Blog

The material on our website/blog is intended to provide only general information to the public and our existing clients. This information cannot under any circumstances be relied on as legal advice. To obtain legal advice, or to learn how the information on this website may or may not apply in your situation, please contact our office to speak with one of our lawyers.

All About Settlement Conferences

Posted by on 8:00 am in Helpful Tips | Comments Off on All About Settlement Conferences

All About Settlement Conferences

Following up on our posts about motions and case conferences, today we???ll discuss what settlement conferences are, and what you???ll need to do in order to prepare for them. With this information in hand, you???ll have a more comprehensive understanding of this important stage of the family law process.     What is a Settlement Conference?   In essence, a settlement conference is similar to a case conference in that it functions to enable both parties to reach an amicable resolution without taking it to a motion or trial. However, the judge works more closely with you and plays a more active role in regards to assistance with reaching a resolution. That being said, they cannot decide on issues that both parties can???t mutually agree upon, and the proceedings can be further progressed. Sometimes you may have multiple settlement conferences, but this depends on whether or not both parties are moving closer towards settling issues with one another.     Settlement Conference Documents   Regardless of how many settlement conferences you may attend, you fill out the same paperwork every time for each of them. First, you must complete a Settlement Conference Brief (Form 17C). This is a similar brief as that for a case conference, in that you must provide a clear and concise summary of the issues, facts, settlements and/or ???next steps.??? In addition, you are required to include an Offer to Settle, which states that you would prefer to settle some and/or all of the issues. Following that, fill out and include a Net Family Property Statement (Form 13C) if there are any property-related issues, and be sure to provide up-to-date financial statements. Serve your partner (or his or her lawyer) copies of these forms and file them at least seven days prior to the settlement conference date, and fill out a Confirmation Form (Form 14C) by 2:00pm at least two days before the scheduled hearing. The latter confirms to the court and your partner that you will be in attendance when ordered (your partner must also do this).     Attending the Settlement Conference   Whether or not you are fully or partially represented by a family lawyer, the settlement conference will then be held once both parties and the judge are in attendance. This is where the judge needs to hear about any attempts made between both parties to reach a mutual agreement or settle any issues. As opposed to a case conference, they will more likely provide their opinion or give both parties some guidance in relation to the issues at hand. The settlement conference functions to discuss ways to resolve disputes, acts as a way of both parties to hear the judge???s take on the scenario, and also collectively set the next steps as required to reach a resolution (if required). The judge can also make an order based on your agreement with your partner, should one be reached. This is possible when you fill out a consent agreement or minutes of settlement, which the judge will turn into a consent order. At the end of the hearing, you???ll receive your settlement conference brief back from the judge, as it doesn???t remain in your court file for reasons of privacy. At this point, further settlement conferences or a trial management conference may...

read more

All About Case Conferences

Posted by on 8:00 am in Helpful Tips | Comments Off on All About Case Conferences

All About Case Conferences

A few months ago, we published an article exploring motions ??? actions that are brought before the court. However, this is only part of the family law process, and it is important that everyone has a clear understanding of other stages. Today, we???ll focus on what case conferences are and how to prepare for them.   What is a Case Conference?   In family law, a case conference is a meeting held in the attendance of and between parties, respective lawyers (if applicable), and a judge. The goal of this meeting is for parties and their partners to reach a mutual agreement with one another without progressing towards a motion or a trial. In layman???s terms, it???s an opportunity to smooth disagreements out and amicably end the proceedings before they move deeper into the family court system. Typically, this will consist of half a day in court, with the conferences themselves generally lasting around an hour or so. ??You should note that a Case Conference is required prior to bringing any interim motions.   Preparing for a Case Conference   In preparation for a case conference in the Superior Court of Justice, the firsts thing you need to do is review rule 17 of the Family Law Rules, which regulates Case Conferences. ??Either party may request the date for the conference from the court clerk in the form of an issued Conference Notice (Form 17) (this procedure may vary in structure from court to court). Bear in mind that there is typically a lengthy waiting period, so try to book the conference as early as possible, and remember to obtain the other party???s availability. ??The Conference Notice will need to be served on the opposing party, and filed with the Court.   Case Conference Brief   Now that the date has been set, each party must complete a Case Conference Brief (Form 17A, three copies). This is a summarization of the dispute, facts, and your position regarding a settlement and/or ???next steps??? and should be kept short, concise, and resolution-oriented. Support calculations, document-based evidence, and copies of professional reports can be included with this brief. In addition, you are required to provide an updated Financial Statement (Form 13 or 13.1) within 30 days of the conference, the latter of which should consist of a copy included in the Case Conference Brief and the original filed in the Continuing Record. A Net Family Property Statement in the event of a property claim (Form 13B) may also be necessary. Finally, be sure to include an Affidavit of Service (Form 6B).   Conference Notice   With this documentation collected, serve all the forms at least seven days before the conference (the opposite party must submit everything at least four business days beforehand). Then each party must fill out and submit a Confirmation Form (Form 14C) no later than 2:00pm two business days prior to the case conference. This ensures that both parties confirm their attendance.   Attending the Case Conference   Following that, both parties must attend at the Case Conference on the specified day. Whether or not either of you opt for a lawyer to fully or partially represent during this procedure is up to you. If you choose not employ a family lawyer or it is not financially feasible, hiring...

read more

The Fate of the Family Home After Divorce

Posted by on 8:00 am in Divorce, Helpful Tips, Separation | Comments Off on The Fate of the Family Home After Divorce

The Fate of the Family Home After Divorce

  Divorces can be messy, arduous affairs, especially once deciding the future of a couple???s shared assets comes into play. One of the biggest hassles is deciding what to do with your shared family home. There are various ways this could go, and here are a few examples.   Sell and Split   This is the cleanest method for divorced couples looking to leave a home full of painful memories behind and start fresh elsewhere, albeit with much-needed income to boost the process. Mutually agreeing to sell and evenly split the profits enables both exes to find common ground in a clean separation, making the entire process less frustrating. This typically occurs when a couple has children they want to both protect, but it also happens amongst divorcees with no offspring. While it would be painful to leave a house full of memories behind, sometimes it???s best not to remain where they can haunt you of the ???good old days.??? Bear in mind that there will be disposition costs, including real estate commissions, lawyer fees, and other closing costs.   One of You Keeps the Property   In the event of one spouse wishing to keep the family home and the other agreeing to be free of any financial responsibility tied to it, there will be work to do. The main thing to take care of is any mortgage that might be on the home, as it will have to be refinanced in the name of the spouse staying there. Also, whoever keeps the property may need to buy out the other spouse, and this amount can vary depending on the home???s equity. This amount is negotiable, so it is best to remain on even footing during this process for a fair resolution, considering the future taxes, fees, and potential appreciation of the property when planning a buyout. Apply logic and reason to this scenario, however, as it only makes sense that both of you walk away from the agreement capable of being able to financially fulfill basic needs to survive separately. Also consider the needs of any children, as a divorce often affects more than just the two spouses.   Spousal Separation Mortgage   If one spouse wishes to maintain ownership of the home, one option is to secure a spousal separation mortgage. This mortgage can be secured for up to 95% of the value of the home, while the 5% down payment comes from the existing equity put into the home. In order to qualify for a spousal separation mortgage, you must have good credit, be able to afford the mortgage on your income alone, both spouses must be owners of the property, and present a signed separation agreement and a signed offer to purchase from one spouse to the other. Contact Court Coach LLP to draft a separation agreement or provide independent legal advice regarding any separation agreement you are asked to sign.   Joint Acquisition   In the event that both spouses can???t come to a mutual agreement regarding the property, it can remain cooperatively owned as a joint asset. Sometimes this is the best way to minimize stress and financial damages from the divorce, but it is imperative that both exes figure out whether they want to stay financially attached to one another. Also,...

read more

4 Tips for Self-Represented Parties in Family Law Cases

Posted by on 8:00 am in Divorce, Family Law, Helpful Tips, Marriage, Self-Representation | Comments Off on 4 Tips for Self-Represented Parties in Family Law Cases

4 Tips for Self-Represented Parties in Family Law Cases

  When faced with a family law case, you have two options: you can hire a lawyer to act on your behalf, or you can choose to represent yourself. This decision is sometimes motivated by money, while in other instances it is because you are confident that your case is straightforward and that you have the evidence to support your case. If you choose to act as a self-represented party, there are several tips you can apply.   Do Your Research and Be Prepared   Make use of online resources to help you with your case. By researching online via detailed yet public-friendly resources such as Ontario Courts, the Ministry of the Attorney General web portal, and Community Legal Education Ontario, you can familiarize yourself with the law and family court, and they can also provide tips on how to prepare and file documents and how to act in court. ??Take the time to organize yourself and keep your paperwork in order. ??Create a timeline of events, compile important facts, and review the law applicable to your situation so you can amass a stronger argument or defence in support of your case.   Consult a Legal Coach for Advice   While online resources are a helpful starting point, they aren???t specific to your case. Legal coaching services like Court Coach LLP can offer independent legal advice and coaching tailored to your specific needs and circumstances. Working with a legal coach can introduce you to options and alternative approaches that perhaps weren???t clearly available to you as a self-represented party. Think of us and other legal coaches as knowledgeable friends who know the ins and outs of family law ??? we may be able to prevent from proceedings becoming drawn-out and expensive with effective solutions and recommendations. We can guide you through the legal issues and procedures to give your case the best chance of success.   Presenting Evidence   There???s no denying that the more accurate evidence you present relevant to the case, the better things will go for you. As a self-represented party, it is crucial that you be attentive and meticulous about collecting and presenting any documentation or tangible proof in favour of your case. This can include everything from communication (text messages and emails), financial disclosure (paystubs and Notices of Assessment), valuations, receipts, signed documents and agreements, photographs, videos, collected statements, medical documentation, assessments, police reports, insurance papers, etc. Witnesses can also give evidence to prove facts about the case.   Testifying   While it is always preferable to settle out of court, some matters may go to trial and you may need to testify in court. In doing so, you are presenting your version of events as true and accurate. Remember that when you testify, you can only speak from your perspective, meaning that you???re only allowed to speak of what you saw, heard, or did. Don???t expect to read notes as a witness, either ??? try to memorize your points and not overwhelm yourself. You can request permission from the judge to view your notes, but doing so requires an explanation as to why. Self-representing in family court can be a stressful experience but you don???t have to do it alone. With these tips in mind, you???ll be better prepared to make a strong...

read more

Deciding if it???s Time to Separate from Your Spouse

Posted by on 8:00 am in Marriage | Comments Off on Deciding if it???s Time to Separate from Your Spouse

Deciding if it???s Time to Separate from Your Spouse

Possibly one of the most difficult decisions you may need to make in your lifetime is if you should leave your spouse and get a divorce, or stay in the marriage. Although it is a personal decision that only you can make, it is such a life-altering decision that seeking out the advice of those you trust is a good place to start. Here are some important points to take into consideration before you begin the divorce proceedings. Divorce is Not the ???Easy Way Out??? Divorce is not a simple process and it should not be entered into lightly. The matter is may be even more complicated if you have children together. Before you begin divorce proceedings take some time to reflect and see if your marriage is salvageable. Are the problems that lead you to contemplate divorce possibly remedied with counselling? Have you taken ample time to discuss your marital concerns with your partner? Try to not look at divorce as the one and only fix for your marital problems. Consider the Financial Implications Divorce can be extremely expensive. The division of assets and the payment of support can be tricky in some situations and the result can mean financial ruin for both parties. For instance, if the couple purchased a house together and there is hardly any equity in it by the time they decide to divorce, then selling could prove to be a financial hardship. Some couples choose to live separate lives and put off the legal divorce proceedings until later in life. If this option is appealing to a separating couple, they should seek the advice of a lawyer to ensure that both parties are protected. Talk to a Lawyer for Independent Legal Advice It is always helpful to know your legal rights and obligations when it comes to divorce. Obtaining independent legal advice may help you decide if it???s the right time to separate from your spouse or if you should seek alternative methods to repairing your relationship. A family lawyer or family law coach has seen many marital situations and can best advise you on how to proceed. Consider the Safety of Your Family Not all marriages are destined to survive. If you are involved in an abusive relationship then possibly exiting the marriage is the safest solution for you and your family. Many people wait far too long to leave an abusive relationship. Discuss your concerns with those you trust and try to do what is best for everyone who is part of your family and may be affected by the abuse. Ultimately it is up to you to choose if it???s time to legally end your marriage. Take proper care and time in ensuring it is the right decision for you and your family, and always seek out proper legal advice. Request a consultation with Court Coach LLP...

read more

What???s the Difference Between Contested and Uncontested Divorce?

Posted by on 8:00 am in Divorce | Comments Off on What???s the Difference Between Contested and Uncontested Divorce?

What???s the Difference Between Contested and Uncontested Divorce?

Are you thinking about getting a divorce? One thing you should know is the difference between types of divorce proceedings. In the province of Ontario, divorcing couples have the option of contested and uncontested divorce proceedings. Uncontested Divorce An ???uncontested divorce??? is when neither spouse opposes the divorce.?? There are two types of uncontested divorces, ???Simple??? and ???Joint???. In a ???Simple Divorce???, you are asking for a divorce only.?? One party files for divorce with the court, serves the paperwork on the other party, and the other party does not file anything in response.?? They do not contest to the divorce and their lack of response after 30 days (60 days if the party is served outside of Canada or the United States) is considered to be acceptance of the divorce. ????Please note that a ???Simple Divorce??? is not necessarily an ???Uncontested Divorce???.?? A ???Simple Divorce??? automatically becomes uncontested if the spouse does not file an Answer within the required time frame. ????This option is more convenient if the parties do not live in the same jurisdiction, or if the parties have difficulty cooperating with each other. In a ???Joint Divorce???, both parties file for divorce together. Both parties will sign the necessary court documents, advising the court that they both agree to the divorce.?? This option is more suitable when the spouses are amicable with each other and are capable of cooperating to sign the divorce documents. Generally the divorce documents for either a Simple or Joint Divorce will also outline how the parties have dealt with the corollary issues, including the custody and access of any children, the division of assets, and any financial obligations either spouse is to have towards the other.?? These issues are referred to as ???corollary relief??? because they are corollary (a consequence of) the divorce.?? If there were a Separation Agreement, a copy would be attached to the court forms.?? To be clear, in a Simple or Joint divorce, you are not requesting that the court determine the issues of support, property or parenting arrangements of children, you are only requesting a divorce. Uncontested divorces are a lower cost form of divorce as there are typically little to no legal fees involved. The only unavoidable fees are the court filing fees which are minimal, especially in comparison to what legal counsel would cost. If the parties can provide details as to how they resolved the corollary issues and have been living separately for at least one year, there is little to no reason why a judge would not grant their divorce. Contested Divorce When the spouses are unable to agree on all of the corollary issues and need a court to help resolve them, a General Application is filed.?? Typically contested divorces are more emotionally charged because of the sensitive subject matter of the issues being disputed. Children and money are the two most argued upon issues during a divorce, as they tend to be the most important things. There are many reasons to want to contest a divorce, for instance: Disagreement about getting a divorce in the first place Proposed decision-making and visitation schedule for children Division of assets Spousal and/or child support amounts Each of these topics can require an intense amount of legal work in order to come to...

read more

Is it Worth a Lawsuit?

Posted by on 8:00 am in Coaching, Helpful Tips, Self-Representation | Comments Off on Is it Worth a Lawsuit?

Is it Worth a Lawsuit?

When someone has wronged you and you feel entitled to financial compensation or reimbursement, your first instinct may be to file a lawsuit. With our neighbours to the south operating on a ???sue now, ask questions later??? policy and popular American television, providing the majority of legal education people receive we are almost brainwashed to believe that filing lawsuit is always our best option. However, that may not be the case in every situation. Ontario Small Claims Court In Ontario, Small Claims Court has a maximum claim amount of $25,000.00, which means that if you intend to sue for anything exceeding that amount you cannot go through the easier flowing channels offered in Small Claims Court.??The benefit of going through Small Claims Court is that most people are self-represented which saves on lawyer fees. Lawyer fees can be tricky when a lawsuit is involved because fees have a tendency to get out of control and suddenly you are left paying a large legal bill whether you are successful with your suit or not. This is why people often opt to represent themselves when filing suit in Small Claims Court. Self-Representation in Court There are problems that come from self-representation too. For instance, not knowing the law is not an excuse that any Small Claims Court judge will be willing to tolerate. Yes, there is a certain amount of leniency applied to your court proceedings if you are self-represented, but do not expect to elicit sympathy simply because you chose not to hire a professional to represent you. Filing in Small Claims Court is also not a cheap process. There are filing fees associated with every form and procedure filed with the court and if these fees are not paid then your file will not be moving forward. Self-representation also takes a considerable amount of your personal time. Time to research what your rights are and what the proper course of action is, time to appear in court, time to gather all necessary documentation, draft pleadings and ample time to review everything and ensure proper procedure is followed. For someone who already has a full-time job this can be an extremely difficult undertaking. Hiring an experienced paralegal professional can help you through this difficult process. In many situations filing a lawsuit against a person is the only way you can receive what is legally yours. However it is worth taking a step back and evaluating the big picture. Simply because the maximum claim amount is $25,000.00, do not expect to receive that much money in a settlement simply because that is what was claimed. Be realistic in your thinking of what you are likely to receive and weigh that amount against the out-of-pocket expenses and your personal time investment required to successfully file and win the lawsuit. It may not always be in your best interest to sue. ??You also run the risk of having to pay costs to the other party if you are not successful. Getting Paid Another consideration is that even if you are successful, having a judge rule in your favor is not the same as collecting the money owed to you.?? A debtor may not pay the monetary judgment voluntarily.?? ???Winning??? in court is only the first step in the process, it is not a...

read more

Responsibilities of an Estate Trustee

Posted by on 8:00 am in Estate | Comments Off on Responsibilities of an Estate Trustee

Responsibilities of an Estate Trustee

Sometimes dealing with an estate can be a very tedious and long process, often taking longer to wind up than ever anticipated. Some people have their estate set up for an easy distribution prior to their death, but more commonly it can be found that administration of an estate is a complicated and often frustrating experience for the estate trustee. Being Named as an Estate Trustee Being named in a will as estate trustee is not necessarily an honor or a blessing. It means that the deceased thought highly of you as someone they would trust to handle their affairs after they die, however the tasks expected of an estate trustee do not come lightly and without their own burdens. It is important to note that if you are named as an estate trustee in a person???s will, you can refuse to act in such capacity, leaving the backup person named in the will to act instead. If no alternative estate trustee was named, then interested parties can apply to the court to have their name submitted for consideration and they can become a court-appointed estate trustee. Simply because the deceased named you to be their estate trustee does not seal your fate to comply. General Duties and Acting as an Estate Trustee A broad overview of responsibilities of an estate trustee include making funeral arrangements, filing and paying taxes, applying for probate, reconciling debts, passing accounts, and finally distributing the assets of the estate.?? If you choose to go forward with the appointed position and act as estate trustee, it???s important to know what you are getting yourself into. The estate trustee has a legal obligation to administer the deceased???s will as closely as possible. For instance, if the deceased has named a beneficiary that is seemingly difficult to find such as an estranged friend or a non-existent charity, the estate trustee must show to the court what steps they have taken to locate the named beneficiary, and if unsuccessful explain in full detail why. They cannot simply brush it off as too difficult a task and ignore the bequest. Liquidating the Estate Estate trustees are also responsible for liquidating the estate. Estate liquidation can include the sale of all properties, cashing in all investments, and closing out all safety deposit boxes. If the deceased was the type to be organized this may not be a cumbersome task, but if the deceased left very little paper trail and kept their documents in disarray, it could take the estate trustee months to figure out what the total value of the estate is and complete the liquidating process. An estate trustee needs to keep records of all financial transactions and may need to notify and provide confirmation to the beneficiaries and/or the Court the estate has been administered properly. Accepting Payment Since the job of estate trustee can be a long process, the estate trustees may take payment from the estate for their work done as trustee. ??A testator may set a specific amount of compensation for the trustees directly in the Will. ??If not, the entitlement may vary depending on the size and complexity of the estate, and subject to the supervision of the Court.?? As a general rule, caselaw suggests that 2.5% of all money that flows in...

read more

Packing Your House After a Divorce

Posted by on 8:53 am in Divorce, Family Law | Comments Off on Packing Your House After a Divorce

Packing Your House After a Divorce

Typically in a divorce, one spouse stays in the matrimonial home while the other finds a new place to live. The spouse who remains in the matrimonial home may eventually choose to move as well, but due to financial constrictions surrounding a divorce, one person is likely to reside there at least for the short term. For the one left residing at the matrimonial home, the burden of packing personal and sentimental items may fall hard on their shoulders. Heal First, Pack Later If a couple has had a long marriage, then it is likely they possess an accumulation of memories and personal treasures from their years together. Being responsible for sorting through old photo boxes or trip memorabilia is not an easy task. In fact, it can be quite traumatic to have to relive all of the memories while coping with the pain of a divorce. ??It may be helpful to delay the packing process until absolutely necessary. Avoid facing your past while you give yourself time to heal in the present. As long as you have everything you need to live comfortably, it???s ok to keep certain doors closed while you let your new reality set in. Support System When it does come time to pack, either from necessity for a move or from enough time passing and it just being ???the right time,??? try not to tackle it alone. Having a strong support system is important when going through personal items from your past marriage. Since some memories may be happy and pleasant to reflect on, it would be helpful to have someone present who is neutral with respect to the separation so they can enjoy in the moments with you. Going about the packing experience with someone who dislikes your ex-spouse may make the process more negative than it needs to be. It is important for your own personal closure to find joy and peace in what made up your past. Enlist a Friend Sometimes a marriage can be abusive in nature or the divorce may have been quite hostile and there may not be any benefit to going through personal and possibly painful memories. If you find yourself in this situation it is perfectly acceptable to ask someone to pack up all personal items in your absence. There is no need to bring discomfort to yourself or to disrupt your life if there are simple ways to avoid it. Having someone else pack things up instead of yourself is one way to ensure your own comfort levels are not breached. Remember that throughout a divorce it is important to have a strong support system in which to rely on. Use your support system and make packing up your house after a divorce as painless as...

read more

A Healthy Divorce Environment for Children

Posted by on 8:52 am in Divorce, Family Law | Comments Off on A Healthy Divorce Environment for Children

A Healthy Divorce Environment for Children

The term ???healthy divorce??? sounds more like an oxymoron rather than a potential goal. However if you have children, a big part of the divorce goal should be to make the process as healthy as possible for all involved. Approaching a healthy divorce means putting the needs and concerns of your children above your own. Here are some ways you can encourage a healthy divorce environment for you and your children. 1. Encourage the children to ask questions While it may not be prudent to advise your children on all aspects of the divorce, it is important that they feel their voices can be heard, and be reassured that althought their parents are separating, it doesn???t mean their family is falling apart. Encourage them to ask questions if they need to, and answer them to the best of your ability so that they do not feel blindsided or worse, feel as if they are to blame for the breakdown of the marriage. 2. Don???t involve them in adult matters Although it???s important to involve your children so they do not feel completely exiled from the family unit, it???s also important to leave them out of the sensitive matters that do not involve them. Divorce is difficult for children and depending on the complexities of the situation it may be best not to share every last detail. Don???t involve children with adult-sized problems. 3. Do not make them take sides Simply because your marriage didn???t survive it doesn???t mean that children should be forced to choose a favourite parent. Don???t try to influence your child to choose you over your former spouse. Don???t attempt to buy gifts to make your ???side??? more appealing, and do not try to discourage a healthy relationship between your children and your former spouse. 4. Ask them how they are feeling Losing the ???mommy and daddy??? team is pretty traumatic for children of any age to have to go through. Adjusting to a new way of life, to a new secondary home and even the idea of new step-parents one day is quite an emotional load for children to carry. It???s important to ask them frequently how they feel and how they are handling all of the changes. If you notice drastic changes in behaviour in your children, perhaps it would be prudent to seek out the help of a professional therapist or family counsellor. Keep an open channel of communication with your children at all times and prioritize their emotional health. 5. Communicate with your former spouse If your children start to ask questions about the divorce, or begin to express certain feelings about the separation, share that information with your former spouse, so that he or she can also be prepared if the children ask them questions or expresse any concerns. With greater communication, there will be less chance of confusion or conflicts between the parents and a better chance of a healthy upbringing for the children. Divorce may feel like the biggest and most shocking experience of your life, and you may be correct in your feelings. But remember that your children deserve to have as ???healthy??? of a divorce environment as...

read more