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Posts tagged ‘offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access’

GM Oshawa Assembly Plant Closing & Divorce

The Ghosts of GM: Past, Present and Future

On November 26, 2018, the General Motors Company (GM) announced that it will cease allocating new product to its Oshawa assembly plant beyond the end of 2019. This came as a shock to the 2,500 employees who work at the Oshawa plant and the many more who depend on their income. While the jury is still out on whether GM will be laying off or re-training its 2,500 employees, one thing is certain—a large cohort of GM’s employees stand to lose their livelihood.

Whether laid off or re-trained, employees who have a potential, current or settled family law matter will need to govern themselves wisely to weather the impact that closure will have on their day-to-day lives. Accordingly, this post explores the likely, and, not so likely, family law implications of GM’s closure of its once thriving Oshawa assembly plant.

The Ghost of GM Past: Settled Family Law Matters

If your family law matter was previously settled by way of a Separation Agreement or Final Order, the loss of employment income may trigger a review of child support or spousal support, or parenting.

Support obligations

It is likely that the loss of employment income will mean that you cannot afford to pay child support and/or spousal support as set out in a Separation Agreement or Final Order. In the case of a Separation Agreement, you may be able to rely on a built-in review clause to revisit the issue of support. Most Separation Agreements contain a dispute resolution clause which may be the first place to start in this endeavor. In the case of a Final Order, you will likely want to bring a Motion to Change a Final Order if you and your ex-spouse cannot agree on the appropriate adjustment out of court. A qualified lawyer can assist with making this process as seamless as possible.

Parenting

It is not likely that your loss of income will impact settled parenting arrangements. However, you may find yourself needing to reduce your parenting time with the children in order to focus on finding a new job. In this scenario, you may likely need to rely on the dispute resolution clause in your Separation Agreement or bring a Motion to Change a Final Order altering an access schedule in order to achieve the desired relief.

The Ghost of GM Present: Current Family Law Matters

If you are currently going through a legal separation from your spouse, the loss of employment income may affect a number of aspects in your separation, including but not limited to, support, assets and liabilities and alternative career planning.

Child support and spousal support

You may have credible grounds by which to vary a temporary Order for support in your legal proceeding. As an Order for support would have been based on your GM income at the time, the Order may be varied by the new circumstances. You may seek such relief at a pre-trial conference or by bringing a motion. It is not likely, however, that your loss of income resulting from being laid off will extinguish your entire obligation to pay support. Rather, you may still be required to pay support on the basis of employment insurance income or imputed income. However, the extent of any such continuing obligation depends on the particular facts of your case.

Assets and liabilities

The loss of employment income may result in a budgetary deficit, impacting your ability to keep the matrimonial home. If you are no longer able to maintain your share of the mortgage and bills associated with the matrimonial home, it may have to be listed for sale—which may be the most poignant of all of your post-closure concerns. Worry not. There may be options available to you for preventing this outcome such as, a buy-out, borrowing or disposition of investments, RRSPs, RRIFs or your GM pension. However, the viability of these options to save the matrimonial home will need to be assessed against the surrounding issues in your proceeding such as support, equalization and other issues relevant to your case.

Alternative career planning

You may wish to delay your re-entry into the workforce to obtain credentials in a more stable industry. While this will yield economic benefits in the long run, your current financial obligations of support and solvency will be deciding factors. Delayed income generation caused by alternative career training may likely be manageable provided that the financial obligations of your ongoing separation are minimal. However, your freedom and ability to pursue such an undertaking may require a corresponding compromise and will depend on the unique facts of your case.

The Ghost of GM Future: Potential Family Law Matters

If you have been planning to separate from your spouse, the loss of employment income can have significant family law implications on a number of obligations arising in separation, including but not limited to, support, parenting and family property.

Child support and spousal support

It is not likely that being laid off will defer support obligations. You may be obligated to pay support if you receive employment insurance income sufficient enough to meet legislative minimums. If you do not qualify for employment insurance, your spouse may still seek support by imputing an income on you commensurate with your work experience, whereby you will be required to pay support. In either scenario, the obligation to pay child support and spousal support may survive the loss of income depending on the facts of your particular situation.

Parenting

It is likely that being laid off will mean expanded parenting time. While increased parenting time may yield social benefits, it may also impinge on your economic rehabilitation. Your spouse may expect you to dedicate your new found time to caring for young children who are not in school. These, and other significant changes to parenting time after initiating your separation, may likely hinder your re-entry into the workforce. A properly drafted parenting agreement can help by moderating unrealistic expectations.

Family property

You will have a legal duty upon separating from your spouse to avoid the reckless depletion of family property. While you may wish to list personal or real property for sale to help make ends meet, it is not likely that you will be able to freely dispose of family property after your date of separation without your spouse’s prior consent or proper accounting. You will have to be mindful of how you manage family property as mismanagement may prejudice the equalization of net family property and may result in a Court order.

Bottom line

The closure of GM’s Oshawa assembly plant in 2019 will disrupt the lives of many families, the impact of which might be felt most by those dealing with a potential, current or settled family law matters. Contacting a lawyer for legal advice tailored to the particular facts of your case is a proven way to mitigate the effects of an imminent disruption to income. While it may seem impossible to afford a lawyer at this time, there may be options available to finance the cost of much-needed legal representation.

At Russell Alexander Collaborative 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.

Why Do People Divorce in January?

Why Do People Divorce in January?

There are several factors that could explain divorce rate spikes in the new year and especially in the month of January. Jeremy Sutton recently reviewed  some these factors, including:

• People see January 1 as an opportunity to analyze their lives and change what no longer makes them happy. Sometimes that’s their spouse or partner

• Finances are often called the biggest challenge to a relationship or marriage. Money is always a common factor – especially at Christmas, when pockets are emptied and tensions run high

• Unsatisfactory relationships can drift along during the year, but any unhappiness is highlighted when couples spend a lot of time together over the Christmas break

• It’s sad but true that for some couples having limited time together keeps them together, and being in close proximity 24/7 over Christmas/New Year is the last straw

We examined the data behind this phenomenon last year.

Is It Your New Year’s Resolution to Get a Divorce?

January is the prime time of year for couples to initiate divorce, based on the number of court-filed applications; divorce filings begin to spike in January, and peak in February and March.   January is when divorce lawyers report seeing a spike in consultations from disgruntled husbands and wives, who at least want to do some information-gathering, by exploring the various financial and child-related repercussions that a formal separation or divorce would entail.

Apparently, those in troubled partnerships will try to keep the status quo throughout the holidays – especially if children are involved – only to formally separate or embark on marital counselling once the festivities are over. The reason for this timing is largely (shall we say) “sentimental”: People don’t want to initiate divorce proceedings immediately before, or during, the holidays. They may not want to put a pall over what is ideally supposed to be a family oriented, idyllic season of the year.   Or, they may want to delay so that the family can have one final holiday together, before they split.

For others – especially those individuals who have already started to secretly contemplate divorce, or for those embattled couples who have begun to discuss the prospect between themselves – the “fresh start” quality of New Year, and the tradition of making resolutions, may prompt unhappy partners to re-evaluate their future and finally make the break they have been contemplating.

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

Could a Bad Meal Be Grounds for Divorce?

 

Could a Bad Meal Be Grounds for Divorce?

This is exactly what a 46-year-old man asked the Bombay High Court to consider. His argument was rejected.

The husband’s petition alleged:

• that his wife did not cook tasty food

• his wife would wake up late

• the wife failed to offer her husband “a glass of water”

• therefore the wife had failed to be “dutiful”

In finding that there was no cruelty, the Court noted that:

“One can’t lose sight of the fact that the respondent herself was a working woman who, in addition to her job, had the additional task of cooking each morning and evening, of buying vegetables, and groceries on her way home from work,”

Would this happen in Ontario?

To get a divorce in Ontario, you will have to show that your marriage has broken down. The law says marriage breakdown has occurred if:

• you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for one year with the idea that your marriage is over; or

• your spouse has committed adultery and you have not forgiven your spouse; or

• your spouse has been physically or mentally cruel to you, making it unbearable to continue living together. Cruelty may include acts of physical violence and those causing severe mental anguish.

Most divorces are granted on the basis that the parties have lived separate and apart for one year. Rarely are the grounds of cruelty the basis of the divorce and if these grounds are alleged it could take well over a year for the court to determine the matter. Certainly the allegations considered by the Bombay High Court would not constitute cruelty.

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

Should You Have to Write an Exam to Get Divorced?

 

Should You Have to Write an Exam to Get Divorced?

A judge in China’s city of Xi’an is requiring people seeking a divorce to take a “divorce examination”. The exam results will determine if they are allowed to proceed with their divorce. It was reported that some of the questions include:

“1. “How long have you been dating? What is your wedding anniversary? How do you split the household chores?”
2. “When you were dating, what words or actions did your partner say or do that moved you the most?”
3. “When you have differing views, which of you first breaks the deadlock and how is this done?”
4. “Of the duties that you take on in the family, which ones did you do well and which ones did you not do well? How do you plan to improve?”

The exam is designed to court time and resources and also to address China’s increasing divorce rate that has jumped by 8.3% in 2016. (4.3 million couples divorced In 2016).

What is Ontario Doing?

Ontario launched the Mandatory Information Program (MIP) that requires couples contemplating divorce to attend a MIP that provides information about separation and the related legal process, and may include information on topics such as:

• The options available for resolving differences (including alternatives to going to court);

• The impact that separation may have on children; and

• The resources available to deal with problems arising from separation.

Here are some other points to note about Ontario’s MIP:

• This is a mandatory information program only; it is NOT the same as mandatory mediation for spouses.

• Spouses do not have to attend the program together.

• It only applies to spouses who are asking for something in addition to divorce (i.e. spousal support, child custody, child access or child support, division of property, and/or equalization of net family property).

• If a spouse neither contests the divorce nor attends the mandatory information session, then the other spouse can have his or her claims proceed as “uncontested”.

• If only one spouse is filing for divorce, the other spouse only has to attend a separate session if he or she contests that divorce, or else makes his or her own claims.

• The fact that one spouse does not attend a mandatory information session does not prevent the spouses from obtaining a divorce.

It should be noted that there no divorce exam in Ontario (at least not yet).

Ontario Divorce: The Basics

Married couples seeking a divorce in Ontario are subject to the federal Divorce Act, which states that a court may grant a divorce to parties where there has been a “breakdown of the marriage.” Unlike a separation agreement that can be finalized outside of court, only a court can grant a divorce. It is up to the parties filing their application for divorce to satisfy the court that there has been a breakdown of the marriage.

According to the law, a breakdown is recognized where the parties have been separated for at least one year or where the party filing the application proves that their spouse has committed cruelty or adultery. In practice, the vast majority of couples rely on the one-year period of separation as the ground for divorce.

So what do you think?  Are you ready to write an exam?

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

Ice Ice Baby: Vanilla Ice Accused of Hiding Millions

 

Ice Ice Baby: Vanilla Ice Accused of Hiding Millions

Page Six recently reported that:

Laura Van Winkle filed for divorce in October 2016 and this year, filed docs accusing the rapper of hiding some of their assets and property in their split, according to The Blast. She claimed she found out that he transferred money to his company, Van Rap, LTD.

Laura claimed that Ice — born Robert Van Winkle — never told her about the transactions, and she believed that their assets were being held in a trust. She alleged that she learned about the misused funds while they were handing their financial records to each other as part of the divorce.

As we have commented previously full financial disclosure is paramount in any lasting settlement. For instance:

the court said a little later in the judgment:

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

and

Even viewed a full decade later, both courts confirmed that the husband’s then-failure to disclose these significant income amounts undermined the validity of the 2005 agreement. Had the wife known the correct financial information, she would never have signed it.

finally,

The court considered the circumstances, and pointed out that in the context of negotiating a domestic contract, the duty to make full and honest disclosure is required to protect the integrity of the result of negotiations undertaken in the “uniquely vulnerable circumstances” inherent in marital disputes.

It looks like Robert Van Winkle’s settlement might be put on “ice ice baby” on the side of the A1A until the court gets this matter sorted out.

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

Bitcoin and Divorce: Perils and Pitfalls

 

Bitcoin and Divorce: Perils and Pitfalls

We are seeing increasing divorce cases that involve Bitcoin and other crypto currencies.

This Is Money reports that there have already been several divorce cases that involve Bitcoin. They rightly point out that discovery and tracing of this asset can be problematic for lawyers:

“Tracing cryptocurrencies could be enormously time-consuming and expensive. This is, of course, much easier if cryptocurrencies are traded via an online investment platform and bought with funds from a bank account, as the original value of the transaction can then be established. When cryptocurrency is purchased directly and moved offline, it becomes almost impossible to trace.”

For divorcing couples in Ontario, full financial disclosure is the norm. So, if you own Bitcoin or other crypto currencies you will need to disclosure these assets (and their value) to your spouse. If fail to disclose your Bitcoin then there is a chance that any Court Order or divorce agreement you enter into may be set aside if the asset is discovered later as result of this non-disclosure.

The relevant date to value the asset would be your date of separation (DOS). The Bitcoin may also be exempt from sharing if you brought this asset into the marriage and owned it on your date of marriage (DOM). The value of the Bitcoin on your DOM may be a deduction to any final sharing you do with your spouse. However, the value increase of you Bitcoin from your DOM to your DOS may have to be shared with your spouse.

You should engage the services of an experienced family lawyer if you are divorcing and you (or your spouse) own Bitcoin or other crypto currencies.

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

What Does A Lawyer Do?

Street Answers: What Does A Lawyer Do?

Let’s ask a lawyer! It sounds like an easy question, do you know the answer?

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

Saving the Golden Goose: Part II – Including Specialized Professions as An Alternative Option to the Traditional Court System

Saving the Golden Goose: Part II – Including Specialized Professions as An Alternative Option to the Traditional Court System

As mentioned in our previous blog Saving the Golden Goose: Part I, a court process allows for only a rights based determination of the issues at hand. However, there are many intricacies involved in the enmeshment of family business and the process of separation and divorce. As an alternative to a purely rights based approach, other options can be considered in the collaborative approach, including:

  • Family trusts or holding companies as a method of sharing income from the family business
  • Tax planning, avoiding the possibility of triggering a Canada Revenue Agency audit
  • Considering the formation of a new family trust
  • Employment of children in the family business
  • Estate, succession, and capacity planning
  • Ensuring insurance is in place to cushion the effects of any risks
  • Gifting shares or portions of the family business to children or other family members
  • Maintaining the privacy of the family business
  • Managing the continuation of income streams
  • Splitting income amongst family members
  • Delaying equalization or sharing business payments (Ie: if and when the family business sells)
  • Preserving the family legacy for generations
  • Recognizing and predicting the ebb and flow of the market and business patterns

Unlike the court system, the collaborative process is unique in that it offers the additional benefit of involving neutral professionals who specialize in associated areas, listed above. These neutrals are able to address relevant areas of the family law matter, often with more experience in their particular field than lawyers. Neutrals are also able to complete work at their hourly rate, rather than at the lawyer’s fee. They are also able to take on some of the information gathering that would alternatively be completed by the spouses, which can be stressful. This makes including neutrals an efficient way to deal with issues in a cost effective manner.

Financial Professionals

Collaborative Financial Specialists may be accountants, financial planners, and business valuators who have expertise in helping separating families address issues relating to the family business. They play a vital role in the collaborative process by ensuring that clients provide full and frank financial disclosure. Financial disclosure includes aspects such as income, liabilities, and assets of both the spouses and the business. A business valuator may value the business and, as in the case of many self employed individuals, complete an income analysis to determine yearly income for support purposes. In the collaborative process, family business owners can work alongside the financial professional and/or business valuator to assist them in understanding the intricacies of the business based on its unique field.

Financial Specialists thoroughly vet the documents and prepare detailed reports which help to streamline settlement discussions. Financial Specialists further add value to the collaborative process by educating clients about their finances and helping to manage their expectations from a neutral perspective. This impartial stance helps to keep client expectations realistic, making negotiated settlement more likely.

Another key benefit of financial professionals is their ability to “even the playing field”. In some family matters, one spouse may have been much more involved in the finances of the family business. The other spouse may feel they are ill equipped to negotiate the finances associated with the business, and may worry about being taken advantage of by their spouse. A financial neutral can spend time separately with both parties to ensure that all the cards are on the table, and that each spouse understands the basis upon which they are negotiating.

Family Professionals

While it may not immediately seem to be a common sense approach to include a family professional within the context of a family business matter, family professionals can often deal with may of the underlying issues associated with restructuring a family and a family business. Emotions can run additionally high when dealing with the very real and salient issues associated with the individuals which make up a family business team.

Much of the concept of “Interest Based Negotiation” centers on interests that are not purely financial. A family professional can assist in identifying and bringing these interests to the table. Anger, loss and grief are a natural part of divorce or separation, especially when a family’s livelihood is on the line. A family neutral gives families access to support and guidance for managing these emotions which can intensify the conflict and derail settlement attempts in traditional divorce.

Collaborative Family Professionals are counselors, social workers, psychologists or mediators who have specialized skills in handling the emotional aspects of the issues pertaining to separation and divorce. They further discuss parenting, and help ensure that feelings, needs, and concerns are understood and respected where children concerned. This is especially pertinent when there are children working within a family business, who have their own independent concerns about how the divorce will affect their future within the business context.

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

Part I

Part III

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