comprised of partly or wholly owned corporations, employee stock options, offshore holdings, securities, trusts, pensions and so forth, can add a layer of complexity to a family law matter. Understanding how to deal with these assets and incomes in a family law context can be difficult, particularly considering the financial obligations for disclosure. This disclosure, and the value of assets and income, is the basis upon which equalization and support are determined. The lawyers at Stephen Durbin and Associates are experienced in handling high value matters and resolving family law issues for individuals with complex income structures and/or assets. For more information regarding family law in high net worth matters, feel free to contact Stephen Durbin and Associates today to schedule an initial consultation.
Although common law spouses do not share property in the same way as married spouses, it may still be possible for a common law spouse who accumulated less wealth to make a claim against a common law spouse who accumulated greater wealth over the course of the relationship. Stephen Durbin and Associates can help clarify the factors in determining trust claims and assist individuals in advancing such a claim. To learn about and evaluate your position for a potential joint venture or trust claim, feel free to contact Stephen Durbin and Associates today to schedule an initial consultation.
Child support are the periodic payments made by separated parents to the other parent, for the day-to-day expenses associated with raising children. The Federal Child Support Guidelines require monthly child support payments from any parent whose children spend more than 60% of their time with the other parent. In matters where the children spend roughly equal amounts of time with each parent, the court has discretion to depart from the guidelines and make an order for child support to meet the needs of the children. In these situations, the higher earning party may pay an offset amount to the lower earning party. Section 7 Expenses, also known as “special and extraordinary expenses,” cover the cost of major expenditures that do not fall beneath the general umbrella of child support. These expenses will differ from family to family. Section 7 Expenses are generally split proportionally between parents, with respect to each parent’s income. Frequent items are medical care costs not covered by insurance (such as orthodontics), costly competitive sports, and post- secondary education. To assess your entitlement to or requirement to pay child support or Section 7 Expenses, feel free to contact Stephen Durbin and Associates today to schedule an initial consultation.
Marital Fraud: If your spouse deceived you as to his or her identity or marital status (i.e., that he/she was actually married) when he/she married you, you may have grounds to dissolve your marriage and seek an annulment as opposed to a divorce. An annulment and a divorce are two distinct legal concepts. An annulment declares that the marriage never existed in the first place because it was not validly constituted. A divorce terminates the marriage, but recognizes that it existed. Obtaining an annulment can be a very difficult process as courts are reluctant to grant them. Although you may have grounds for annulment, consult a lawyer to review your case and options before seeking an annulment.
A mobility issue arises where one parent wishes to move to a distant, new residence with the children. This is among the most complex issues in family law, given that relocation will inevitably affect the non-relocating parent’s access rights. In determining whether to allow a parent to relocate, a multi-factor analysis is applied to many factors, including the distance of the proposed move, the reason for the move, and the impact on the children’s relationship with the non-moving parent, in light of the best interests of the child. In the absence of very specific circumstances, success in this kind of relocation is very unlikely. To learn more about the options available to you in such a case should you be seeking to move, feel free to contact Stephen Durbin and Associates today to schedule an initial consultation.
The dissolution of a marriage or common law relationship between same-sex parties is treated identically to that of an opposite-sex couple. Under s.2 (1) of the Divorce Act, the definition of spouse is “either of two persons who are married to each other,” but “spouse” can have other meanings in family law. The definition of “spouse” in family law allows for spousal support to be payable whether the parties are in fact married or not. Accordingly, all the rights and obligations that flow from both the Family Law Act and the Divorce Act are equally applicable to parties of a same-sex marriage. If you have any questions regarding same-sex family law matters, feel free to contact Stephen Durbin and Associates today to schedule an initial consultation.
Following separation, one party of a married or common law couple may be required to provide financial assistance to the other party by paying spousal support. Depending on the situation, the purpose of spousal support may take different forms, including helping ease the transition of the lower-earning spouse into a life of greater independence; providing financial support to the lower earning spouse, where there is significant financial need; or to allow the lower earning member of the relationship to enjoy a standard of living that is reasonably close to the one enjoyed during the relationship. A person claiming spousal support must first prove their entitlement to it. Entitlement can be demonstrated in three ways: most commonly, entitlement is proven on either a needs-based or compensatory basis, though entitlement to spousal support can also be established by proving that the parties have a contract (like a cohabitation agreement or marriage contract) that dictates the terms of support following the end of the relationship. To learn more about your obligations to a and recipients or support payor, determining support eligibility, ascertaining appropriate support amounts, and varying support when necessary, feel free to contact Stephen Durbin and Associates today to schedule an initial consultation.
It is common in family law for the terms of a separation agreement or a final order to need to be changed at some point. A variation in an order is appropriate where there has been what is known as a “material change” in circumstances (and had that change been known at the time the order or agreement was made, the terms would, or should, have been different). If parties cannot agree to the change, a Motion to Change may need to be filed in court, accompanied by supporting financial information and other evidence to support the requested variation. Obtaining a variation does not have to be difficult or lengthy. As a matter of policy, Stephen Durbin and Associates strives to make such changes in the most amicable fashion between the parties. To learn more about your rights and obligations regarding a potential variation of a court order, feel free to contact Stephen Durbin and Associates today to schedule an initial consultation.
When a court makes a final order and a party perceives denial of procedural fairness or bias, the decision can be appealed to a higher court for review. Appeals can be brought based on material errors in fact, errors of law, errors of mixed fact and law, or based on the perception of a judge misusing their discretion. To learn about how Stephen Durbin and Associates can assist you in evaluating, preparing, and arguing your family law appeal, feel free to contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.
Arbitration is another form of alternative dispute resolution. Different to mediation, where the parties are assisted by a third party to come to an independent agreement, arbitration instead confers the power of a judge to the privately retained third party decision-maker. Subject to the governing law, the arbitrator dictates their own procedural rules and timelines, and schedules hearings for parties in a manner akin to court proceedings. Arbitration generally occurs in a private office or law firm. The benefits of arbitration include shorter timeframes for resolution, fewer delays than court, the ability to select an arbitrator with specialized expertise in an area and avoiding having to expose private details in the public record. It often comes at a significant additional cost. Parties will most often use a combination of mediation and arbitration, with the same third party presiding over both to be most cost effective. As a matter of policy, Stephen Durbin and Associates strives for timely and cost-effective resolution of all matters. To learn about Stephen Durbin and Associates’ experience in representing clients in arbitration, or other alternative dispute resolution proceedings, contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.
Case Assessment and Legal Opinions
Many individuals may wish to reopen a closed matter, vary a court’s order because of changing circumstances, or obtain assistance in interpreting various provisions of a separation agreement or court order. Case assessment provides assistance in evaluating the strength of a family law claim that one may wish to make against another person, advising whether one can vary a court order or separation agreement because of a change in circumstances, and interpreting various provisions of a court order or separation agreement. As a matter of policy, Stephen Durbin and Associates provides thorough case assessments and legal opinions with clarity to help ascertain whether a matter is worth pursuing. For those wishing to obtain a legal opinion as to their particular rights or the validity of their potential claims, feel free to contact Stephen Durbin and Associates today to schedule an initial consultation.
Counsel facilitated Negotiation
Most family law issues can be resolved by like-minded, resolution-oriented counsel. Lawyers who are well-versed in family law can view their clients’ situations objectively, foresee the likelihood of success for each potential claim in court, and negotiate a reasonable settlement. Counsel facilitated negotiation is generally the most cost-effective and secure means to reach the terms of a domestic agreement. As a matter of policy, Stephen Durbin and Associates strives to make all interactions between the parties cost-effective, secure, and amicable. To learn more about how Stephen Durbin and Associates’ counsel facilitated negotiation can resolve your case, feel free to contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.
Individuals entering into relationships with complex finances, possessing significant assets, or who may receive significant assets during the relationship (such as an inheritance or assistance in buying property), may wish to protect themselves from later being required to share the increases in value of those assets. To that end, Stephen Durbin and Associates can assist parties in drafting domestic contracts (including pre-nuptial and postnuptial marriage contracts, cohabitation contracts, and separation agreements) to ensure that the parties’ intentions are properly set out. To learn how a domestic contract can be of benefit to you, feel free to contact Stephen Durbin and Associates today to schedule an initial consultation.
Independent Legal Advice
Independent legal advice is a foundational element in creating a strong domestic contract. This involves a lawyer reviewing a domestic or other agreement between two parties and advising one party how the terms of the agreement support their legal rights and entitlements. After providing independent legal advice, the lawyer will prepare and execute a certificate acknowledging that the service was provided, the client’s rights were explained, that the client was not under any undue influence, and that the client understood the terms being agreed to. As a matter of policy, Stephen Durbin and Associates strives for clarity of procedure and strategy when providing legal advice. To learn more about Stephen Durbin and Associates’ ability to assist you with receiving independent legal advice, feel free to contact us to schedule an initial consultation.
Family law is the area of law governing the formation and dissolution of families. It is frequently referred to as matrimonial law or divorce law. Family lawyers assist families with adoptions; child custody (such as decision-making and timesharing of children) and other parenting matters; child support; spousal support and the division of property following a separation; and those entering into a marital or cohabitation relationship. These issues are often assessed, and ultimately resolved, by a lawyer creating contracts that will protect the parties’ respective property ownership and delineate support if the parties later experience a breakdown of that relationship. Preferably, family law matters are resolved outside of court through negotiation or alternative dispute resolution, although sometimes court is unavoidable. Whether negotiating or litigating a matter, the field of family law is complex and better navigated with the assistance of experienced counsel. Stephen Durbin and Associates can assist with any family law matter, as further detailed below.
Litigation is the process through which parties resolve their family law matters in court. This should be seen as a last resort in family law. A court matter is initiated when one party issues and serves a court application. Generally speaking, following the exchange of a series of initiating documents, the parties to a family law matter attend a case conference wherein a judge provides feedback on each party’s respective position on specific issues and attempts to assist in negotiating a settlement. Following the case conference, parties can begin filing motions for various forms of relief, including child and spousal support, parenting time with children, and the disposal of family property. In special circumstances, such as certain legal issues or issues requiring urgency, the litigation may proceed on a different timeline or follow different processes. If a matter does not settle during the litigation, it goes to trial. As a matter of policy, Stephen Durbin and Associates strives for clarity of procedure and strategy throughout your case and endeavours to resolve your matter in a timely and cost-effect manner. To find out more about how Stephen Durbin and Associates can assist you with a court matter and litigate on your behalf, feel free to contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.
Mediation is an alternative means of dispute resolution that is frequently recommended and used in family law matters. With their lawyers or on their own, parties make use of a neutral mediator. This mediator acts as a negotiating conduit for parties to reach an agreement and set this agreement out in proper form with the assistance of counsel. Mediators are sometimes family law-trained lawyers. We suggest you consult with us prior to entering into this process, as it may not be necessary and could be cost-prohibitive. To learn more about alternate dispute proceedings, and how Stephen Durbin and Associates can assist you by mediating your case, feel free to contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.