Obtaining a Foreign Divorce Opinion Letter in Ontario – Additional Implications of Foreign Divorces

In my job as a Toronto family lawyer, I have  drafted numerous foreign divorce opinion letters – some more complex than others. In my previous foreign divorce opinion letters blog, I discussed the legal tests and requirement for remarriage in Canada. This post expands on the policy reasons and additional legal consequences of (non) recognizing foreign divorces in Canada. Why is the recognition of foreign divorces in Canada relevant and important? Most people will only worry about this issue if they wish to re-marry in Canada and need to obtain a foreign divorce opinion letter from a local family lawyer. The recognition of foreign divorces in Canada, however, extends far beyond a person’s eligibility for a marriage license.

Marriage and divorce carry specific rights, obligations and entitlements. For example, Canadian courts cannot grant a Canadian divorce if Canada had already recognized a foreign divorce. A foreign and recognized divorce has the same status on the parties as a Canadian divorce. Consequently, if the divorce is not recognized, a spouse may be able to divorce in Canada and make property and support claims here. Depending on the circumstances of each party and the family law regimes in their country of origin, this could be significant.

Furthermore, a widow(er) may not be automatically entitled to pensions and other succession interests if a foreign divorce is recognized in Canada. The estate law issues, including the interpretation and validity of wills are affected by (non)recognition of foreign divorces, including the effect on financial provisions for dependents (i.e. former spouse).

In my practice as a Toronto immigration lawyer, specializing in spousal sponsorships to Canada, I have come across cases where the existence of a non-recognized foreign divorce could have undermined the attempt by a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident to sponsor his or her foreign spouse. If one of the parties remains married in the eyes of Canadian law, the parties are unable to re-marry, or if they re-marry outside Canada, their new marriage will likely be considered invalid ab initio for immigration purposes. The question of bigamy also arises in this context and should not be taken lightly. Lastly, the recognition of a foreign divorce can have significant tax implication in Canada, and it may affect the parties’ entitlement to state and welfare benefits.

The laws in this area can be quite complex and technical. If you have been divorced outside of Canada and either wish to re-marry and obtain a foreign divorce opinion letter or if you wish to ensure that your divorce is recognized for other purposes, such as immigration, you should contact a knowledgable family lawyer in Toronto.

Advertisements

To Disclose or Not to Disclose – The Importance of Full Financial Disclosure in Marriage Contracts (Prenups)

Toronto family lawyers have witnessed a growing number of clients entering into cohabitation agreements and marriage contracts (prenuptial agreements). Traditionally, Ontario has a strong public policy favoring individuals contracting autonomy – deciding their own interests through contractual arrangements. This interest, however, is not absolute. The agreements addressing matrimonial issues (marriage contracts, otherwise known as prenups) are subjected to higher level of judicial scrutiny – far beyond that applied to contracts in general. While a well drafted and properly executed agreement carries a significant presumption of validity, it may nevertheless be voided by a court if one party is able to prove fraud, duress, lack of financial disclosure, lack of understanding of the terms or other inequitable conduct. Compiling financial information required under the full disclosure requirement can often be a tedious and even onerous task. It is no wonder that clients often ask their family lawyers to provide only partial disclosure. Such instructions, however, could have a potentially devastating effect on the future  enforceability of a domestic contract.

When entering into a domestic contract, both parties have a positive obligation to disclose all significant assets under s. 56(4)(a) of the Family Law Act (FLA). In a 2008 case, LeVan v, LeVan, the Ontario Court of Appeal awarded a $5.3-million equalization amount to a wife who waived her matrimonial property and support rights in a prenuptial agreement. The court invalidated the prenup on the basis that the husband  failed to disclose his full income and net worth to the wife. The facts of LeVan also touched upon another possible basis for challenging prenups. Namely, the wife signed the marriage contract merely two days before the wedding under threats from the husband to call off the wedding if she refused to agree.

The essential rule to follow when deciding how much financial disclosure to make can be summed up as follows:  to be considered full and frank, disclosure must be complete and adequate, and it must include not only assets and liabilities but also the contracting spouses’ respective incomes. One party’s failure to make full disclosure could easily be interpreted by a judge as a deliberate attempt to mislead the other spouse.

A New York state Petrakis decision is informative. Here, the judge tossed out a prenuptial agreement where a real estate mogul pressured his fiancée, to either sign a one-sided prenuptial agreement days before their wedding or he would cancel the wedding. He also told his fiancée that he would tear up the agreement as soon as they had children, which he then failed to do.

As the cases across common law jurisdictions evidence, if you are entering into a marriage contract, be aware of complex nature of these agreement and err on the side of caution. If you are planning on signing a prenuptial agreement, it is wise to have one qualified family lawyer draft it and another to review it before signing and provide you with the best possible legal advice. Your marriage contract lawyer in Toronto or elsewhere in Canada should draft an agreement that will stand up to judicial scrutiny and thereby protect your assets. To do his or her job, your family lawyer will need your full cooperation.

A Toronto Family Lawyer’s Guide to Using Facebook During Divorce Proceedings

How many times have you checked your facebook app today? Facebook has become an irreplaceable tool, which allows us to stay in touch with family and friends, who are often dispersed around the world. At the same time, Facebook posts have become a rich source of evidence, which can and will be used against you by your ex spouse and his or her lawyer in family court. The amount of information other people see on social media sites is controlled by privacy settings or permissions. For its own marketing purposes, Facebook  and other social networking websites default permissions usually favour widespread sharing. Always remember that you cannot be anonymous on the web. Most family and divorce lawyers in Toronto have experienced the occasional inability of their clients to behave online. Facebook is designed to share your real personality and your actions and attitudes. This is exactly why social media is one of the best lie detection methods that afamily court judge can use.

Behave and Do Not Over-share

Do not denigrate your ex on Facebook and other social media websites, especially if you have children in common. Wile venting your hurt emotions and seeking solace in cyber space can be therapeutic, Facebook is hardly the most appropriate place for healing. Not only is it in arguably poor taste to over-share your innermost emotional struggles in a public forum, but putting down and ripping into your ex can seriously jeopardize your legal position. As your family lawyer will likely caution you, If you are embroiled in a custody dispute, your vitriolic rants against your co-parent can be seen as evidence of your inability to put your child’s best interests above your own. Fighting over child custody in Ontario can get very nasty very fast. Facebook expressions of animosity can also show that you are unwilling to work cooperatively with your ex in parenting your child. These indicators may demonstrate to a family court judge that you cannot be trusted to promote the maximum contact and meaningful relationship between your child and the other parent. Furthermore, if you post an untruthful comment, you could be sued for libel. On a very human and practical level, sounding like a raving maniac will seriously undermine your credibility in the eyes of an adjudicator and public at large.

Post Wisely

Who doesn’t have some embarrassing photographic evidence of a crazy Friday night, drinking with friends? That picture of you drinking with your BFFs, smoking a bong or a photo of your kid “pretend” drinking a bottle of rum with a funny caption can all support your spouse’s claims that you have a problem with alcohol or that you are an unfit parent. as you can see, social media can show poor parenting skills or judgement, show capacity to work or show smoking or the use of substances not normally associated with someone who is an exemplary parent.

Checking into luxury hotels, enjoying expensive vacation packages and showing off your newest car or a boat is a great ego boost, but your bragging rights come with a potentially significant price tag. When it comes to equalizing family property or dealing with spousal support or child support issues, Facebook photos and status updates can unwittingly reveal your financial circumstances that differs drastically from the claims that you made in your financial disclosure. While hiding assets and understating your income are reckless and imprudent moves in any family law case, getting caught doing it is even worse. A picture of that piece of jewelry that you claimed was lost or a trip to Paris with your new love interest can result in a reassessment of your equalization calculation and support payments, and you could have costs ordered against you. Make sure to work closely and follow the advice of your Toronto family lawyer to avoid these costly missteps.

To Check in or Not to Check In

Checking into various venues, restaurants, movie theatres and travel destinations is fun and addictive. If you are involved in a particularly contentious divorce or if have applied for a restraining order because you fear physical or emotional abuse from your ex, you may not want to post your whereabouts on social media. Even the best family lawyer in Toronto is not a substitute for common sense. Posting your location is an open invitation for trouble and should be resisted.

 Parting Words of Caution 

While most divorce lawyers recommend a dating “time out” immediately following your separation, if you choose to pursue romantic interests during a particularly contentious family law matter, you will need to refrain from sharing this sweet information on Facebook. Your ex, a mutual friend, a family members or even an acquaintance can pass this information on to your ex and his lawyer, who may use it to their advantage.

This legal information brought to you by Ivan Steele Law Office.

Questions LGBT Parents Should Ask Before Starting the Adoption Process in Canada

If you are considering adopting a child, you are in very good company!  There are numerous ingredients that go into successful adoptions.  Here are some questions you should ask yourself before you begin the process. If you are comfortable with your answers to these questions, congratulations! You are probably ready to begin the process.

1. Public or Private Agency?

Children’s aid societies are government entities across Canada that provide, as part of their mandate, a safety net for families, and are tasked with overseeing public adoptions. All public agencies (CASs) recognize that gay and lesbian parents are excellent prospects to parent youth in their care. Furthermore, the Charter, as well as the Provincial Human Rights Codes prevent discrimination on the basis of marital status and sexual orientation. The disadvantages of public agencies are the bureaucracies involved and the time it takes to complete the process. The major advantage is no cost to adopt.

Private agencies are licensed and regulated by your Province. Many LGBT adults choose to adopt through private adoption agencies, with demonstrated sensitivity to LGBT applicants. While these adoptions can be costly, applicants can exercise some control over the type of infant or youth they adopt.

2. What child is right for me/us?

Think carefully about the type of child you feel most able to parent. Please remember that adopting a child is primarily for the child’s benefit, not yours.  If she has physical, emotional, or mental challenges, will she eventually thrive with you as her parent? If he has a high need for attention, are you prepared to let him have the spotlight? Would you consider adopting a child who comes with a sister or brother? Are you adamant that you must adopt a girl, not a boy or vice versa? Are you prepared to parent a straight teenager?  Or are you pretty open to the kinds of children needing a safe, loving and permanent home? The more flexible you are, the greater the chances of success for both you and your child!

3. Do you have the necessary investments child-rearing requires?

These investments are far more than buying clothes, giving a weekly allowance, or saving for college, although those are important. While it is unpopular to talk about this, you must consider your financial resources. Raising a child can get very expensive, especially in big cities. Consequently, you should have a very clear picture of your finances. Think of it as embarking on a long term funding project.

Even more importantly, can you provide unconditional love to a child? Are you willing to get interested in activities for which your child shows aptitude? Can you be your child’s educational advocate with the school system? Can you lovingly establish, and enforce, reasonable limits? Are you ready to be completely out to your child? If you are partnered, will both of you share these commitments to your new child? If you answered yes to these, you are probably ready to make the necessary investments in the child.

4. Do you have the patience to wait for your child to show you love?

Some children, especially those older than age 5 or so, have a hard time bonding with, and trusting new adults. Are you ready for your new older child to have a very healthy dose of skepticism about you and your commitment to them? Are you prepared to wait for them to return your love?

5. Do you have the social and community resources around you that will help you and them along the way?

Will your friends and family embrace the new family unit? Does your community (i.e., LGBT resources, spiritual center, schools) offer events and groups that could be valuable to you and your child? Is there an active LGBT parent support group in the area?

6. Are you patient enough to successfully complete pre- and post-adoption placement counseling?

All agencies, public and private, will require you to complete some form of counseling before and after you adopt. Do you welcome that support or do you view it as intrusive and unwelcome?

7. Are you ready to be 100% honest and transparent with the social worker?

The worker will evaluate you, your home, financial records, employers, family, medical and psychiatric history, criminal background and so forth to see if you are likely to become a good parent. It’s important to understand that the agency worker is not looking for perfect parents. She or he is looking for your honesty and a reasonably good match with a child in need of a loving home.

8. Have you had a major life event in the past 12 months?

For instance, have you separated from or lost a partner, moved across the country, experienced the death of someone close, lost your job, married your new love, suffered a significant illness or accepted major new job duties? If so please let your significant life events settle in for a while, then re-evaluate whether or not you still want to adopt. Avoid adopting as a remedy for or as an add-on to another major life event. Adoption of a child is a major life event in its own right. It is unwise to couple it with another life event.

Reconstituting or starting a family is an enormous but a rewarding task, which should always be approached with a help of a knowledgeable adoption lawyer.

This legal information is brought you by Ivan J. Steele, Toronto family lawyer

The Respondent in Divorce Proceedings – B.C.

Script 122 gives information only, not legal advice. If you have a legal problem or need legal advice, you should speak to a lawyer.

This script will be helpful if your spouse is about to begin divorce proceedings, or if you’ve already been served with divorce papers. In most cases, you’ll want to hire a lawyer to represent you, but this script should give you a general understanding of your situation. Note that you only have a limited time to respond to the divorce papers.

This script only applies to married spouses. Unmarried spouses do not need to get a divorce.

What are the court forms used to start a divorce court case?

The document you’ll receive (or have already received) is called a Notice of Family Claim. Your spouse, the person who started the court case, is called the claimant, and you are the respondent.

The claimant must arrange for personal service of the Notice of Family Claim. This means that the Notice of Family Claim must be delivered to you in person. If you’re not available to receive the papers or the claimant has difficulty personally serving you, he or she can ask the court to serve you “substitutionally” by, for example, leaving the papers at your last known address, with your close relatives, or in your mailbox. Make sure you read the Notice of Family Claim carefully.

Consider consulting a lawyer

Because the claims made in the Notice of Family Claim could significantly affect your rights, you should consider asking a lawyer to review them with you and to explain exactly what orders your spouse is asking the court to make. Many family law lawyers will explain these documents for little or no charge.

There are strict time limits to respond

You must respond to the Notice of Family Claim within 30 days of the date you were served by filing a Response to Family Claim in court and serving the filed Response to Family Claim on the claimant by ordinary service. It is very important that you do this if you object to any of the orders the claimant is asking for. If you don’t respond, the court can make orders without any further notice to you.

Ordinary service means mailing or faxing (or sometimes emailing) the document to the claimant’s Address for Service. The claimant’s Address for Service will be set out in his or her Notice of Family Claim.

What’s in the Notice of Family Claim?

The Notice of Family Claim gives the court basic information about you and your spouse, and the details of your marriage and separation. The schedules to the Notice of Family Claim describe the orders your spouse is asking the court to make. At a minimum, this will be an order for your divorce, but your spouse can also ask for orders about the care and control of the children, spousal support and child support, the division of assets and other subjects.

The reasons why your spouse is asking for a divorce will be given

For information on the legal grounds for divorce, refer to script 120 called “Requirements for Divorce and Annulment”. If you don’t dispute the basis upon which your spouse is applying for a divorce, such as a one-year separation, you might not object. On the other hand, if he or she is claiming adultery or cruelty and those claims aren’t true, you might want to contest the court case.

Consider carefully the claims made

The claimant’s claims are the orders your spouse wants the court to make.  If your spouse is seeking sole custody of the kids under the Divorce Act, do you feel that joint custody or sole custody yourself is better? If property is to be divided, do you want half or more than half of the family property? Is there a reason to apply to share in your spouse’s excluded property? If you dispute any of the claimant’s claims, you must do so in a Response to Family Claim, explained a little later. If you wish to make claims of your own, you must do so in a Counterclaim, also explained later on in this script.

What if you don’t agree with what’s being asked for in the Notice of Family Claim?

You should file a Response to Family Claim, which tells the court what claims you agree with and which you oppose. Be aware, however, that filing a Response to Family Claim changes the proceeding from an “uncontested divorce” which doesn’t require an appearance before a judge to a “contested divorce” in which a trial may be necessary to resolve things if they can’t be settled beforehand.

What if you want to make your own claims?

If you have claims of your own that you want to make, for example about the care of children, child support, spousal support, the division of property or another order, you must file a document called a Counterclaim. The Counterclaim sets out the orders that you want the court to make.

What’s a “judicial case conference”?

You or the claimant can schedule a judicial case conference after you have filed a Response to Family Claim or Counterclaim. A JCC is an informal hearing before a judge or master to talk about the claims each of you have made, see what can be agreed to and talk about how the claims will be resolved. JCCs are conducted in private and on a “without prejudice” basis. Without prejudice means that each of you can make settlement proposals at the JCC without being held to your proposal later on.

The JCC is an excellent opportunity to tell the judge and the claimant what you really want

Everything you say at a JCC is confidential and cannot be repeated outside the hearing room or used later, so speak your mind and explain what orders you’re looking for and why. The judge won’t make any decisions, however, unless you and your spouse both agree.

When will the divorce be granted?

If the claim for divorce is based on separation, the divorce order can be made any time after the one year period is over. If the claim is based on cruelty or adultery, the order can be made at any time. (Remember that no matter why the divorce is claimed, the court must be satisfied that adequate arrangements have been made for the financial support of any children before it can make the divorce order.) Although the divorce order can be made before all of the issues are wrapped up, at a trial or by a settlement, the court will usually be reluctant to make a divorce order in advance without a very good reason for doing so.

What is an “interim application”?

It can take a year or more from the time the Notice of Family Claim is filed to have a trial if a court case can’t be settled. Before the trial, you or your spouse may need the court to make a temporary or “interim” order about an important issue, such as the payment of child support or spousal support, where the children will live, or who will live in the family home. Interim orders are made following a party’s application to the court, called an “interim application”.

Interim applications are made by filing a Notice of Application (a court form which explains the orders you want the court to make and sets the date for the hearing of the application) and a supporting affidavit (a sworn statement describing the background to the application), to which the other spouse will have the opportunity to reply. Typically, these pre-trial applications take anywhere from 15 minutes to three hours to complete, depending on the complexity of the issues.

Interim applications should be taken very seriously as interim orders are often influential in the final outcome of the case. For more information, see script 112 on “Applying for an Interim Order in a Family Law Case”.

Remember that each time you go to court, it will cost time and money

The more you can agree on things with your spouse, the easier it will be on each of you. Try to save interim applications for really important problems, and always (if you can) see whether you can reach an agreement before going to court. If you need help talking with your spouse, you can contact a mediator. For more information on mediation, refer to script 111 on “Mediation and Collaborative Settlement Processes.”

Can you object to a divorce?

You can object to a divorce, but you’re not likely to succeed. Most of the time, the judge will make a divorce order as long as the ground for the divorce is proven, whether you want the divorce or not. There are rare situations where a divorce might be refused, for example, if the divorce means the termination of pension benefits a spouse is receiving or if adequate arrangements have not been made for the support of any children.

When does the divorce order take effect?

Divorce orders take effect 31 days after the date the order is made, unless the judge making the divorce order directs that it take effect sooner. The reason for the delay is to allow one of the spouses to appeal the divorce. Such appeals are very rare.

What are your rights after the divorce order is made?

If your divorce order doesn’t make orders about the division of property and you didn’t claim a division of assets in your Notice of Family Claim or Counterclaim, you have two years after the date of your divorce to make the claim under the Family Law Act. After the two years, you will be out of time to make the claim.

Divorced spouses are always entitled to make a claim for spousal support under the Divorce Act, no matter how long they have been divorced. Divorced spouses are always entitled to make a claim about children, such as about custody or guardianship or child support, as long as the children qualify as “children of the marriage” under the Divorce Act or as “children” under the Family Law Act.

[updated March 2013]

© Copyright 1983-2013 The Canadian Bar Association

Toronto Divorce Lawyer’s Advice: The Benefits of an Out of Court Settlement

In a vast majority of family law cases, other than those involving abuse, violence and significant power imbalance, the negative consequences of protracted court involvement far outweigh its benefits. This is especially true when the children are involved. Ongoing family conflict, which lies at the heart of family law litigation is a significant and detrimental factor that undermines the children’s long term emotional and psychological well-being and resilience. If you have reached the conclusion that separation and divorce are inevitable, you will need to decide if it is in your and your children’s best interest to spend the time and money on a court battle or if it is possible for you to move on with your life by settling out of court.

Certain matters, such as mobility and custody issues may require litigation. If your case does pose complex legal and evidentiary issues, however, there are several significant benefits to settling out of court.

First, the most evident benefit to settling your divorce and separation out of court is the cost. Almost invariably, negotiations leading to Separation Agreements are far morecost-effectiveand less time-consuming. Note that “cost effective” is a relative notion. While your negotiation may not be cheap, any amount you spend on out of court settlement would likely be dwarfed by the cost of litigation. Complex cases involving there are large amounts of assets to be divided or custody disagreements, could take years to complete and end up costing you anywhere from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Often, a losing party will appeal, adding time and money. Lastly, a losing party may have to pay not only his or her lawyer’s fees but the opposing spouse’s costs as well. Settling out of court may involve compromise but it also means you will not have to spend large sums of money on family and divorce lawyers or be forced to spend needless time in court.

The next benefit of settling your case out of court is that you and your spouse will maintain control over your life and finances, including division of family property, which is a significant benefit. Unless absolutely necessary, no one wishes a stranger (i.e. a judge) to make decisions that fundamentally affect one’s future. If you negotiate in good faith, you and your spouse will have the ability to come to conclusions about the division of your assets together. Instead of handing over a large portion of control to lawyers and judges, settling out of court means that you and your spouse will be able to make decisions on the assets that mean the most to you.

Lastly, out of court settlement represents the best option for situations involving children. You and your spouse will be able to mutually come to terms regarding parenting and custody. As parents, you are intimately familiar with your child’s needs and you are invested in his or her future happiness. Agreeing on the terms together will effectively be better for future communication between you and your spouse and will help create a better situation for your children after the divorce has been finalized.

An experienced Toronto family and divorce lawyercan help you greatly in getting your life back on track. He or she will also ensure that a separation agreement reflects your intentions, preserves your rights, is properly drafted, reasonable and that both parties are fully aware of what they have agreed upon. If you have questions or concerns about which decision is the best for you and your family, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced and trained divorce lawyer. Call Ivan Steele Law Office to get the answers that you’re looking for and explore the options that best suit your needs.

Ivan J. Steele, M.A., J.D., Toronto family and divorce lawyer

Ivan Steele, Toronto family and divorce lawyer

Ivan Steele, Toronto family and divorce lawyer

Free Consultation in Family Law – Good Idea?

If it is free, why not take advantage of it, right? Yet, in that simple “F”  word lies the central problem with free family law consultations. In the arsenal of dirty divorce tricks and tactics, “poisoning the well” or “conflicting out” certain divorce lawyer so that your spouse cannot retain them takes a place of great distinction and infamy.

Here is how this ploy plays out: A husband or a wife makes an appointment with  top family and divorce lawyers in a geographic area. He or she proceeds to meets with each one in order to establish a solicitor-client relationship,  effectively preventing that lawyer from representing the other spouse. Of course, the lawyer-shopping spouse doesn’t actually have to hire any of these family lawyers. The entire goal with this tactic is to “conflict out” family lawyers so they cannot be hired by you. While celebrities frequently use this strategy, it is also a popular one in high conflict divorce cases, where the goal is not simply to win a legal battle but to inflict as much damage as possible (scorched earth approach). The lesson here is  twofold. First, do not procrastinate. While interviewing lawyers to find a good fit is perfectly acceptable and even advisable, being indecisive could cost you an excellent attorney, if you spouse gets there first. Second, when a lawyer tells you the consultations are not free, don’t get mad and jump to the conclusion that such decision is motivated purely by greed.

Once you have decided to meet with a lawyer, you need to be prepared to ask questions, evaluate and temporarily step back from the emotional charge of your separation. The following steps will go a long way towards maximizing the chances of a positive outcome in your family law or divorce matter:

Pick Your Battles Wisely

In many cases, during your first visit to a lawyer you may still be feeling of anger, betrayal or disappointment, following the breakdown of your relationship. You may feel overwhelmed, anxious and fearful, faced with financial and emotional uncertainty of the  future. All of that is normal. While these emotions are a necessary and even helpful part of a healing process, you should know that divorces can get expensive very fast, especially when spouses are unable to agree on the terms. This is not the time to be guided by volatile emotions. That is precisely why you need a realistic ally by your side. Your family and divorce lawyer will make sure to explore all possible ways to reach an out-of-court solutions and quicken the process, saving you a tremendous amount of money, which you put towards re-building your future.  Do not be shy to ask for an estimate on time and cost from your lawyer, especially if litigation is the only or the most likely option. Although your divorce lawyer may not be able to give you an accurate estimate during the initial interview, considering the uncertainties in law and evidence, you will at least have a general idea of ow you will be billed and what type of work you can expect to see on your invoice.

Take Notes

Go back to basics. Your may be nervous or preoccupied during your meeting with a lawyer, but make sure that you remember what is said. Take notes but don’be fixated on writing down revery detail of the conversation. Remember that the consultation also serves as a two-way interview where both, the family lawyer and  you need to dtermine if you are comfortable with one another.

Ask, Ask and Ask Again

Ask your family or divorce lawyer as many questions as you can think of during your initial consultation. Family law is a highly complex and constantly evolving area so no question is too silly or too obvious. After all, we are talking about your life here. Come prepared with a list of questions that you want answered about your case AND the lawyer him or herself. Be sure that you understand the answers  thoroughly and that they were answered to your satisfaction. This back and worth will also reveal a great deal about your prospective lawyer’s communication style. Family lawyers should be able to communicate with you in non-legal terms.

Cheaper Is Not Always Better

Let’s face it – hiring a lawyer is a little different than finding a pair of awesome jeans at Winners. Cheap legal services will often yield cheap results and may end up costing you more money in the long run. On the other hand, expensive is not always better either, unless you are have millions at stake and/or a highly complex case that is likely to drag through the appeals process. Follow the “Goldilocks Rule” and choosing a moderately priced family lawyer who offers honest, effective and most importantly, personalized service. Making the right decision the first time could end up saving you quite a bit.

Bring the Paperwork

As a family and divorce lawyer, I want to know as much as possible about situation, before I give you my legal advice. Seeing your tax returns, bank accounts, prior agreements, detailed childcare history and any other evidence that you may believe is material to your case will make my job easier and my advise more accurate and tailored to your circumstances. Knowing the other party’s income, finances, property, and debt would make me even happier.

Often times, consulting with a solicitor is a person’s first step in beginning a family law case.  More often still, consulting with a divorce lawyer marks the end of a significant chapter in your life. Allow yourself to be unsure. You do not need to know exactly what is going to happen next.. That’s what your family or divorce lawyer is there for.

Happy Hunting!

Ivan J. Steele, M.A., J.D.,

Ivan Steele, Toronto family and immigration lawyer

Ivan Steele, Toronto family and immigration lawyer