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Posts from the ‘Top 10s’ Category

Family Law Now | Episode 2: Top 10 Things You Should Know About Collaborative Practice

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Episode Info
On this episode, hosted by Russell Alexander with special guest Jason Isenberg, two collaborative family lawyers discuss the process, resources, and the various benefits for clients who choose collaborative. Tune in to Family Law Now to learn more!
Listen on SoundCloud.

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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.

Top 10 Blogs of 2017

Top 10 Blogs of 2017

As we embrace the New Year, we’d like to take the opportunity to thank our readers for their continued interest and support. We would also like to recap some of our most popular posts from yet another busy year.

Here are some of our top blogs from 2017

Number 10: Ontario Superior Court Justice Pazaratz Speaks Out Against Legal Aid Squandering – Again

In his written endorsement of a consent order in Abdulaali v. Salih, Justice Pazaratz characteristically drew attention to the perceived waste of public funds in the case before him. He unapologetically chastised both Legal Aid Ontario and the parties for “squandering scarce judicial and community resources.” He bluntly stated that the case should not have been dragged out so long, and should not have been funded by public coffers so indiscriminately.

Number 9: Court to Delinquent Husband: If You Don’t Play By the Rules, You Don’t Get to Play

With unpaid cost awards of $10,000 and $25,000 from prior decisions, a husband sought an extension for appealing yet another judgment. In Schwilgin v. Szivy, the Court of Appeal for Ontario yielded the wife’s cries for justice in a situation where successive cost awards in her favor ironically left her with an empty wallet. The Court disapproved of the husband’s use of court procedure to delay payment of arrears, effectively, restoring wife’s faith in justice and putting husband on ice.

Number 8: Wife Dumps Husband Over Trump

Would you end a marriage of 22 years over politics? Not “politics” in the colloquial sense—actual governmental politics. 73-year old Gayle McCormick of the U.S. did exactly that. After learning of her husband’s intention to vote for Donald Trump, the retired Californian prison guard was “in shock.” Although Gayle’s husband never ended up voting for Trump, the damage was already done—she became “totally undid” after she saw his true Republican colors. Not even the adhesive backing of a toupee could hold them together after his revelation.

Number 7: Separation Agreement Drafting Error: Can a Spouse Take Advantage

This post recapped the importance of achieving a “meeting of the minds” at the bargaining table. In Stevens v. Stevens, the husband sought to enforce a marriage contract drafted by his wife’s lawyer apportioning the whole value of the matrimonial home to him. The husband and his lawyer’s attempt to take advantage of the drafting error were met with harsh criticism as the Court found in favor of the wife. The Court declined literal interpretation of the contract as the wife clearly intended only a half interest.

Number 6: Calling Someone a “Liar” Online: Is that Defamation, or Merely “Comment”?

This post explores an interesting legal question arising from a not-so common scenario:

From 2008-2010, Levant, an outspoken political commentator, posted nine blogs each bearing a headline calling Awan, a law student, a “liar.” Levant’s digital tirade was prompted by Awan’s testimony at a human rights tribunal in which Awan and fellow law students alleged a Mclean’s magazine cover story titled “The Future Belongs to Islam” had an Islamophobic tone. Levant argued his remarks were merely comments and not defamation in the ordinary sense.

The question is this: Is calling someone a “liar” merely a “comment” made as part of an online discourse, and therefore, not defamatory?

No. The usual defences to defamation do not prevail where there is evidence of malice, as in the case of Awan v. Levant. Levant was ordered to pay Awan $50,000 in general damages and $30,000 in aggravated damages.

Number 5: Father Who Paid $400K in Legal Fees to “Cause Financial Harm to the Mother and His Son” Ordered to Pay Mother’s Costs Too

Does justice favour the party with the biggest legal bill? In Jordan v. Stewart, we commented on a case where a father paid $400K in legal fees seeking to terminate child support.

The Judge denied the father’s request and chastised him for the logic-defying extent he was willing to go in satisfaction of that end. Ultimately, the father’s wanton disregard for the financial consequences and refusal to accept reasonable offers by his ex-wife, resulted in the somewhat ironic outcome of a costs award to the wife.

Number 4: If a Biological Parent is Paying Child Support, Does a Step-Parent Still Have to Pay?

This blog post explored the interesting legal issue of whether a step-parent should pay child support. The legal test is whether the step-parent whom an order for child support is sought against “stands in the place of a parent for a child.” Such determination cannot be made without consideration of all the material circumstances.

In Stetler v. Stetler, a step-father who provided financial support to his partner’s child over the duration of their 8-year relationship refused to pay child support as the child’s biological father had been paying child support all along. The Court found the circumstances of the step-father’s relationship to the child clearly met the legal test.

Number 3: Court Strikes Family Law Firm’s $72,500 “Premium” as Being a Contingency Fee

Few would dispute that legal fees can be expensive. This becomes painfully more obvious when a family law lawyer charges a “premium” for achieving positive results. In Ontario, section 28.1(3) of the Solicitors Act prohibits contingency fee agreements in a family law matter.

The case of Jackson v. Stephen Durbin and Associates serves as a clear reminder to prospective clients with a family law matter: Read the fine print and always ask your lawyer clarifying questions about fees you suspect may be a contingency fee disguised as something else.

Number 2: Self-Represented Wife Asks for $18K in Legal Costs; Court Awards $30K Instead

It pays to be a well prepared self-represented litigant – literally. In the decision of McMurter v. McMurter, a self-represented litigant successfully opposed her husband’s motion to terminate spousal support obligations in a trial that lasted 15 days.

The wife’s request for costs was met with an unusual turn of events – it was improved by the Judge. She requested costs in the amount of $18,000, but ended up receiving $30,000. The quality of her written submissions and oral representation at Court were credited for the irregular increase.

Number 1: Husband’s Hidden Bedroom Cam Nets Wife $15,000 in Damages for Privacy Invasion

This post continues to be popular, and has been our most viewed blog entry this year. In this post we explored the scandalous topic of privacy invasion inside the bedroom. As if separation and divorce weren’t already difficult enough, the wife in the case of Patel v. Sheth became the star of her husband’s hidden camera during a brief period of reconciliation and resumed cohabitation.

The wife sought $50,000 in damages against her husband for intruding upon her seclusion, a new common law tort introduced to redress privacy invasion. The Court found in her favor and awarded her $15,000 in damages. While she did not receive damages to the extent she had been hoping, she undoubtedly walked away feeling vindicated.

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






Top 10 Blogs of 2016

Top 10 Blogs of 2016

As we celebrate the beginning of a new year, we’d like to take the opportunity to thank our readers for their continued support. We would also like to recap some of our most popular posts from yet another busy year.

Here are some of our top blogs from 2016:

Number 10: Man, Married 33 Years, Robs Bank Rather Than Spend Another Minute with Wife

This post recapped the sensational news headline from September of this year about the 70-year-old Kansas man named Lawrence John Ripple. Rather than have to spend any more time with his wife of 33 years, he decided to rob a bank and get himself thrown into jail.

Number 9: Does Callousness Amount to “Violence”?

In Ontario, the Family Law Act (the FLA) contains provisions that allow a court to consider whether one spouse has committed violence against another spouse or the children, specifically in the context of deciding whether to allow the victimized spouse to have exclusive possession of the matrimonial home.

In one recent case, a woman claimed that her divorce was causing her stress, and that the husband’s conduct was impinging on her already-fragile health which caused her stress and anxiety that amounted to an emotional condition. In this case, the court held that the wife’s evidence fell short of showing that the required statutory threshold had been met in her case, but conceded that “violence” under the FLA is not restricted to physical conduct or abuse (i.e. it can be achieved words and deeds in some cases).

Number 8: Wise Words from an Ontario Judge: A Custody Trial “Speaks Volumes About the Parents”

It’s common knowledge that there is no shortage of high-conflict family law disputes in our society, and not merely those that end up in court. In Jackson v. Mayerle, Justice Pazaratz described that acrimonious child custody litigation more about the parents, i.e. their own egos and latent agendas, rather than the best interests of the child.

Number 7: If Spouses Reach a Separation Agreement But Later Reconcile, Is the Agreement Still Good?

This post explores an interesting legal question arising from a not-uncommon scenario:

Two spouses decide mutually to separate. They negotiate and sign a separation agreement, and duly abide by its terms for a while. They later decide to reconcile, but the reconciliation doesn’t “stick” and they separate for a final time.

The question is this: Is their original separation agreement still good? Does the fact that they reconciled after making it affect its legal validity once they have separated a second time?

It turns out that just like many family law issues, this is yet another “it depends” answer.

Number 6: What Role for “Judicial Shaming” in Family Law?

Of all the courts that rule over matters in Ontario, Family Court Judges are arguably the most put-upon in terms of having to deal with a relentless parade of acrimony, poor judgment, steadfast unreasonableness, emotionality, confrontation, and strategic procedural wrangling. In the case of Yim v. Song the exasperated appeal judge commented that “no amount of judicial shaming” through the form of costs orders had worked to date. This post explored the question of to what extent can (or should) judicial admonishments and sanctions be used in Family Law hearings.

Number 5: Tempted to Post Some Revenge Porn? Read This.

For those embittered Ex’s who are tempted to wreak revenge on their former partners after a break-up, take note: the Ontario Courts have just expanded the realm of tort law to cover certain breaches and invasions of privacy. In one very recent case, it cost a disgruntled ex-boyfriend $100,000 in general, aggravated and punitive damages.

Number 4: Woman Liable to Neighbour for Almost $70,000 in Damages Because of Facebook Posts

Thinking about posting something mean about your no-good Ex on Facebook? The civil decision of Pritchard v. Van Nes has very broad – and potentially very serious – ramifications in all areas of the law, including Family Law.

The decision raises important issues of how to impose responsibility for defamation in a world dominated by social media, and calls into question the appropriate limits of responsibility where rapid (and sometimes careless) online dissemination of information is common.

The decision is also highly pertinent to Family Law situations, where the urge to vent one’s negative separation/divorce/custody stories on Facebook and other media platforms is compelling – and often it seems – both irresistible and irreversible.

Number 3: The “Toxicology of Conflict” and the Impact on Kids

Few would dispute that separation and divorce can be very hard on the kids. But when viewed from the vantage-point of a court trying to resolve the disputes between warring parents, the true toll that the parents’ conflict can take on children is something that courts have to consider in making their rulings.

For this reason, the 2013 decision in a case called Parham v. Jiang is particularly instructive, in that it details what the court calls the “toxicology of conflict” – and specifically the negative effect that exposure to their parents’ high level of acrimony can have on already-vulnerable children.

Number 2: Kids Live with Mom Their Whole Lives – But Her Alienation Efforts Prompts Court to Transfer Sole Custody to Dad

In this blog, we explored a case where the custody of two children went to the mother essentially by default. Following this, the court found that the mother began to make a concerted campaign to thwart the father’s every effort to see or maintain a relationship with them.

Despite the mother’s steadfast manoeuvers, the father persisted in asserting his legal rights over the years, culminating in a series of court orders and then eventually resulting in a successful application to have custody switched to him outright.

Number 1: Mother Tries to Alienate Child from Father – Court Cuts Off her Access Entirely

This post continues to be popular, and has been our most viewed blog entry this year. Similar our previous entry, in this post, we explored what can happen when a parent attempts to remove another parent from the life of their child. Parental alienation is taken seriously by the courts, and is very frowned upon. In the case of A.P.V v. J.L.R. the court emphasizes that the best interests of the child come first and foremost, and in some cases, this may result in cutting off access from a parent who is acting improperly.

And that’s a wrap of our most popular posts from 2016! From all of us at Russell Alexander Family Lawyers, have a safe and prosperous 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

Top Divorce Blogs of 2013

top 10

Top 10 Familyllb’s Blogs of 2013

Well it has been another busy year for us and our bog has been honoured with a Clawbies Award as one of Canada’s top legal blogs.  Thank you to everyone for your continued comments and support.

Here are some of our Top 10 Blogs for 2013:

Number 10: Top 5 Things Self Represented Litigants should know about conducting a trial10.1

As a self-represented party, you must present your own case at trial. The purpose of this blog is to set out some practical and procedural matters with respect to the trial process in order to assist you in representing yourself.


Number 9: Selling the Matrimonial Home – What if One Spouse Won’t Co-operate?9 9 9

A recent decision called Ivancevic-Berisa v. Berisa shows what Ontario courts can do if one spouse refuses to co-operate in selling the matrimonial home post-separation.


Number 8: Husband Downgrades Job, Then Quits Altogether – But Support Stays the Same8

This was a case which shows that a voluntary change in circumstances – including a significant reduction in income – does not necessarily mean that a parent’s obligation to pay child support will be reduced correspondingly.


Number 7: 5 Ways to Make Sure Your Separation Agreement is Valid 7

Separation agreements can be a useful means by which separating spouses can take first steps toward unwinding their financial and family-related affairs by way of a mutual agreement. This Blog was a fan favorite in 2012 and continues to be popular as it provides a list of the top five ways to ensure that a separation agreement is valid and enforceable in Ontario.

Number 6: We’re Officially Separated – Can I Change the Locks on the House? 6

When a couple first separates under contentious circumstances, I will often get questions about what each party’s respective rights are in the early stages, i.e. before the long process has started of formally dividing up their assets and dealing with any support and child-related issues. One of the most common questions is whether the spouse who remains in the matrimonial home after separation can change the locks in order to exclude the other spouse.

Number 5: Texting and Family Law – Top 3 Things to Know5.1 bmp

Virtually everyone texts these days. In the context of Family Law disputes, it can be a useful tool for short, informative exchanges between separated spouses, for example to efficiently communicate on matters relating to the day-to-day care and custody any children they share.

But in the hands of some former couples, they can serve as a high-tech medium for thinly-veiled hostility, confrontation, acrimony and confusion.


Number 4: Top 5 Things to Know About the Canada Child Tax Benefit 4

This blog was also a fan favourite in 2012. Soon it will be time to start thinking about individual income taxes, and all of the various components that go into providing the federal government with a financial “snapshot” for the past year.

For separated or divorcing spouses with children, one of those components is the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB).

Number 3:  What “Material Change” is Not: Some Real-Life (and Perhaps Surprising) Examples3

The concept of “material change” involves the notion that a court-imposed order requiring a parent or spouse to pay support may have been fair at the time it was handed down, but subsequently becomes unfair due to unforeseen circumstances. Where a later court finds that such “material change” has taken place, it may have the authority in the right circumstances to vary the initial order accordingly.

This determination of what constitutes “material change” is not always straightforward. Indeed, some scenarios may intuitively seem to qualify on first blush, but on closer examination turn out not to meet the legal standard at all.

Number 2: Top 5 Questions About Adultery and Divorce in Ontario2.1

Leaving aside the intriguing question of how adultery affects couples psychologically and emotionally (and why such powerful, successful people would jeopardize their marital relationships in this manner), the legal effect of adultery is quite clear.

In Ontario (as elsewhere in Canada), the laws relating to divorce based on a adultery are governed by the federal Divorce Act, which provides that a “breakdown of a marriage is established only if the spouses have lived separate and apart for at least one year or the spouse against whom the divorce proceeding is brought has committed adultery or treated the other spouse with physical or mental cruelty.” (Note that it must be the other party who commits the act: a spouse cannot apply for a divorce based on his or her own adultery).

Number 1: 10 Things You Should Know About Child Support1.11.11.1  1.1

1.2Again, this continues to be a very popular post and is evidence of the ongoing need that parents have to for information about child support.  This blog examines how all dependent children have a legal right to be financially supported by their parents. When parents live together with their children, they support the children together. Parents who do not live together often have an arrangement in which a child lives most of the time with one parent. That parent is said to have custody of the child. This arrangement can be written in a separation agreement or court order (sometimes called legal custody), or may occur without a written agreement or court order (sometimes called “de facto” custody).

Either way, the parent with custody has the main responsibility for the day-to-day care of the child and has most of the ordinary expenses of raising the child. The other parent should help with those expenses by paying money to the parent with custody. This is called child support.

There you have it.  Some of our top Blogs for 2013.  Thank you  again to everyone who have visited our Blog and all your continued comments and support and thank you for the honour of a Clawbie Award.

Top 10 Traits Lawyers Look For In A Law Clerk

law clerk

Top 10 Traits Lawyers Look For In A Law Clerk

I recently did a lecture for law clerks at a local College. I was asked to speak on what characteristics I look for when hiring a law clerk. Every lawyer and every law firm is different and has their own firm culture. When considering the atmosphere and service we try to promote at our firm I thought the following 10 characteristics were essential to be an effective law clerk. All clerks are different and possess different strengths and weaknesses. Here’s my list, let me know your thoughts and comments. Would there be anything you would add?

1. Disposition

Clerks should have a professional look and dress accordingly. Yes, that means no jeans and you need to wear shoes when at the office. There are days that are casual or when we dress down if we are taking files to storage or cleaning the office. But this is the exception, not the norm.

2. Service

Law clerks need to be service oriented to effective. This includes promptly returning client messages. You may not have an answer or have had an opportunity to speak with the responsible lawyer, but you can simply let the client know you have received and acknowledged the message. This will go a long way in alleviating client stress and angst know that their request is being processed. Law clerks also need to be responsive to the specific inquiry being asked of them.

3. Empathy

Clerks will be working on more than one file and more than one client. But clients want to feel like they are the “only” client and feel let down if they are not being responding to promptly or their concerns are not being addressed. Clerks need to be empathic to these needs and concerns even if they are not legal in nature.

4. Accuracy

Accuracy and correctness are a must for a successful law clerk. When a task or document is sent to lawyer for review the clerk should ensure that he or she gets it right the first time. If the lawyer needs to review the document multiple times it may prove easier for the lawyer to simply produce the document him/herself. If this occurs with some frequency the law clerk will likely be looking for a new job.

5. Anticipation

Effective law clerks need to anticipate what the lawyer will require to complete the task or provide instructions. Checking court dates or providing background information, memos or documents when the lawyer is presented with the information or message helps streamline the workflow and improve efficiencies.

6. Team Work

Law clerks will need to work with multiple type “A’ personalities including other clerks and supervising lawyers. To do this effectively clerks need to learn how to work as a team, accept delegation and learn to say no if they are too busy or unable to complete assigned tasks.

7. Independence

Law clerks need to understand that it is not the lawyer’s and other clerk’s job to hold their hand. Lawyers are able to delegate task and are required to ensure their clerks are properly supervised and can handle the tasks being asked of them. Similarly law clerks need to work independently and learn to say no if the task is beyond their ability or if they cannot complete the task in a reasonable timeframe due to other work or responsibilities. To be effective clerks need to learn how to prioritize their workload.

8. Flexibility

Law clerks need to be flexible in the tasks they are asked to complete and hours they are required to work. Often times with deadlines or trial work clerks may be asked to stay late or work extra hours on a weekend. Clerks may also be asked to work remotely, at different offices or fill in for reception or other staff members who may be sick, on holidays or mat leave. Flexibility is an essential trait of an effective law clerk.

9. Timeliness

Clerks need to show up on time be reliable. A 9 am start doesn’t not mean showing up at the office at 9:05, having a bowl of cereal and not being ready to work until 9:20. Similarly when it comes to documents, court rules and client expectations require documents and tasks to completed when promised or required by the rules of the court.

10. Reliability

Effective clerks do not ‘stick their head in the sand’ and ignore problem files. Effective clerks meet the task head on, get the job done and ask for assistance when required. If you make a mistake own up to it and take responsibility. Do not blame others when something goes wrong. The lawyer will appreciate your honesty and give you the resources or assistance you need to get the task done right the first time and on time.

Top Five Points About Adultery That You Probably Didn’t Know

adultery 2

Top Five Points About Adultery That You Probably Didn’t Know

As I have written before, one of the grounds on which divorce can be granted to spouses in Canada is that of adultery. For the most part, the concept is quite straightforward: “Adultery” for these purposes is precisely what most people think it would be.

However, from a Canadian legal standpoint there are some finer points that are worth mentioning, largely derived from cases that have been decided over the years. Here are the top five lesser-known points to know:

1 • Adultery may occur if there is “[i]ntimate sexual activity outside of marriage may represent a violation of the marital bond and be devastating to the spouse and the marital bond regardless of the specific nature of the sexual act performed.” (From the case called P. (S.E.) v. P. (D.D.))

2 • A single act of sexual intercourse can amount to “adultery” for the purpose of divorce in Canada. (Henderson v. Henderson and Crellin)

3 • Adultery can occur with a same-sex partner. (P. (S.E.) v. P. (D.D.))

4 • An affidavit admitting to adultery with an unnamed party is sufficient for Divorce Act purposes. (d’Entremont v. d’Entremont)

5 • In the right circumstances, adultery can be condoned. For example, if out of love and a desire to make the marriage work one spouse takes back an adulterous cheating spouse, then he or she may not be able to ask for a divorce based on the earlier adultery. In this scenario, the innocent spouse may be considered to have condoned the adultery for divorce purposes. (Ingram v. Ingram)

For the full text of the cases, see:

d’Entremont v. d’Entremont (1992), 44 R.F.L. (3d) 224, 118 N.S.R. (2d) 51, 327 A.P.R. 51 (C.A.)

Henderson v. Henderson and Crellin, [1944] A.C. 49, [1944] 1 All E.R. 44

Ingram v. Ingram (1985), 1985 CarswellSask 768, 48 Sask. R. 157 (Sask. Q.B.)

P. (S.E.) v. P. (D.D.), 2005 CarswellBC 2137, 2005 BCSC 1290 (B.C. S.C.)

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

Top 10 Tips for Re-opening Deadlocked Negotiations

10 tips

Top 10 Tips for Re-opening Deadlocked Negotiations

Sometimes people can become deadlocked when trying to negotiate resolutions to disputes.  It can be very difficult to reopen negotiations once parties become fixed in their positions.  Here is a list of 10 tips for re-opening deadlocked negotiations:

1. Use  intermediaries

2. Give conciliatory signals

3. Show a willingness to discuss procedure

4. Admit flexibility on specific solutions

5. Prioritize interests

6.  Identify the of division between hawks and doves

7. Acknowledge the  other’s interests

8.  Assemble an expert problem solving team

9.  Rewarding others for any helpful initiatives

10.  Keeping communication open

This is list based in part on Dobermans and diplomats: seventeen strategies for re-opening hopelessly deadlocked negotiations by John Wade of Bond University.

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