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What Are The Child Support Guidelines? – video

Wednesday’s Video Clip: What Are The Child Support Guidelines?

In this law video we review the child support guidelines.

In 1997, the federal government brought in a set of new rules and tables for calculating the amount of support a parent who does not have custody of his or her child must pay to the parent who has custody.

These rules and tables were later adopted by the Ontario government and are set out in the Child Support Guidelines.

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

Can a Parent Replace Child Support … with Gifts?

child gift

Can a Parent Replace Child Support … with Gifts?

Even for the best-intentioned of parents, the mechanics around fulfilling the obligation to pay child support can be a challenging part of any separation or divorce. If for nothing else, there is the fact that once you blindly hand the money over, you have little control over how (or even whether) it is actually spent to benefit your child. The lack of input and control – and the need to put faith in the integrity and follow-through of the other parent – can be frustrating.

As a support-paying parent it might be tempting for you to take matters into your own hands, perhaps through what I’ll call a self-help “direct delivery” method. For example, you might be tempted to pay (older) children their child support entitlement directly, or buy them needed items yourself, rather than relying on the other parent to use the support money to do so.

Unfortunately – and unless this has been expressly allowed in a court order – this isn’t an option.
In fact, this approach was expressly rejected in an Alberta case called Haisman v. Haisman. The father, who had been in arrears on child support for his daughter to the tune of $14,000, had over the course of a few years spent about $6,000 on clothes and other items for her nonetheless. A lower court judge, in calculating his overall support obligations, had apparently taken into account the $6,000 and reduced the arrears by that amount. The Alberta Court of Appeal found this was an error, stating:

When a mother has custody of a child and a court orders the father to make payments to the mother for the maintenance of that child, it is not open to him to make payments to the child instead. Nor is it open to him to buy things for the child and to claim that the amounts which he spends in this way should be deducted from the maintenance payments which he was ordered to make to the mother. In neither case has he complied with the order of the court. Further, the mother, as the custodial parent, is entitled to decide how maintenance payments for the child will be spent.

As the court in another Alberta decision called Kazeoleas v. Kazeoleas added:

If this were not so, a father could, for example, buy expensive skis for his child and then reduce his maintenance payments by the cost of the skis. The mother would then be left to find the money to house and feed the child without any help from the father. This cannot be right.

This same approach was applied in an Ontario case called Szucs v. Freeman, where the court said:
Gifts to the children do not constitute support to the custodial parent. It is the custodial parent who pays the rent, pays the utilities, purchases the groceries, purchases the children’s clothing, and so on. Gifts to the children do not in any way contribute to the lessening the custodial parent’s obligation in that regard.

These decisions all confirm that a support-paying parent does not have the unilateral right to decide to give gifts or other items in lieu of support, then claim that his or her child support obligations have been satisfied. Nor, for that matter, does that parent get to choose how money that should be earmarked for child support is to be spent by the other parent, which is a topic I will address more fully in an upcoming Blog.
For the full text of the decisions, see:

Haisman v. Haisman, 1994 ABCA 249 (CanLII), reversing 1993 CanLII 6988 (AB QB), leave to appeal to S.C.C. dismissed without reasons, [1995] S.C.C.A. No. 86.

Kazoleas v. Kazoleas, [1997] A.J. No. 820, (July 9, 1997) 9103 00516 and 4803 80820, Edmonton (Alta. Q.B.).

Szucs v. Freeman, 2007 ONCJ 96 (CanLII).

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

Can I Keep My Ex’s New Partner Away from My Kids?

new partner

Can I Keep My Ex’s New Partner Away from My Kids?

This week, in response to an inquiry from a reader, I thought I’d address a common, day-to-day concern that separated or divorced parents may have about custody and access arrangements for their children.

It arises in the context of a common scenario: You and your Ex have spit, and he or she has gone on to form a new romantic relationship with someone else. The relationship may be an established one, or it may be brand-new. But either way your concern, quite understandably, may relate to items such as:

• the amount of time the children spend in the new partner’s company;

• the extent of his/her caregiving, and discipline imposed;

• the overall influence that the new partner may have on your children;

• differences in values or lifestyle that the new partner may expose your children to;

• the “message” that the new partner’s presence will convey to your children (e.g. possibly that your own role in their lives is about to diminish, or that you are being outright “replaced”).

You may wonder whether you are legally-entitled to voice your say or have any influence on the situation, particularly if you are not a fan of the new partner personally. Can you refuse to co-operate you’re your Ex’s custody / access entitlement, to avoid having the children spent time with a new partner you don’t like? Can you refuse to allow your children to have overnight visits if the new partner is also staying over at your Ex’s home?

The short answer is (generally): No. You and your Ex both have the right to form new relationships; unless there is a court order in place that expressly prohibits your Ex from exposing your children to any new romantic partners (which, frankly, is rare) then there may be little that you can do.

Of course this presumes that your Ex has valid custody or access rights and is exercising them in a reasonable and appropriate manner, with no concerns over the child’s health, safety or well-being. If there is doubt, a court will certainly assess the situation from the vantage point of what is in the children’s best interests. But – leaving aside any normal human resentment or jealousy of your own – the motives for blocking your children’s access to a new partner are likely not based on any legally-recognized concerns. In other words: You probably just have to live with it.

With that said, the situation might be different if you and your Ex have expressly agreed not to expose the children to a new partner (or to do it only gradually) and that agreement is breached. It may give rise to dispute between the two of you, which in turn may prompt friction on the bigger issues of custody and access.

This was precisely the scenario in a case called Billard v. Billard, [2014] N.S.J. No. 350, 2014 NSSC 246, where the court described the conflict this way:

The parties disagree on whether [the child] responded well to the weekly arrangement. They do agree that Jeremy does better with a structured routine.

The parties had discussed and agreed to a slow introduction of new partners, and that [the child] would not be taken overnight to a new partner’s home. When [the mother] learned that [the child] was spending time at [the new girlfriend’s] home, she raised safety concerns about the presence of a large pit bull dog and a ball python. She also requested [the new girlfriend’s] address, which was not provided.

These simmering issues came to a head the night of November 23, 2013, when [the mother] removed [the child] from the home of [the father’s girlfriend … who] was caring for [the child] while [the father] went out with friends.

That incident significantly eroded the relationship between the parties. Access became difficult as a result.
In these kinds of situations, a court may regulate the children’s exposure to the new partner and rule on the extent to which they are to be left in that person’s care (if any), all as part of a custody / access order that binds the parents.

For the full text of the decision, see:

Billard v. Billard, [2014] N.S.J. No. 350, 2014 NSSC 246

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

Happy Canada Day

canada flag

Happy Canada Day
Canada Day celebrates the birthday of Canada. On July 1, 1867 Canada became a new federation with its own constitution by signing the Constitution Act – formerly known as the British North America Act.

The Government of Canada reports on the celebration of Canada Day:

“Canada’s national holiday is celebrated on July 1.

Canadians across the country and around the world show their pride in their history, culture and achievements. It’s been a day of celebration, where many festivities are held across the country, since 1868.

The Creation of Canada Day
July 1, 1867: The British North America Act (today known as the Constitution Act, 1867) created Canada.

June 20, 1868: Governor General Lord Monck signs a proclamation that requests all Her Majesty’s subjects across Canada to celebrate July 1.

1879: A federal law makes July 1 a statutory holiday as the “anniversary of Confederation,” which is later called “Dominion Day.”

October 27, 1982: July 1, “Dominion Day” officially becomes Canada Day.

The Celebrations Start
July 1, 1917: The 50th anniversary of Confederation. The Parliament buildings, under construction, are dedicated to the Fathers of Confederation and to the courage of Canadians who fought in Europe during the First World War.

July 1, 1927: The 60th anniversary of Confederation. The Peace Tower Carillon is inaugurated. The Governor General at the time, Viscount Willingdon, lays the cornerstone of the Confederation Building on Wellington Street.

From 1958 to 1968: The government organizes celebrations for Canada’s national holiday every year. The Secretary of State of Canada is responsible for coordinating these activities. A typical format includes a flag ceremony in the afternoon on the lawns of Parliament Hill and a sunset ceremony in the evenings, followed by a concert of military music and fireworks.

July 1, 1967: The 100th anniversary of Confederation. Parliament Hill is the backdrop for a high-profile ceremony, which includes the participation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

From 1968 to 1979 (with the exception of 1976): A large multicultural celebration is presented on Parliament Hill. This concert is broadcast on television across the country. The main celebrations (called “Festival Canada”) are held in the National Capital Region throughout the month of July. These celebrations include many cultural, artistic and sport activities and involve the participation of various municipalities and volunteer associations.

From 1980 to 1983: A new format is developed. In addition to the festivities on Parliament Hill, the national committee (the group tasked by the federal government to plan the festivities for Canada’s national holiday) starts to encourage and financially support the establishment of local celebrations across Canada. Start-up funding is provided to support popular activities and performances organized by volunteer groups in hundreds of communities. Interested organizations can make a request to the Celebrate Canada program.

1981: Fireworks light up the sky in 15 major Canadian cities, a tradition that continues today.

1984: The National Capital Commission (NCC) is given the mandate to organize Canada Day festivities in the capital.

2010: Festivities on Parliament Hill receive a royal treatment when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh join the festivities to celebrate Canada’s 143rd anniversary.

2011: Their Royal Highnesses Prince William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, participate in Canada Day festivities on Parliament Hill on the occasion of Canada’s 144th anniversary.

2014: Canadian Heritage organizes the 147th Canada Day celebrations. As we approach Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017, the government has given the Department the mandate to organize Canada Day festivities in the capital.”

To learn more or find a celebration near you visit the Government of Canada’s main site here.

Enforcement of Child Support in Ontario – video

Wednesday’s Video Clip: Enforcement of Child Support in Ontario

In this legal video, we review enforcement in Ontario is done through a provincial government office called the Family Responsibility Office (FRO). The court automatically files all support orders made after July 1, 1987 with the FRO. Separation agreements can also be filed there if they have been filed with the court and then mailed to the FRO.

The parent who is to pay support is told to make all support payments to the FRO. When the FRO receives a payment, it sends a cheque to the parent with custody, or deposits the money directly into that parent’s bank account. It only does this after it has received the money from the paying parent.

If a payment is missed, the FRO takes action to enforce the order or agreement. To do this, the FRO needs as much up-to-date information about the paying parent as possible. This includes his or her full name, address, social insurance number, place of employment or business, income, and any property he or she owns. The information about the paying parent goes on a Support Deduction Information Form which is available at the court. This form is given to the FRO along with the support order or agreement. It is important to update this form whenever the information changes.


Once the order or agreement is filed with the FRO, then it is the FRO, not the other parent, that is responsible for any actions taken to enforce it.

Sometimes parents receiving support withdraw from the FRO because it is easier to receive payments directly from the other parent. But if problems arise later, and they want to re-file with the FRO, they might have to pay a fee to do this.

Parents who have an obligation to pay support should also know that the FRO cannot change the amount that the order or agreement says they have to pay. If they think that a change in their financial situation justifies a reduction in the amount of support they should pay, they must get a new agreement or go to court to get the support order changed.

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

Advanced Marketing Roundtable – Quick Tips

mad men

Advanced Marketing Roundtable – Quick Tips

1. Supplement Traditional Marketing Methods

Advances in technology have opened up new and affordable marketing avenues that are accessible for even the smallest of firms. Use advanced marketing techniques to supplement traditional marketing methods such as networking, writing and speaking engagements and traditional paid advertisements.

2. Marketing With Social Media

Facebook is a free social networking website that enables people to create profiles, upload photos and video, send messages and keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues.

Twitter enables people to posts short messages called tweets and follow other users’ tweets.

Google + is Google’s social networking project that integrates with Google’s other platforms.

LinkedIn is a social networking site designed for the business community and other professionals. The site enables members to establish and document networks of people they know and trust.

Mashable defines blogging as “an interactive form of publishing content on the web. It comes from the term ‘web log’. The act of blogging dates back to the late 1990s, and has become a dominant way of self-publishing in the 2000s.” There are many platforms for writing and posting your blog; WordPress is one the more popular ones.

3. Importance of a Website – The Modern Day Business Card

A professional website is no longer a “nice to have”. It is a must. One of the first things a potential client will do is look up a lawyer or law firm’s web presence. This includes looking for more information on the website and evaluating how the lawyer or firm have been received on social media.

Clients will make assumptions about a lawyer’s expertise, professionalism and success by looking at their online presence. A professional website will provide a good first impression and will provide the client the necessary information to make an informed decision about whether you or your firm is right for the client.

While the “old school approach” was to keep knowledge close to the chest, there is a practical marketing benefit to sharing knowledge through your website. In addition to showing expertise, the content can improve your rankings on search engines.

4. Blogging for Useful Content

One of the most effective ways to blog is to focus on subject matters that you find interesting or are related to your practice area. Following news feeds, recent cases, and industry specific newsletters can be a great way to generate content for new blog topics and ideas.

Google rewards blogs that produce original, relevant and trustworthy content by elevating the blog post in organic search results.

5. Organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO involves the optimization of your firm’s website to obtain a high page ranking when users search for particular keywords that are relevant to your practice. Each search engine uses a proprietary algorithm to determine what websites are the most relevant for a particular keyword search.

Typically, search engines look for: (a) useful, keyword rich content; and (b) backlinks from high page ranking websites (typically authority sites).

Maintaining a high page rank is hard work and requires constant maintenance and content updates.

6. Google Ad Words and Pay-Per-Click Campaigns (PPC)

Like SEO, most search engines also permit business clients to create advanced marketing campaigns where they “bid” on advertisements that appear at the top of search results. These advertisements are typically charged “per click-through”.

The determination of where an ad will run will also depend on a proprietary algorithm. While this is a complicated and highly advanced method of marketing, it can be highly successful and lead to valuable “warm leads”.

Typically PPC campaigns must be set up and managed much in the same way as an SEO campaign.

7. Analyzing the Results of Your Advanced Marketing

It is often difficult to measure the effectiveness of advanced marketing techniques, especially if you are making a lot of changes to your marketing approach all at once.

Adwords, Google analytics, WordPress and Facebook have excellent statistics relevant to specific campaigns. Part of the problem may be that clients will find you from a number of sources before they make the decision to call.

Perhaps the simplest way to measure success is to have the person processing new callers and intakes keep detailed statistics and “drill down” by asking the new callers specific questions as to how they found out about your firm and what motivated them to call your office. Then track this data over a period of time (monthly, quarterly, yearly) and watch for trends and indicators as to what is working and not working, allowing you to measure your ROI.

8. Getting it Done – On Your Own Versus Outsourcing

We are all very busy with our practices and often wonder when will I have the time to focus on my marketing efforts. It can be effective to set aside a specific time and day of the week to dedicate 2 to 3 hours focused on social media and marketing. The various social platforms may permit you to schedule your posts in advance and release your posts at certain times and days (or even months) in advance.

You can delegate “in house,” hire a professional marketing company to oversee your marketing efforts, or hire professional freelancers and researchers to assist.

Perhaps a hybrid approach may be the most effective for you. Keep active and participate in your marketing efforts while delegating and hiring professionals to help carry the load.

These tips were assembled by Russell Alexander and Allan Oziel for their presentation at the LSUC’s 2015 Solo Conference and are reproduced here with the permission of Allan Oziel.

Russell Alexander is the founder of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers, a family law boutique with offices in Markham, Whitby, and Lindsay, Ontario. Visit or connect by E-mail ( or on Twitter (@familyLLB).

Allan Oziel is the principal at Oziel Law, an entrepreneurial law firm in Toronto, specializing in business, technology and intellectual property law. Visit or connect by E-mail ( or on Twitter (@allanoziel).

Disgruntled Family Litigants: Is Judge-Shopping an Option?

judge shopping

Disgruntled Family Litigants: Is Judge-Shopping an Option?

Imagine this scenario: You and your Ex go to family court to get a ruling on which of you gets custody of your children. After a full hearing, the judge rules against you: Instead of getting the custody order you want, you get only access to the children on specified terms. You are unhappy. You launch and appeal, but are unsuccessful. When it comes time to cooperate with access, you drag your feet and make things difficult.

What’s your next move?

According to a recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision, “judge-shopping” for a different judge (and hopefully a friendlier hearing venue) is not the answer.

In D.G. v. A.F. the high-conflict dispute between the separated parents as to custody and access of their children had led to a series of prior court decisions. Many of these were not in the mother’s favour, since they awarded or confirmed custody to the father, with supervised access to her. The mother’s position and approach, however, remained intractable. As the court put it:

At every opportunity, including this appeal, the [mother] has earnestly sought to have reversed the trial judge’s award of custody to the [father] and supervised access to the [mother]. In her factum, the [mother] raises concerns with the trial decision, showing that she does not accept the trial outcome despite the dismissal of her appeal. She seeks custody of the children, which is not a remedy that is open to her on this appeal; she has been unwilling to work within the custody and access regime that resulted from the trial.

As the court alluded, the mother was not co-operating with the proposed access scheme: she did not follow-through on providing suggested names for access supervisors, and did she comply with other judge-imposed conditions for making her access to the children possible. As one of the earlier motion judges put it:

[N]o matter how [the mother] feels about the custody and access orders in this proceeding she must comply with my Orders so that she can see her children. [The father] wants her to see the children. He understands that it is important for the children to have a relationship with their mother. So much so that he has put forward his own suggestions for an access supervisor.

Yet in addition to dragging her feet and depriving the children of access to her, the mother continued to challenge the earlier custody/access ruling in numerous aspects. Her latest point of contention focused on the fact that on an earlier motion, the judge (who happened to be a woman) had taken took control of or “remained seized of” the court file, ordering that any future court appearances in the matter be heard by her alone. As the court explained:

The [mother] seeks to escape the motion judge’s “influence”. She argues that the motion judge had no basis for seizing herself of the case indefinitely. The [mother] argues that this effectively puts the motion judge in a conflicting position because any motions to change will inevitably involve the motion judge in reviewing her own decisions. The appellant fears that the motion judge will not treat her fairly.

The court rejected the mother’s line of argument, however. Under the Ontario Family Law Rules courts are actively encouraged (and indeed in some scenarios, mandated) to engage in case management; this was particularly important in a case like the current one, since “the frequent resort to the court in high-conflict cases would otherwise rapidly consume too many judicial resources, as judge after judge is forced to learn the details of an ever-burgeoning file.”

After citing several cases dealing with procedural limitations on the judge taking control of the matter (none of which were found to apply here), the court also rejected the allegation that the motion judge had been biased against her, or that she had been unfair in awarding costs to the father in the circumstances.

The Court of Appeal ended the judgment by encouraging the mother to simply accept the situation and comply with earlier rulings. It said:

I encourage the [mother] to comply with the access orders and to make the required arrangements as soon as possible so that, with successful experience, more normal access arrangements could be justified. There is no short cut available to the [mother].

For the full text of the decision, see:

D.G. v. A.F., 2015 ONCA 290 (CanLII)

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

The Difference Between Separation and Divorce in Ontario – video


Wednesday’s Video Clip: The Difference Between Separation and Divorce in Ontario

In this video we examine how a separation occurs when one or both spouses decide to live apart with the intention of not living together again. Once you are separated, you may need to discuss custody, access and child support with your spouse. You may also need to work out issues dealing with spousal support and property.

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

Solo and Small Firm Conference 2015

LSUC logo2

Solo and Small Firm Conference 2015

I am looking forward to attending and presenting at the upcoming Solo and Small Firm Conference in Toronto.

My co-presenter Allan Oziel and I will host the “Advanced Marketing Roundtable”.

Looking for new ways to attract clients? Are your efforts on social media not translating into desired results? In this roundtable session, we will explore ways to drive clients to your website and give you tools to measure your success. Learn how much time you should be spending on marketing and outsourcing to make it count. Take advantage of the ample opportunities to meet other sole and small firm practitioners from across Ontario and discover new ways to improve your practice.

Registration includes networking opportunities during continental breakfasts, lunch, and a cocktail reception.

The vendor expo will showcase a variety of products and services to support and enhance your practice. You can also join us for the live webcast.

Follow this link to register.

Hope to see you there.

A Good Example of Bad Self-Representation


A Good Example of Bad Self-Representation

With separations, divorces and custody battles being so common, a frequent topic of cocktail-party discussion is whether it’s ever wise to represent yourself in a family law matter.

As an Ontario judge explains in a recent decision in De Cruz-Lee v. Lee, it can be a very unwise choice.

In the opening lines of a lengthy, 860-paragraph ruling, Justice Skarica summarizes the hazards of embarking on self-representation as a “cost-saving” measure:

This case is a classic illustration of the difficulty of obtaining justice when a trial is conducted by a party or parties who are self-represented. [The wife] was self-represented and conducted the trial by herself. It is said that a person who represents himself has a fool for a client. That saying should add something about how self-representation is about the most expensive trial lawyer you can pay for.

After detailing how a trial, originally scheduled to take between one and four days, ended up taking 9 days, the Judge added:

The dispute was over an approximate $53,000 held in trust. Regrettably, the costs of this trial will consume most if not all of that amount.

Next, Justice Skarica expressed some frustration at the fact that proper procedure was not adhered to:

I note that Superior Court trials in Family Court are governed by a variety of rules. These rules are designed to ensure trials are expeditiously run at some cost efficient level. At this trial, those rules meant nothing. Virtually all of [the wife’s] exhibits were produced for the first time at trial without prior notice on the respondent. They were allowed to be filed in any event due to the fact that [the wife] was unrepresented. [The wife] struggled with legal procedures and rules of evidence, which were observed more in breach than in rigour. When I produced law for [the wife] to make submissions on, she instead engaged in character assassination on the respondent, based on allegations not found in any of the evidence.

A little later in the substantive portion of the decision, in the course of reciting the facts that underpinned the ultimate ruling, the Judge lamented:

The reader may notice that as I review the evidence the facts seem incongruous, unwieldy, inchoate and at times just plain difficult to follow. This is because it was. I want the reader of the judgment to understand just how difficult and unorganized the evidence (that was admissible) was when presented to this court as a direct result of the conduct of [the wife].

Finally, the Judge ended the ruling’s de facto prologue with the following:

In writing this judgment, I have cautioned myself, that in the end, Ms. De Cruz-Lee was poorly represented and I am going to have to make allowance for that fact in making my decision.

Despite pointing out these many trial-related shortcomings, the judge no doubt went on to make a fair and impartial ruling in the case. Justice will have been done. Still, it’s puzzling and regrettable that a litigant would choose to put herself at such an obvious disadvantage this way, in what are no doubt very important legal proceedings (at least to her).

For the full text of the decisions, see:

De Cruz-Lee v. Lee, 2015 ONSC 1900 (CanLII)


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