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Oshawa Family Law Blog

What will qualify as extraordinary expenses under family law?

When there are children involved in an Ontario divorce, the court will typically determine who will be responsible for child support and the amount that must be paid. However, under family law, any one of the parents may ask for extraordinary expenses in addition to the basic child support under Federal Guidelines. To qualify as such, expenses must be necessary for protecting the best interests of the child while also being reasonable -- considering the financial means of both parents and their lifestyle before they separated.

Examples of extraordinary expenses include those that may result from extra child-care costs due to a disability or illness. It could also be the child's portion of dental and medical insurance premiums or health-care needs in excess of the covered annual limit. Furthermore, any extra expenses related to additional educational programs and extracurricular activities may also qualify.

Relocating children may pose dilemma in Ontario child custody

Children don't come into the world with manuals outlining their needs and instructions on how to care for them. Parenting is a continuous learning experience, particularly when life's changing fortunes challenge Ontario divorced couples to prioritize their child's needs. When child custody has been awarded, each parent takes on a legal status as either custodial parent or access parent.

The distinction has always been an important one since the environment in which the child of divorced parents lives is, in the eyes of the court, crucial to the child's best interests. Yet a generation ago, courts viewed a custodial parent who intended to relocate with a child or children as having the right to do so, a presumptive right attached to the status of custody. This is no longer the case.

Family law: Spousal support is not always enforceable

When negotiating a divorce settlement in Ontario, careful consideration must be given to aspects like spousal support. Family law in each jurisdiction can differ when it comes to enforcement of spousal support. If the party responsible for payment relocates, it might be impossible to get the support on which the other party relies.

An example is a woman who signed an agreement with her former spouse for him to pay a specific amount of spousal support every month along with payments to make up for arrears. These arose from his failure to pay agreed upon support during the time of separation. The couple was married and divorced in Canada, but her ex had since relocated.

Ontario divorce a life-altering decision for both men and women

Sometimes statistics don't get it quite right. In the recent past, there have been reports that women, more often than men, commence divorce proceedings. Of the two-thirds of married couples who opt for divorce, 69 per cent are initiated by women. The research suggests this dynamic may only be true of couples who are formally married and excludes those who, like many Ontario couples, are living together and for whom legal divorce is not an option.

Inferences drawn from research which omit such a relevant distinction may mislead married couples in Ontario and even engender distrust in one or the other partner. Commentators may extrapolate gender-specific satisfaction levels that are far from precise or comprehensive, tarring all with the same brush. A husband may begin to wonder if his wife is secretly unhappy simply because a media myth concluded that, as a married woman, she is inclined to be so.

Family law: Census results show changes in family dynamics

More than a year ago, 35 million residents of Canada, including those in Ontario, took part in a census of which Statistics Canada recently published the detailed analysis. One of the most significant observations is that there has been a significant shift in the dynamics of family life nationwide. Due to these changes, issues related to family law may also become more diverse, and new challenges may arise for families and the courts.

The most significant change was revealed by the number of single fathers nationwide. Since 2001, the number of single dads who have children living with them has grown with almost 35 per cent, while the number of single mothers rose with less than 5 per cent. This is an indication that the legal system and society are acknowledging the roles of fathers in the lives of their children and their abilities to own those responsibilities.

Cohabitation agreements are building blocks for Ontario couples

Canada is a vast country which extends "from coast to coast to coast." Provincial laws, as a result, can vary widely from province to province, and from territory to province. This includes how each part of the federation views unmarried couples and their rights and obligations toward each other when they decide to dissolve their living arrangements. In such cases, cohabitation agreements can provide a reassuring foundation for moving forward in an amicable and cooperative spirit.

When couples fall in love and decide that marriage can wait, or is a future option, or is not a path one or both find comfortable, they often take for granted that conjugal life is, by definition, equivalent to formal marital status under Ontario law. They may believe that a shared lifestyle, including movable assets, property and monies acquired together or brought into the relationship, are governed by the same entitlements the law accords to married couples. Such blithely held assumptions could not be further from reality.

Alienated grandparents have rights under Ontario family law

It is said that about 75,000 grandparents in Ontario have no or limited access to their grandchildren. A bill was recently passed in the province that modifies existing family law to allow grandparents to apply for custody or access to grandchildren. The court will expect the applying grandparents to prove that such access will be in the children's best interests.

Parental alienation is not uncommon to families after a divorce or the death of one parent. In many cases, the animosity and need for revenge make custodial parents determined to break all ties with former spouses and their families. Statistics Canada show that approximately 1.2 million divorced or separated Canadian parents across the country have children age 18 years or younger. The Canadian Grandparents Rights Association says regaining access can be a lengthy struggle.

Divorce is not necessarily controlled by a judge

Ending marriages in Canada is not at all unusual. In fact, almost every person in Ontario probably has a friend or family member who has gone through a divorce. The statistics gathered in the census in 2011 indicate that the number of Canadians who have gone through divorces or separations in the 20 years prior to that is five million. The issues of every family are unique, and so is every divorce -- the only given is that it is likely to be painful and emotional.

Fortunately, the dynamics of divorces have gone through positive changes that provide couples with opportunities to negotiate their own settlement agreements. Through mediation or collaboration, couples can decide how their property must be divided, who will be responsible for remaining joint debts, and other financial issues. Parenting plans and other child-related issues can also be decided by the parents rather than by an unfamiliar judge without insight into the family dynamics.

Understanding excluded property laws can help in divorce

Family law in Ontario regard a marriage as an equal partnership between spouses. When married couples decide to divorce, each spouse's net family property is calculated and compared before a decision about a possible equalization payment is made. At the time of the couple's separation, the assets each party brought into the marriage -- excluding the matrimonial home -- will be taken out after debts and liabilities have been deducted. Each spouse can then receive 50 percent of the marital property along with his or her personal assets and any excluded property.

Certain assets may belong to one spouse -- if no intermingling with family property took place. These are called excluded property that might include gifts and inheritances that were given or left to one spouse as his or her personal property. A settlement amount received by one spouse in a personal injury claim will also be excluded from property division, and the same applies to life insurance proceeds. Property listed as excluded in a marriage agreement may also protect ownership of individual assets.

Marriage agreements can provide peace of mind

Times have changed, and many Ontario people have established careers and accumulated assets by the time they consider marriage. For that reason, marriage agreements have gained popularity over recent years. In the not-too-distant past, prenuptial agreements were primarily reserved for couples with substantial disparities between the incomes of the two spouses, or when one party is involved in a family business that must be protected in the event of a divorce.

This is no longer the case, as modern couples are typically aware of the realities proved by the divorce rate, and both parties may enter a marriage with assets that they want to protect if their marriage should end. While the property that each spouse brings into marriage can be specified in the marriage agreement, anticipated inheritances and more can be included for protection. Although not utilized by many, a couple can even include directives on how they will conduct their marriage.

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