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.

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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.

Marriage Fraud Caution – What Not to Do When Marriages End

Citizenship and Immigration Canada is certainly keeping immigration lawyers very busy. The issuance of conditional permanent residences to spouse for a period of two years is the crown jewel of new, anti-fraud regulations implemented by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The principle is simple and fair – if a couple separated or divorced during this “trial” period, absent abuse and other limited circumstances, the sponsored spouse risks losing his or her permanent resident status and a potential deportation. The new rules are certain to create novel challenges, which will test the legal and practical limits and definitions of marriage fraud in Canadian immigration law.

The following is a cautionary note concerning the most obvious new form of marriage fraud, which a well-intentioned party can commit either inadvertently or through willful blindness. So, how will CIC treat the situations where a bona fide marriage turns sour but a sponsored spouse induces their Canadian spouse to maintain the marriage as a ruse only as long as necessary for the foreign national to obtain status as a permanent resident. Prior to the regulatory changes, there was little legal doubt that the viability of a marriage, if initially valid, is not a proper concern of either the courts or the CIC. The establishment of a two-year conditional status for foreign spouses seeking permanent resident status, and requiring that an actual family remains intact at the end of the two-year period clauses this loophole and creates an entire category of marriage fraud. The moment that your marriage ends, you have a legal duty not to continue with the ruse. If you do, you risk colluding with your former sponsored spouse to breach federal immigration laws – a course of action which caries with it significant penalties.

In order to ensure that you remain on the right side of the law, before you decide to take any course of action, which has the potential to get you intro trouble, you should always contact a licensed immigration lawyer for advice.

Ivan J. Steele, M.A., J.D., – Toronto immigration lawyer

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

Immigration to Canada? Hiring a Right Immigration Lawyer Can Make a Difference

You may wish to live, work, or go to school legally in Canada. Perhaps you are trying to reunite with family members, your spouse or a common law partner. Whatever your immigration needs, choosing a right  immigration lawyer is probably one of the most crucial decisions that you can make to maximize the chances of obtaining a visa, permanent resident status or Canadian citizenship.

Invariably, the first question that comes to mind, before you even consider retaining an immigration lawyer for spousal sponsorship, work or visitor visa is: “should I hire an immigration lawyer? Do I actually need one?

There is no legal requirement for you to be represented by counsel in your applications and dealings with the Citizenship and Immigration Canada or Canada Border Services Agency. These government agencies do not offer priority processing or other automatic preferential treatment for clients who are represented by immigration lawyers or licensed consultants. Nevertheless, as this article will show, the benefits of retaining a knowledgeable immigration lawyer to handle your immigration matters are real and quantifiable.

You probably heard rumors and suggestions from well-intentioned friends and family members that sound something like this: “You don’t need an immigration lawyer! Why waste money? Family sponsorships are easy and fast. My friend Mary just got her permanent residence and she did everything by herself. You just need to ask people who have been through the process for help and guidance, and if you must get help, go to an immigration consultant.”

Your best bet would be to thank your friend for their help and concern and start lawyer shopping – and here are the reasons why. First, you are not privy to all the details of Mary’s case that make it different than yours. Each person’s circumstances are unique and raise unique evidentiary and legal question. If you wish your application to succeed in a reasonable time and with relative ease, you must reject that temptingly simplistic but faulty cookie-cutter approach to immigration law. Second, the immigration laws and regulations that Mary faced have likely changed. Immigration law is a complex and evolving area of law, marked by rapidly changing policies, guidelines and case-law.  Third, immigration process, be it spousal sponsorship or one of the economic migration classes, can be confusing and the paperwork overwhelming. If you are juggling the responsibilities of full-time work , social and family obligations, preparing the forms and pulling together the required evidence can turn into a harrowing experience. Remember also that in many cases, the submission of your application for processing by CIC is not the end of your hard work. It is merely the beginning. CIC may request additional evidence, legal submissions, clarifications and request in-person interviews. Without a lawyer to act as a filter, your ongoing communications with immigration officials may needlessly delay the process and inadvertently reveal information that appears harmless but which may jeopardize the final outcome of your application.

So where do we stand right now? You don’t know where to start. You feel confused. Your paperwork looks simple but you are not sure… You are planning to marry or have already married a non-Canadian and you are living in Canada. Maybe you are in a common-law relationship and your partner lives with you in Canada. You want to file a sponsored application for permanent residence so that you can build a life together. You read through the guides and the forms. Some of the questions seem tricky. You want to avoid hidden traps. You fear making a mistake that kills your chances of being together. Preparing papers by yourself or giving up does just not feel right. You know that mistakes and inconsistencies can lead to delays, give rise to misrepresentation and even cast doubt on the veracity of your marriage or common law relationship. These weighty considerations and your future happiness should not be left to chance.

Choosing a Right Immigration Lawyer FOR YOU

You have decided that your future is worth investing in and that you would like to be represented by an immigration lawyer – a wise decision!

While most immigration lawyers in Toronto and Canada are competent and dedicated professionals, you need to find a lawyer that you feel comfortable with – someone who is not just right, but who is right for YOU.  Follow your intuition and consider the following suggestions when choosing the right immigration lawyer for you.

Here are some ways the right Canadian immigration lawyer can change the way you experience the immigration process – and improve your chances of winning.

1. Immigration Law Is Complex and Unpredictable

Immigration laws, rules and procedures can change overnight, usually with little or no warning. A court decision or a departmental policy change on a seemingly small point of law can change or significantly affect the outcome of your case. Some changes can have a retroactive effect. Remember Mary and her application? It is precisely because of this fluid nature of immigration regulations that her example will likely not help you today.

As you can imagine, keeping track of constant changes and new developments is time consuming. That is why you should look for an immigration lawyer that specialized in your particular type of matter. While most of us can do anything in the area of immigration law, the unpublicized truth is that each of us has our preferences and strengths. For example, I specialize in family and spousal sponsorships and certain economic class applications, such as Canadian Experience Class and Federal Skilled Workers. Some of my colleagues focus heavily on immigration appeals, while others practice overwhelmingly in the area of refugee protection.

2. Define the Role of Your Immigration Lawyer

Each lawyer should clearly define his or her duties and your responsibilities as a client in a written and signed Retainer Agreement. If a lawyer does not provide you with this document, keep looking. Some of the qualities that you should be looking for in an immigration attorney include:

  • Guiding you competently through the complex immigration law system
  • Evaluating your qualifications and eligibility at each stage of the process
  • Exploring the full range of legal and practical immigration options and considerations which may be open to you
  • Being honest and firm with you, especially if serious issues arise in your application. Your lawyers should assess problems and try to develop an alternative plan for you to achieve your goals – if any.
  • Ensuring that your representations are truthful, relevant and that your actions today do not cut off avenues for future success, and refusing to take short cuts which may hurt your case
  • Understanding the immigration system inside and out, and know how to work with immigration officials to your benefit

3. Whether you are rick or poor, male or female, straight or gay Immigration Lawyer Should See You as a Person, Not a File Number

Yes, law is a business, but it as also much more than that. A successful and effective immigration lawyer will be able to empathize with you and devote all the time that your file deserves.  As a general rule and unless you are dealing with high level litigation, it may be wise to choose small and medium size law firms or sole practitioners over large immigration law firms, which are more likely to delegate the bulk of the work to their assistants. After all, you are paying for lawyer’s expertise and that is what should get. Each application for family sponsorship, permanent residence, citizenship, or a visa is unique and has at its core a person seeking to better his or her life. Your immigration lawyer cannot lose focus of the main goal of your application, which is to bring your together or keep it from being torn apart. Few immigration clients bring perfect documents; sufficient evidence and almost none have simple histories. A good lawyer will work with you to fill these gaps and present the best possible application to CIC for processing.

4. Immigration Law Is About Advocacy and Commitment

No immigration lawyer can guarantee the outcome of a particular case, but through our attention to detail and strategic approach, we can drastically improve your chances of a positive outcome.

THAT’S WHERE I COME IN

Mu name is Ivan Steele, and I am an immigration lawyer in Toronto, Canada. Throughout my career, I have specialized in family and immigration law – two areas that deal heavily with personal connections and high stake family dynamics. While I cannot guarantee the outcome of your immigration matter, I can offer you excellence in advocacy, my knowledge, my commitment and my background as a psychotherapist.

Whether you are gay or straight and trying to bring a spouse or a common-law partner to Canada of otherwise seeking permanent residence, I am here to explore your immigration options, counsel you and advocate tenaciously on your behalf. My assistant, Rolando, and I will sit down with you, go through your personal history,  identify all possible solution and devise a plan to  work towards obtaining the results you want.

As a gay immigration lawyer in Toronto, I am uniquely equipped to address the concerns and unique challenges of same-sex immigration to Canada.  At Ivan Steele Law Office, you will find a safe haven and the help of passionate and compassionate immigration professionals.

This legal information brought to you by Ivan Steele Law Office

Ivan Steele, Toronto family and divorce lawyer

Ivan Steele, Toronto family and divorce lawyer

Latest Immigration Development – CIC closes Buffalo and Detroit Consulates

Immigration lawyers in Canada and the applicants alike are working hard to keep track of the rapid changes and reorganization of the immigration laws, rules and regulations in 2012 and 2013.

First, there was Buffalo. Now Detroit too. Due to major changes in Canadian immigration rules and policies, the Canadian government has closed the Consulate in Buffalo, New York and Detroit is the next to go. North America is not the only region that has seen a rapid consolidation of visa posts. In Europe, Vienna has taken on processing responsibilities from several Canadian embassies in the region, most prominently from Belgrade, Serbia.

Foreign students and temporary workers in Canada can now extend / renew their status inside Canada, without having to travel to a visa post in the U.S. Visa services, including permanent residence applications have been transferred to the New York City and Los Angeles Visa Offices. Applications and passports received in Detroit after February 15th, 2013 are now automatically forwarded to the Case Processing Pilot Office in Ottawa, which is functioning with surprising efficiency. Stay tuned.

Ivan J. Steele, M.A., J.D., Toronto immigration lawyer

Ivan Steele, Toronto family and immigration lawyer

Ivan Steele, Toronto family and immigration lawyer