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Posts tagged ‘legal fees’

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

Wednesday’s Video Clip: Justice Brownstone talks about Family Law Lawyers

 

Wednesday’s Video Clip: Justice Brownstone talks about Family Law Lawyers

In this video Justice Brownstone examines some fundamental questions:  What do family law lawyers do? What should you do to get the most out of your lawyer? How much do they charge?

Two Necessary Evils – Know Your Obligations re: Income Tax and Spousal / Child Support

Two Necessary Evils – Know Your Obligations re: Income Tax and Spousal / Child Support

Income tax:  Not a popular concept even at the best of times.   But add in the obligations which arise in the context of paying child or spousal support, and it’s enough to cause heart palpitations in most Canadians.

This is because the Canada Revenue Agency rules relating to how support payments are to be treated are quite complex.   To make things more confusing, the federal Income Tax Act has separate rules for spousal support as opposed to child support.   Here are the key points:

Spousal Support

Spousal support is generally deductible for the person who is paying, and is taxable as income for the recipient.  In contrast, child support is neither deductible nor taxable.

This means that a spouse who is receiving regular spousal support must report the payments as income, and the spouse who is paying it can deduct it off the top of his or her income in the same way that RRSP contributions may be deducted.   Lump-sum spousal support does not qualify for this, however, nor does spousal support paid indirectly (for example with one separated spouse agreeing to pay the mortgage payments of the other).

Note that this taxability/deductibility of spousal support payments only applies to payments being made pursuant to a written agreement or court order – informal arrangements made between the separating couple are not eligible for a tax deduction by the paying spouse.  Any written agreement of this type must state the date of separation, the terms and exact dollar-amount of the support payments that are to be made, and the date the support payments will commence.

Child Support

Child support payments are usually neither deductible by the parent who is paying them, nor taxable in the hands of the parent who is receiving them.   Once again, the payments must be made as a result of a written agreement or court order, which sets out the nature of the support being paid, the amount, and other details.  A lump-sum payment which does not specify that it is made in respect of child support , or that does not delineate between the spousal and child support portions, will not qualify for the deduction.  It is therefore important to ensure that any separation agreement or court order makes the terms and amount of the child support payments eminently clear.

Legal Fees and Expenses

The CRA also allows a deduction to the recipient spouse or parent for the costs of obtaining or enforcing a spousal or child support order, which includes legal fees and certain enforcement-related expenses.   The cost of defending a claim for support, or for the payment of arrears of support, is not deductible, however.

Get Advice Beforehand

Needless to say, this is just the tip of the iceberg in connection with how spousal and child support payments are treated for tax purposes in Canada.  Legal advice is a must.  But what most partners on the verge of separation or divorce often overlook, is that it’s best to obtain competent legal advice before coming to any agreement as to support.   Otherwise, you may fail to foresee the tax ramifications of an informal spousal and child support arrangement, which can result in unpleasant surprises at tax time. Expert, early advice from a lawyer is essential.

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.

 

 

 

No Promise From Father to Pay Daughter’s Legal Bills

No Promise From Father to Pay Daughter’s Legal Bills

I have another “father”-themed post this week, this time about a father who was recently found by an Ontario court to have no independent obligation to pay his daughter’s unpaid legal bills to a firm that represented her in her matrimonial dispute.

In the recent case of Jaskot v. MacDonald, the plaintiff was a law firm called “Jaskot Family Law Barristers Professional Corporation” (the “Jaskot Firm”).   It was suing the defendant MacDonald, for payment of its legal bill for services rendered in connection with representing MacDonald’s daughter on a family law matter.

However, MacDonald disputed that he had any obligation to pay for his daughter’s legal representation at all.

The reason the matter had to come before the court for resolution was that the daughter, who had hired the Jaskot Firm under a written and signed retainer in 2008, had gone bankrupt about a year later.   She owed the firm about $84,000 in fees; the bill remained unpaid and – being unable to collect from the bankrupt daughter – the Jaskot Firm sued her father, MacDonald.

The Firm chose to look to MacDonald for payment because he and his wife had been involved in his daughter’s litigation, by attending some meetings and giving her advice on how to proceed.  More  to the point, it claimed that MacDonald had expressly agreed to pay their daughter’s legal fees, which promise was not predicated on the daughter not paying her bill – i.e. it was an unconditional promise to pay (which in law is an indemnity).  The Firm came to court to enforce this alleged promise by MacDonald.

These legal assertions were based on two conversations between MacDonald and the principal of the Jaskot Firm, which were held at the firm offices and were tape-recorded on consent of all the participants.  For example at one of these meetings, which was attended by MacDonald, his wife, and the daughter, MacDonald is  recorded as saying “I am speaking for both my wife and I and like I say as far as fees are concerned, you must know that we have paid all of your fees because she couldn’t.”  At a second meeting – held after a 4-day trial with a rather unfavourable outcome – MacDonald in the presence of his wife, daughter and a Jaskot Firm lawyer again made a statement that he and his wife would “pick up the lawyer’s bill and your will bill will be paid”.

The Jaskot Firm relied on these statements as sufficient to establish MacDonald’s legal liability to pay his daughter’s bills; the Ontario court was asked to rule on the matter.

In doing so, the court noted that the retainer on file at the Jaskot Firm – which was comprehensive and detailed – was signed in April 2008 by the daughter only, not the parents.  In fact, there is no mention of the parents at all in that document.  There was also evidence that the daughter alone consider herself obliged for her legal fees.

Next, there was evidence that the daughter had periodically asked her parents for money, when she was unable to pay her legal or other bills.  Sometimes she would ask for a loan; other times her parents considered the money a gift.  Also, it was true that MacDonald would sometimes make direct to the lawyers on his daughter’s behalf; however the daughter gave evidence that this was done because she was given advice not to keep money in her accounts, since they would be traceable, subject to seizure, or used as evidence in the family litigation.

Most importantly, the court concluded that the statements made by MacDonald at the various meetings at the Jaskot Firm simply did not amount to a promise to answer for the daughter’s debt or default; they could not be considered an independent promise to pay along the lines of a legal indemnity.   When MacDonald told the Jaskot Firm lawyer during the taped meeting that they had paid the daughter’s bills in the past, they were not saying that she could not pay them in the future.  Also, the comment by MacDonald that “I will pick up the lawyer’s bill” was a promise to the daughter, not to the lawyer.  Moreover, the meetings and resulting taped discussions were of a conversational, yet emotionally-charged nature; one could not interpret MacDonald’s words as if he was choosing them after careful consideration and with the intent to create legal obligations to pay the daughter’s bill.

Finally, the court noted that while the parents in this case were clearly involved in supporting their daughter, they were not the decision-makers; the daughter may have taken her parents’ opinions into account, but the decisions in the litigation and conduct of the trial remained with her.  This conclusion was supported by the fact that the Firm’s legal bills were always sent to the daughter for payment and not to MacDonald directly; and they were never considered by the Firm to be in arrears.

With all those facts in mind, the Jaskot Firm could not credibly assert that they understood from MacDonald and his wife that they were to be directly responsible to pay the daughter’s legal bills.

For the full text of the decision, see:

Jaskot v. MacDonald, 2012 ONSC 1529   http://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2012/2012onsc1529/2012onsc1529.html