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Oshawa Family Law Blog

Offers to settle in Ontario family law may have costs attached

It is not part of the traditional marriage vow but the word "compromise" may figure significantly in the dissolution of a marriage. Unfortunately, compromise is laden with connotations that do not at all describe how it can promote mutually satisfactory, progressive solutions to issues which arise during formal divorce proceedings. In Ontario family law matters, reaching agreement toward the settlement of any one mutual concern can help create a conciliatory pathway forward.

However, a working dialogue may be backlit by perceptions which militate against agreement. In a recent study covering 10-year-old marriages, fact-based realities of one spouse's spending habits were pitted against the misperceptions of the other spouse. The researchers extrapolated an unwillingness on both sides to shift perceptions, despite evidence to the contrary. Dramatically high percentages of fixed and disparaging perceptions persisted, thwarting progress and dead-ending possible fixes.

New study confirms shared child custody benefits all

No matter the way one looks at divorce, young children will always have a hard time adjusting to the altered circumstances. The changes in their primary support systems typically bring about anxiety, which also affects the parents who try to work out child custody arrangements that will least affect the children. A new international study recently confirmed what Ontario authorities in child-related matters already knew -- spending equal amounts of time with both parents promotes the best outcome when it comes to the mental health of children of divorce.

The researchers studied three scenarios involving preschoolers -- those spending equal amounts of time in the homes of both parents, those who live primarily with only one parent, and children who lived with both their parents. Even with making adjustments to accommodate sociodemographics, fewer psychological problems were found among children who were spending the same amount of time with both their parents. In fact, this group was on par with the group of children whose parents were together.

Unusual lifestyle arrangements in Ontario child custody

It's come to be known as bird-nesting when a divorced couple decide that their children should remain in the family home while each ex-spouse alternates living there as well. Well-intentioned parents who feel that the marriage may be over but the family isn't may choose nesting as a way to acclimatize the children to divorce realities. Ontario courts would likely award joint child custody in a nesting agreement geared towards providing stability to the children of divorced parents.

But it's complicated. Accounts and testimonials by parents who have opted for nesting arrangements run the gamut from "difficult-but-doable" to "what-were-we-thinking." Current child psychology views the absence of conflict between parents, not the family home, as the predominant factor driving a child's sense of well-being. On the other hand, children staying put is a strong argument for easing them through such a life-altering transition.

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.

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