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Naughty or Nice? The Live Issue of Harassment in the Legal Industry

Image result for workplace harassment

Naughty or Nice? The Live Issue of Harassment in the Legal Industry

The “naughty” list of high profile men alleged of sexual harassment continues to grow, and seemingly no one is immune. Beginning with the film mogul Harvey Weinstein, recent a-listers including Blake Farenthold (a Republican politician) and Gilbert Rozen (Canadian Founder of Just for Laughs) have joined ranks. Rather than being industry specific, allegations of harassment seem to hold one common denominator: power.

Since the inception of the legal industry, men have held positions of power. Sexual harassment in legal offices is not a new issue, but the question remains, is the recent spotlight on the vulnerability of women working in fields historically dominated by men reducing the issues faced by female lawyers?

Unfortunately, the power imbalance between female and male lawyers is still immense. Despite the fact that females are hired at the same rate as men at the associate level, the numbers of female equity partners are staggeringly low as compared to men. This means that as a young female associate, one is likely to find themselves surrounded by rooms full of silver-haired men welding decision making power. This power may simply pertain to a judicial opinion on a legal matter, or it may extend to whether or not a promotion or raise will be given.

The attitudes of high-ranking men in the legal field do not appear to have caught up with the growing public distaste for outdated misogynistic views and the growing list of alleged harassers. One Quebecois judge was recently under fire for making the comment “She’s a young girl, 17. Maybe she’s a little overweight but she has a pretty face, no?” in regards to a young woman who was sexually victimized by a taxi driver. He went on to state that the victim was “a bit flattered”.

A judge making comments about a young woman’s physical appearance such as these in open court is perpetuating an inappropriate view of women. A young female lawyer appearing before this judge to argue a case may likely feel that comments such as these must be permitted in order for them to stand a chance representing their client’s case.

It is not difficult to extrapolate that the attitudes of male judges mirror the behavior of male lawyers; after all, judges were once lawyers. Unfortunately, much the same as young actresses hoping to catch a break, young female associates may overlook the inexcusable behavior of their male colleagues in the hope that it will provide them with an opportunity for advancement.

What are your thoughts?

Do you think these attitudes exist in other industries?

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at RussellAlexander.com

 

 

 

 

Wednesday’s Video Clip: Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers

Wednesday’s Video Clip: Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers

Our fees are based on the following elements:

(a) The time spent on your behalf, and the service which is performed;

(b) The complexities of the issues, and your potential emotional and monetary exposure;

(c) The results accomplished, and the extent to which the expertise of this firm contributed to a successful outcome;

(d) The degree and type of resistance encountered; and,

(e) The extent to which any work needs to be performed on an emergency basis.

None of these elements are capable of a precise arithmetic assessment, and no such assessment is attempted, except in a general way with respect to the time spent. A standard hourly rate, is applied to convert the time into a monetary figure. Any amount that exceeds the number of hours multiplied by the standard rates is the result of the weighing of the other elements mentioned.

We charge standard hourly rates for the work done by our law clerks and lawyers for the time spent on your case. Records are kept (in our computer time-keeping system) by us to the nearest one tenth of an hour, for all activity on your case, including conferences, telephone calls, e-mail, preparing correspondence and memoranda, drafting documents, research and travel time. Each hour billed to you is based on actual work done on your particular case.

Our absence from the office on your behalf is charged at the usual hourly rate. Travel time includes attending at court, settlement conferences, meetings, or consultations on your behalf. We will minimize travel expenses and courthouse time, if any, whenever possible. However, as you will be charged for our traveling time (in addition to the counsel fee), it may be worthwhile to consider whether a local lawyer is desirable for you if your litigation is taking place in another community.

If your appointment is for a consultation only, in order for you to receive advice on a limited number of issues, or, for example, for a second opinion, you will be billed a flat rate consultation fee, payable prior to the consultation. The consultation is not meant to deal with your whole legal problem. These rates are reduced rates, and apply only if the fee is paid at the time of the consultation. The rates are calculated on the basis of the average amount of time spent by our lawyers on consultations in the most recent year.

At Russell Alexander Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at RussellAlexander.com

Financial Disclosure: If One Spouse is Dishonest, Must the Other Actively Investigate?

 Financial Disclosure: If One Spouse is Dishonest, Must the Other Actively Investigate?

In a case I reported on last week, called Virc v. Blair, the husband had deliberately and materially misrepresented the value of the corporations that he brought into the marriage, which eventually came to light upon the couples’ separation.

Although the matter resulted in the court re-calculating the parties’ equalization entitlements in accord with the more accurate corporate valuation, the case raised an interesting corollary legal question:

If one party deliberately misleads the other, does it become the other’s obligation to actively investigate into that dishonesty?

In Virc v. Blair, the parties had gone before a motion judge on a procedural matter relating to what turned out to be the husband’s incomplete and misleading financial disclosure.   Once the motion judge had assumed that the husband had made certain material misrepresentations, the judge shifted the burden and placed it on the wife to inquire as to the truthfulness of the husband’s financial disclosure.

The Court of Appeal later held this was an error.  It said:

In the face of a deliberate material misrepresentation, the onus is not appropriately placed on the recipient spouse.  Rather, the burden is on the party disclosing to establish actual knowledge of the falsehood by the recipient. 

In other words, and contrary to what the husband claimed, there was no law to the effect that a spouse who receives financial disclosure in a matrimonial case is under an obligation investigate or test the veracity of the information provided by the other spouse.   Rather, the effect of the deliberate material non-disclosure remains the focal point (unless the dishonest spouse can prove that the other spouse conclusively knew of the dishonesty).

As the court said a little later in the judgment:

The law does not entitle a liar to succeed just because the recipient of the falsehoods has not ferreted them out.

For the full text of the decision, see:

Virc v. Blair

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders.  For more information, visit us at RussellAlexander.com

Wednesday’s Video Clip: Ontario Wills 101: Issues to Consider Before Meeting your Lawyer

Wednesday’s Video Clip: Ontario Wills 101: Issues to Consider Before Meeting your Lawyer

In Ontario, a Will is a written document that sets out the person’s wishes about how his or her estate should be taken care of and distributed after death. In this video, a senior law clerk with Russell Alexander Family Lawyers, describes what a will is, some of the early issues to consider for preparing a will, and what steps you should take once you have your will in place.

At Russell Alexander Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at RussellAlexander.com

For Amateur Lawyers, Part 2: Equalizing a House that Cost More to Build than it’s Worth

For Amateur Lawyers, Part 2: Equalizing a House that Cost More to Build than it’s Worth

As I reported last week, the case of Strobele v. Strobele involved a couple who in the two years leading up to their final split had invested all their life savings (and more) to build their “dream home”. Unfortunately, it turned out that not only was the construction project the “death-knell” to their relationship, but the home also ended up being worth far less than it cost them to build/renovate.

At the end of the day, the home cost about $1.8 million to build, but ended up being worth $1.2 million, with title solely in the husband’s name. The wife had contributed $240,000 of her own money to the construction project over the years they were together.

So how does a Family Court split a home that’s worth less than what the spouses invested in it? The answer: With some complex calculations, and after looking at all the circumstances.

An already-tricky scenario was made somewhat more complicated by the fact that the husband wanted to buy the wife out, so that he could stay in the home. This meant that one of the many issues for the court was how much the husband should have to pay her.

The court first ruled out doing a straightforward Net Family Property calculation using the home’s current low market value. That would result in allowing the husband to stay in the home, obtain the benefit of the surroundings, and have the wife make further payments towards the home’s cost. This, the court stated, would be unfair.

Instead, the court had to look at the economic consequences of the relationship and its breakdown. The couple had moved into the home before they got married, and the wife spent $240,000 of her own money on construction projects both prior to and after marriage. They had enjoyed a relatively equal economic partnership throughout their relationship.

The fair approach was thus to calculate – and to divide equally – the overall losses that the couple sustained in building their dream home, and to give the wife a 50 percent equitable interest in the home – whatever that might turn out to be – by way of resulting trust.

Using an as-built value of $1.8 million, and a market value of $1.2 million, the court focused on “consumption value”, which would lead to a determination of what the parties’ loss on investment was. In these circumstances, the parties had each lost one-third of their overall investment in the home.

When that discount ratio was applied to the $240,000 that the woman put in over the course of their relationship, this meant she had lost one-third of that, too. In other words, rather than have the wife emerge with nothing from her $240,000 investment, the fair solution was to gross-down that figure by one-third, to represent her losses.

So after the normal equalization calculation the husband was at liberty to purchase the wife’s interest in the home for $160,000 and also personally assume all the debt associated with the house. Or, if that transaction did not take place and he chose not to buy her out, then the house could be sold and the loss that results could be divided equally between the parties through the usual equalization process.

Was this the outcome you would have predicted? What are your thoughts?
For the full text of the decision, see:

Strobele v. Strobele, [2005]

At Russell Alexander Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at RussellAlexander.com

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Wednesday’s Video Clip: Top 5 Questions about Spousal Support in Ontario, Canada


Wednesday’s Video Clip: Top 5 Questions about Spousal Support in Ontario, Canada

In this video we review the top 5 questions about spousal support in Ontario, Canada.

Spousal support — which is sometimes called “maintenance” or (especially in the U.S.) “alimony” — is money paid from one spouse to the other after the dissolution of the relationship. The obligation to pay spousal support is a legal one, and may arise either from a marriage, or from a common-law relationship. Either spouse can make a claim for it, provided:

• the spouses have lived together in a “marriage-like relationship” for at least three years; and

• the claim for spousal support is made within one year of couples’ separation.

The obligation for one spouse to pay spousal support to the other does not arise automatically from the fact that the parties had a relationship together (whether formally married or common law). Rather, the spouse who is claiming spousal support must prove an entitlement to it.

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at RussellAlexander.com.

Wednesday’s Video Clip: 4 Ways To Enforce Child and Spousal Support Orders in Ontario


Wednesday’s Video Clip: 4 Ways To Enforce Child and Spousal Support Orders in Ontario

For those ex-spouses who are subject to a court order or have agreed that one of them will pay spousal or child support to the other, there are several points about the enforcement of such orders or agreements that are noteworthy, this video reviews some important points to consider.

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at RussellAlexander.com.

When the Litigation Lasts Longer than the Marriage Did

Litigation Papers

When the Litigation Lasts Longer than the Marriage Did

A frequent complaint about family litigation in particular is that it’s a costly and inordinately long process, with cases tied up in the family courts for years.

It’s actually surprisingly common for the duration of the litigation between a former couple to far exceed the length of the marriage or relationship itself!

In Geremia v. Harb, Justice Quinn of the Ontario Superior Court commented on this very point:

The parties have a short marital history: they were married in 1999, had a child in 2000, separated in 2001 and were divorced in 2002. Since then, the litigation has been unrelenting. The parties have logged more hours in the court house than many part-time court employees. The continuing record consists of 10 volumes. Theirs is a blueprint for how not to handle a separation.

At the point when Justice Quinn made these observations it was already 5 years after the former couple’s divorce, and the litigation continued beyond that for at least another year.

But even in somewhat longer marriages, the litigation can still quickly outstrip the duration of the union itself.

In a case called Anderson v. McWatt, the couple had been married for 11 years, but had been living together for several years before that. But by the time of their 2015 hearing before the Ontario Court of Appeal, they had been embroiled in 15 years’ worth of what the court called “high conflict” litigation over the retroactive child support for their now-grown children, and over a business they had initially started and run together.

These are just two of many, many examples. Does it still count as a “relationship” when a couple sees each other only in court?

For the full text of these decisions, see:

Geremia v. Harb, 2006 CanLII 38350 (ON SC)

Anderson v. McWatt, 2015 CarswellOnt 14225, 258 A.C.W.S. (3d) 7

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at RussellAlexander.com

Ten Years Later, Court Overturns Agreement Due to Husband’s Non-Disclosure

Hiding Money

Ten Years Later, Court Overturns Agreement Due to Husband’s Non-Disclosure

Although the recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision in Tadayon v. Mohtashami is not all that exceptional, it serves as an excellent illustration about how even many years later, one spouse’s past misdeeds can still come back to haunt him or her, in the context of the obligation to provide full disclosure in family law litigation.

The parents of three children had separated in 1999. They entered into a separation agreement as part of their divorce in 2005.

At that time, the husband had reported that he anticipated earning $80,000 that year, and the agreement was reached with that figure in mind. Its terms required the husband to pay relatively modest amount for combined spousal and child support, and allocated him certain levels of financial responsibility for the purchase of a home for the wife and children. All of these commitments and obligations were made on the strength of the husband’s reported income of $80,000 for 2005.

In reality, his income for the prior year was already much higher than that (at $147,000), and it turned out that for 2005 he actually earned an income of $344,000, comprised of income from his own general contracting company, together with undisclosed amounts he also earned from a home building venture. All of this information was kept from the wife at the time, and none of it was taken into account when the 2005 agreement was reached between them.

Fast-forward 10 years, when the wife discovered that the husband had concealed these income amounts from her. She applied to the court to have the 2005 agreement set aside, and to have both child and spousal supports for several sequential years recalculated with the correct figures in mind.

That application was allowed by the lower court, and the husband’s subsequent appeal was dismissed. Even viewed a full decade later, both courts confirmed that the husband’s then-failure to disclose these significant income amounts undermined the validity of the 2005 agreement. Had the wife known the correct financial information, she would never have signed it.

(Moreover, the court pointed out that the husband could not claim that he would be prejudiced by the wife’s late-breaking objection to the non-disclosure; they had jointly retained an expert income valuator, so it could have come as no surprise to him that the accuracy of his figures would soon become an issue).

The bottom line was that the husband had an obligation to make full and proper financial disclosure in 2005 when the agreement with the wife was made in the first place; the agreement was accordingly unconscionable and even despite the passage of time the court was justified in overturning it now.

For the full text of the decision, see:

Tadayon v. Mohtashami, 2015 ONCA 777

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at RussellAlexander.com

Wednesday’s Video Clip: 10 Ways to Get Information About Family Law

10 Ways to Get Information About Family Law

In this video we discuss how there are many professional people, organizations and other sources that can help you or provide information about family law issues:

1. An information centre specializing in family justice

2. A parent education course for separating parents

3. Duty counsel at a legal aid office

4. A community legal clinic

5. A university law school with a student-run legal information service

6. A law society or bar association referral service for a lawyer

7. A divorce support or self-help group

8. Relevant library books and videos

9. The yellow pages, white pages or blue pages in your telephone book have listings for many of these resources, and

10. A librarian at your public library may also be able to help you.

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at RussellAlexander.com