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Posts from the ‘Vacations’ Category

Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers’ First Annual Holiday Toy Drive

Poster for Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers' Toy Drive

 

Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers are pleased to announce the start of their First Annual Holiday Toy Drive. This year the drive will be supporting Bethesda House located in the Durham Region and A Place Called Home located in The City of Kawartha Lakes.

New, unwrapped gift donations can be made in the Brooklin office for the Bethesda House. They have informed us of the lack of gifts for children 13-17 years of age. Some gift suggestions for them include:

  • Sports equipment
  • Art supplies
  • Games
  • Movie passes and gift cards
  • Purses and backpacks
  • Make-up, lotion, perfume
  • Hats and scarves

The Lindsay office is accepting new, unwrapped gifts to be donated for A Place Called Home. There is no recommended age for donations for this organization.

If you wish to donate to the toy drive this year, it will be running from November 1, 2018 through to December 7, 2018. You may drop by with your donation in the Brooklin or Lindsay office any time between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on Monday to Friday. For further details, feel free to give our office a call at 905-655-6335.

Travel Outside Canada: Will My Child Custody Arrangement Be Recognized?

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Travel Outside Canada: Will My Child Custody Arrangement Be Recognized?

Recently I wrote about how to apply for a Canadian Passport for a child. But with the prospect of Canadian children travelling abroad, separated or divorced parents may have concerns over what might happen if their child custody issues flare up while they are at their destinations or even en route. Here are some things to think about:

First Things First

• Long before you even decide to travel with your child out of Canada, make sure your specific custody agreement or separation/divorce order allows it. This may involve some consultation with a lawyer, but it will avoid last-minute disputes or disappointments after you have already incurred the expense of travel.

• Make sure you have a Letter or Permission (sometimes called a Letter of Consent), signed by the other parent, which gives you his or her permission to enter or leave the country with the child. Although it is not a legal requirement in Canada, it can make travel much easier because some foreign immigration authorities may ask to see it before allowing you to enter or leave.

• Ensure that you have proper identification for both you and your child. This includes not only a valid Passport for each of you, but also evidence of residency, and documents to provide evidence of your custodial rights as well.

• Consult with the Government of Canada website [link to https://travel.gc.ca/] that provide various Guides for parents considering travel with their children.

Could My Canada-Issued Custody Order Come into Question?

Be prepared for the possibility that your Canadian child custody order – though validly issued and fully enforceable in Canada – may not automatically be recognized in the country to which you are travelling. This may result in difficulties when leaving the country.

In countries where you think this may become an issue, you may want to confirm your own status or that of your child with the country’s Embassy or Consulate in Canada, before you travel.

What if a Custody Issue Arises While We Are Away?

Ideally, you and your child will be travelling with either the written consent of the other parent, or with proof of court-ordered entitlement. However, in some unfortunate situations, a custody dispute might arise while you and your child are abroad.

In that case, you can contact the Case Management Division of Global Affairs Canada. These officials can provide you with information about:

• The legal system in which you are travelling, and specifically relating to family law and local customs;

• The contact information for local lawyers, as well as that of family counsellors and social workers; and

• How to answer questions posed by local officials as to the purpose and certification of the Letter of Permission that you have supplied in the course of travelling.

These officials may also serve as a liaison for you between local authorities and Canadian ones (such as law enforcement, social services, etc.).

With that said, note that Canadian government officials located abroad do not have authority to:

• Intervene in private legal matters (including your family and custody dispute);

• Provide legal advice;

• Take legal procedural steps towards enforcing your Canadian custody agreement in that other country;

• Force the other country to make a specific determination in your custody case; or

• Provide financial assistance to you in connection with pursuing your legal rights, or for travel, accommodation or other expenses.

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

Make Sure the Holidays Stay Happy

wonderful

Make Sure the Holidays Stay Happy

It’s never too soon to start thinking about the upcoming holidays – and I don’t just mean all the gift-shopping, meal-planning and making arrangements to be with family.

For parents who are divorced or separated (especially if the split is recent), the upcoming holiday season can be rife with difficulties and anguish over how the kids are going to spend their time, and with whom.

If you have a separation agreement, or if you have been involved in the Ontario Family Court system and a court order has been issued, then there will likely be a formal custody and access schedule in place that sets out in precise terms when the children are to be with each parent. Ideally, the agreement or order will go into considerable detail to best ensure that confusion and misunderstandings are minimized. Christmas holidays, for example, may be evenly split between the parents (with precise pick-up and drop-off times specified or negotiated), or may be set up to alternate between parents year to year.

If there is no schedule in place that specifically addresses the schedule for the holidays, then – whenever possible – it is important for you as parents to come to a negotiated agreement on how it will play out. This is the best course for both you as parents, and especially for your children. And even if an agreement cannot reached immediately, parents should avoid rushing to court to settle their differences. Even disputes that seem irreconcilable might potentially be resolved through mediation, arbitration, or the collaborative family law process.

What’s important to remember is that even minor conflict and stress between parents can ruin a child’s holidays, and can ruin what should be lifelong happy memories.

So with that thought in mind (and assuming that there is some flexibility in the schedule set out by the separation agreement or court order), here are some tips for making the upcoming holidays go as smoothly as possible:

• Try to come up with a joint calendar. Incorporate both the agreed or court-mandated portions, and settle any gray areas well in advance. Provide each other with a detailed itinerary of events, together with the details of any related travel plans if possible.

• Stick to the agreed or court-mandated schedule. Nothing adds to the stress of the holidays, and nothing can disappoint a child’s eager expectations, like last-minute or unannounced changes to a long-established plan.

• If changes to the schedule are permitted and unavoidable, then give the other parent and the child as much notice as possible. This will hopefully optimize co-operation, avoid unwanted surprises, and minimize disappointment and ill-will.

Part of this scheduling exercise involves good communication, and a co-operative approach. To that end, here are some additional points:

• In making up the schedule, don’t try to monopolize your child’s time. Be sensitive to the wishes and traditions of the other parent and those of his or her extended family.

• Especially for older children, try to give them input and then be mutually flexible in accommodating their wishes if possible. (This presumes those wishes neither circumscribe the terms of the separation agreement or court order, nor operate to the detriment of either parent or the child).

• When children are with one parent for an extended stretch during the holidays, make arrangements to allow them to contact the other parent, either by phone or Skype. This will ensure that children stay connected during special holiday times, even when they are away.

• Be reasonable, and be flexible. Both of you as parents should strive to communicate and co-operate whenever possible.

Above all, focus on what’s best for your child: The goal is to foster happy, lifelong memories of the holidays, even if you and the child’s other parent are no longer together.

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 www.RussellAlexander.com

Considerations for Separated Parents Traveling Abroad

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Considerations for Separated Parents Traveling Abroad

We were recently browsing through Jeff Lander’s article Divorced Women: Take Precautions Before Your Children Travel Internationally With Your Ex-Husband published in Forbes. Jeff offers an interesting take on the dangers of allowing your children to travel internationally with your husband, although really these warnings could be equally applicable for either spouse.

The warnings presented by Jeff in his article should be considered seriously by divorced parents in Ontario, but it may be wise to take a second and consider whether it would be preferable to avoid escalating things. Jeff’s advice to require a bond or financial insurance from your spouse before allowing travel should not be the status quo for most divorced couples and although the article makes the practice of requesting a “Ne Exeat” bond seem typical this is not the case in Ontario.

 

In Ontario, even though you may not trust your spouse, unless you have evidence proving that s/he is a flight risk, the default assumption is that s/he should be allowed to travel internationally with your children. This is the position that most courts would take in Ontario and it would be wise to keep that in mind before trying anything rash. The court will decide these kinds of custody and access issues by considering the “best interests” of the children and in most cases it will be found to be in the children’s interests to be allowed to go on a vacation with either spouse.

In the case where you do believe that the other parent is a flight risk Ontario women can take steps to protect their children. If seriously concerned it may be the best course of action to immediately initiate a court action in order to keep the children in a safe place or to get a court order for possession of their passports. In situations where it is only a possible flight risk, then it may not be wise or financially plausible to take this route. An alternate solution would be to take a page out of Mr. Lander’s article and negotiate having your spouse pay a bond into court or to you in the style mentioned in the article. This middle of the road solution could save you from an otherwise heated and expensive battle in court.

In most cases in Ontario, when a parent wants to travel internationally with their children, the only thing they require is a letter of consent to travel from their spouse. A consent letter may be requested by immigration authorities when leaving the country, when entering or leaving a foreign country or upon re-entry to Canada. A common courtesy in this situation is for the traveling parent to provide the travel itinerary for the children in advance of the trip to the parent remaining at home and all relevant contact information. This is not a requirement under Ontario law but it can be incorporated as a requirement under a separation agreement or in a court order where young children are involved.

To learn more about divorce in Ontario, contact Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers. Russell Alexander focuses exclusively on 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 our main site.

Need a New Year’s Resolution? Update Your Important Documents!

resolution

Need a New Year’s Resolution? Update Your Important Documents!

We recently wrote about certain changes to the Canadian Passport application process had been implemented recently, and that with the holidays approaching it was important for those who intended to travel to ensure their documents were in order.

The truth is, there is no need to wait until travel plans are imminent or until other important milestones occur (such as a marriage or divorce, or a death in the family) to do a little checking up on the state of your important documents. Consider it a New Year’s resolution to add to your list (but one that you actually stick to).

Here are a few suggestions to consider:

• Travel, Health and Medical Information. In addition to making sure that these documents are safeguarded in a secure-but-accessible location, it’s also important to verify that they are current. Is your Passport due to expire soon? Do you have ready access to your Health Card if needed? For any children that you have, are their Immunization Records up-to-date?

• Testamentary Instruments. It’s never a bad idea to review your Will regularly – perhaps every year or two. While this is particularly true where life events have prompted a needed change to designated beneficiaries (for example where there has been a divorce or where a beneficiary under your Will has died), other personal circumstances or simply the sheer passage of time may prompt your wanting a change.

• Insurance and Investments. Similarly, anytime you have designated a beneficiary, for example in connection with your life insurance policy, or in an RRSP, it is important that you give periodic consideration to whether the designation remains appropriate as time passes. You should also give some thought to whether a secondary or residual beneficiary should be named, in case the primary beneficiary passes away first.

• Powers of Attorney. Whether you have a Power of Attorney for Property or a Power of Attorney for Personal Care (or both), you should review these documents on a periodic basis and consider whether they still reflect your wishes in the event you become incapacitated.

There are many other documents and personal information that could benefit from a periodic review; this list is merely a good starting point.
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 www.RussellAlexander.com.

Kids and Travel – Interactive On-line Form for Letter of Consent

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Kids and Travel – Interactive On-line Form for Letter of Consent

In past Blogs we have discussed the various issues and requirements around children’s Passports,  and the application process for obtaining them. Obtaining a Passport for a child becomes particularly important in situations of separation and divorce, since if one parent wants to travel with the child, then the other parent must usually agree to (or at least condone) the intended plans.

The Government of Canada strongly recommends that even after a valid Passport has been issued, any time there are plans made by one parent for a child to travel outside Canada, whether accompanied by that parent, alone, or with another person (e.g. a relative or family friend or in a group), a Letter of Consent should be obtained from the other parent. For these purposes, a “child” is anyone under the age of majority.

While strictly speaking it is not mandatory, the Letter of Consent serves as evidence that the child has the consent of both parents to travel. It is signed primarily by the individual(s) with the legal right to make major decisions for the child (i.e. the custodial parent or guardian); however, even if it is a parent with sole custody who is travelling with the child, to be on the safe side it is recommended that Letter of Consent be filled out by any parent or other individual with access rights.

The Letter of Consent can be presented upon demand by immigration authorities when entering or leaving a foreign country, or by Canadian immigration officials upon the child’s return. While having a Letter of Consent handy does not guarantee that there will be no difficulties crossing a border, it will likely make the process much faster and easier.
Although there is no standard form, and no official guidelines for its contents, the federal government website now has a interactive on-line form that can be modified and filled out to fit each situation. It is always recommended that the Letter be completed with as much detail as possible.

Finally, the Government of Canada has a useful Frequently Asked Questions page , which sets out the answers to questions arising in various travel scenarios.

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 our main site.

Vacations Gone Wrong – Kid’s Visit to Out-of-Country Parent Sparks Custody and Immigration Nightmare

Vacations Gone Wrong – Kid’s Visit to Out-of-Country Parent Sparks Custody and Immigration Nightmare

In a case that was heard by the Ontario Court of Appeal recently, a simple visit by a 12-year old girl to come see her father in Canada came to a dramatic head, and sparked a custody dispute that had repercussions relating to allegations of abuse, determination of immigration status, and protection of the girl’s constitutional rights. The case may serve as a cautionary tale of what can go wrong for separated or divorced parents who plan to take their children in or out of the country on holidays this summer.

The parents of the girl had separated. The mother lived in Cancun, Mexico and had legal custody, while the father lived in Toronto and had access rights. In December of 2008, the girl travelled from Mexico to Toronto for what was intended to ben an uneventful visit with her father. She was accompanied by her maternal grandmother and an uncle, and had the full consent of her mother to make the visit.

During the visit it was revealed – first by the maternal grandmother and then by the girl herself – that the girl had been abused by her mother. As a result, the girl stayed in Toronto with her father and with her aunts, rather than return to Mexico as had been planned.

Relying on the allegations concerning the abuse by the mother, the girl applied successfully for refugee status in May 2010. However, the father’s refugee status application was denied, and he moved to Norway.

By this time, the girl had been contentedly living in Toronto with her aunts for about 18 months, and the aunts had applied for custody of her. Still, the mother in Mexico applied for an application under the Hague Convention for an order compelling the girl to return to Mexico. Neither the father nor the aunts received timely notice, and the hearing went ahead without them. The judge ordered that the girl, who was now almost 14 years old, was being wrongfully detained and ordered her returned to Mexico immediately. She was removed from her Toronto school with the assistance of police, placed in her mother’s care, and – without the knowledge of the father or the aunts, and despite her own protests – was flown to Mexico. She was prohibited from communicating with anyone in any manner, and was denied the opportunity to return to Toronto to retrieve her refugee documents which would establish her as a Convention refugee in Canada.

The father appealed the decision of the judge hearing the mother’s Hague application to return the girl. Among other things, he argued that the Ontario law which incorporates the Hague Convention into Canadian law (namely, s. 46 of the Children’s Law Reform Act (CLRA)) was in conflict with Canada’s obligations to Convention refuges such as the girl.

The Ontario Court of Appeal agreed, to the extent that it ordered a new Hague Convention hearing. Although s. 46 of the CLRA was constitutionally valid, in this case there had been a breach of the girl’s Charter s. 7 rights (which protect her right to life, liberty and security of the person and her right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice). Her right to procedural fairness had also been compromised. As a result, the Ontario Court of Appeal ordered a new Hague Convention hearing be held, but one which allowed the girl full representation by the Office of the Children’s Lawyer (or by her own lawyer if she chose), and which allowed to her to present evidence and receive copies of all evidence that had already been filed with the Hague Convention judge. The girl, her father and the aunts were also to be given full notice of this new hearing. Finally, since the girl had already returned to Toronto to participate in the hearing before the Court of Appeal, it was unnecessary for that court to make any order for her to be returned from Mexico.

Although this is a rather dramatic and likely unique scenario, travel to or from Canada for children of separated or divorced parents can be fraught with legal pitfalls.  At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers we can provide fact-specific advice to parents who are planning summer holidays out of the country with their children. For more information, visit us at www.RussellAlexander.com

For the full text of the decision, see:

A.M.R.I. v. K.E.R., 2011 ONCA 417