Ivan Steele, Toronto immigration lawyer, in the News – the National Post

Hey folks,

I  just found out I was quoted on the front page of the National Post – let’s hope that life stories and perspectives of my colleagues and myself can shift the public perception of our profession. They quoted my reasons for going to law school: “Growing up in Serbia as a gay man … I learned early in life that the most dangerous violence comes not from the fists of the bullies and the bigots, but from the pens and the mouths of the legislatures and the silence of the judges,” writes Ivan Steele, aToronto immigration lawyer. Practising law allows him to “remain watchful and safeguard the rights and lives of all Canadians.”

Check it out!



Scalia – the Supreme Reminder

My childhood in Serbia, as a gay youth, was  a perpetual buffet of bullying and social ostracism, served  by my peers and applauded by the law enforcement and the courts. A move to San Francisco to live with my father at seventeen changed my life – until I fell in love with a Canadian, whom I could not sponsor to the United States. Canada welcomed me with a promise of full equality. By my mid twenties, bullies and homophobes had forced me out of two homes. Today, I am happily married and I work as a family and immigration lawyer in Toronto.

I forgave those daily kicks, bruises and cigarette burns on my body long ago. They were kids in a war torn country, whose own lives were in turmoil. I cannot, however, forgive Michelle Bachman, Tony Perkins and Antonin Scalia that easily. I learned early that the most dangerous violence comes, not from the fists of bullies, but from the pens and the mouths of legislators and judges and the silence of our neighbors.

To my generation, raised in the shadows of homophobia and forged in the fires of political oppression, SCOTUS ruling in Windsor signaled the imminent end of a walk through legal wilderness. Along with our straight allies, we have summoned the change that is happening today. But in our excitement, let us not forget the real hero of DOMA cases – Justice Scalia. While I relished every word of Anthony Kennedy’s ode to equality, it is Scalia’s dissent that echoes in my mind. It is his dissent that none of us should forget.

Mr. Justice, since you have been a fixture in our bedrooms, offices and schools for decades, it seems only appropriate to drop the formalities. May we call you Tony? Thank you Tony for reminding us that caustic words from a Supreme Court Justice are far more destructive than the fiery rhetoric of southern members of Congress. Clothed in the authority of high office, your words give permission and ideological cover to homophobes, hooligans and bullies to carry out their action with a sense of righteousness. President Putin says hi. Your comparison of homosexuality with murder, your ironic speech on “moralist judges” and “Mullahs of the West” and your harmful anti-gay rhetoric are not just reprehensible and, dare we say, impeachable. Your contempt and disregard for the appearance of impartiality dishonor the venerable office that you hold. You are not in the least bothered that your public pronouncements against homosexuality should preclude any reasonable judge from considering the facts and ruling objectively on the issue of same-sex marriage.

But this is not just about us Tony. Your bias and arrogance do not only risk our lives and dismiss our families. They shake to the core the public’s faith in the Supreme Court as an impartial institution. This is where my anger comes from. As a scared kid who grew up to become a lawyer, I place much faith in the rule of law, as it is the only shield that stands between us and the tyranny of majority. You take away this shield and the lawyer reverts to a scared school boy. If we cannot trust you and your fellow guardians of the Constitution to lend an impartial ear to a group that you do not favour, our nation is in trouble – deeper than the deficits and more dangerous than foreign terrorists.

Impeaching Scalia for conduct unbecoming of a Supreme Court justice will not happen. Perhaps that is for the best. Who better then Tony to remind us just how vulnerable we are to the whims of the few and the privileges of the many. His words are inspiring a whole generation of gays and lesbians to remain watchful and safeguard the commitment to equality that is the beating heart of our democracy. Although we have made invaluable strides, we must remain vigilant, as our right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness remains on a collision course with ancient hatreds. Our only hope for a lasting protection is to change enough minds and hearts to make Scalias of this world irrelevant.

Ivan is a gay lawyer, practicing in Toronto, Canada. Born and raised in Serbia, he is a dual U.S. and Canadian citizen with a Juris Doctor Degree from University of Ottawa law school. Before starting his own practice, Ivan worked for the Office of the Children’s Lawyer, articled at Davies Ward Phillips and Vineberg LLP, a premier corporate law firm, and worked for a well known Toronto immigration and family law firm.

You Cannot Afford Not to Have a Pre-Nup (Marriage Contract)

Consider pre-nups (marriage contracts) a marriage insurance policy. Take it from a Toronto divorce lawyer – you hate to think that your home could ever be destroyed by flood or fire, but if it did, having an insurance policy would save you a great deal of stress and money. Divorce is the same, except that the extent of financial ruin and emotional damage far exceeds anything we can expect to see from floods and fires.

Any couple who brings personal or business assets to the marriage can benefit from a prenup. Marriage contracts otherwise known as “pre-nups” or “pos-nups” invoke the air of glamour and mystery. My job as a Toronto family lawyer, dealing with separating spouses has taught me that despite their association with celebrity couples, marriage contracts are hugely beneficial for any couple who brings assets into a relationship. Prenups’ popularity stems primarily from their ability to remove the parties from a general operation of family law and to preserve the expectations in the case of a relationship breakdown. Simply put, marriage contracts provide you with a way to control most of the consequences of your romantic decisions. A volatile cocktail of romantics feelings, hormones and the traditional view of love and marriage often eclipse or outright push aside any serious consideration of legal right and responsibilities that come with marriage or a long-term cohabitation. As many prior divorcees can attest, the next time they get married, they will usually have prenuptial agreements. Not having one could be a costly mistake if a marriage does not work out. What are you waiting for?

An Overview of the Divorce Process in Ontario

In Canada (and Ontario), a divorce may be obtained by filling the Application at the local Superior Court of Justice, pursuant to the Divorce Act. The requirements for obtaining a divorce in Canada are the following:

1) In order to request the dissolution of your marriage, you must first demonstrates to the court that you have a valid marriage. A marriage certificate, with a certified English or French translation, if necessary, is required. If you do not have the original marriage certificate and cannot obtain one, you or your  divorce lawyer will need to provide an explanation in the Affidavit format. The court may still require you to adduce some alternate evidence of the marriage prior to granting divorce.

2) You must establish if the court has jurisdiction to grant your divorce. Superior Court of Justice in Ontario only has power to grant a divorce if either party has ordinarily resided in the Province for at least one year (12 months) prior to the submission of the application for divorce. In an uncontested divorce, the Application must be served on the other party according to the Family Law Rules. If the party cannot be located, your Toronto divorce lawyer can assist you by submitting a motion to dispense with service or a motion for substituted service.

3) There is only one legal ground for divorce. Namely, the court must be satisfied that your marriage has broken down irretrievably, without a prospect of reconciliation. A period of separation of 12 months immediately before filing the application usually satisfies the court of this fact. A couple may be separated and still live together provided they satisfy the court that they are not living as spouses. That is to say, their relationship has reduced to sharing accommodation. The Court is normally satisfied that separation has taken place by the applicant swearing as to the separation on the application for divorce – unless there is some evidence of collusion.

3) Superior Court will not grant a divorce in Ontario unless the presiding judge is fully satisfied that appropriate arrangements for any children of the marriage have been put in place. Your Toronto family lawyer may explain this requirement in greater detail, but essentially, this requirement does not mean arrangements are formal, nor does it mean that there is no dispute, but rather that at the time of the divorce hearing, the children are being appropriately cared and provided for.

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