Geoffrey Wells talks Family Law on the Dean Blundel Show

Geoffrey Wells, a lawyer at MacDonald & Partners, spent the morning talking about Family Law, Divorce and Custody payments on 102.1 the Edge. While talking with a man confused about how child support was calculated, Geoffrey mentioned MySupportCalculator as a resource to use to help understand the amount of child support expected to be paid.

You can listen to the interview here.

Barbara Kay Calls for Presumption of Shared Parenting

Barbara Kay calls for significant family law reforms in an article in the National Post, Real family-law reform must start with shared parenting.

She refers to several of the access to justice initiatives currently under way by the profession, but notes,

None of the reports examine the most measurable outputs of Canadian family courts: child support, custody and access orders.

Her conclusion:

The solution is a default presumption of equal shared parenting (rebuttable where there is demonstrable abuse). This was the recommendation put forward 15 years ago by the Special Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons on Child Custody and Access, whose exhaustively researched report promptly was routed to a political oubliette where, shamefully, it still languishes.

Increase in Canadians representing them selves at trial

Canada’s Chief Justice, Beverly McLachlin spoke out on the barrier high legal fees create, and the resulting lack representation among nearly half of Canadians  who end up representing themselves at trial.

McLachlin bemoaned the absence of the right to a fair trial for most Canadians, caused by high legal fees at the Canadian Bar Associations annual conference.

The numerous Canadians choosing to self-represent are also straining the judicial system, as the courts are now acting as both lawyer and judge. People are coming to court without legal representation and without legal advice. McLachlin stated that the judge are “faced with telling them what the law is, telling them what procedures are available to them, and trying to help that person while remaining as an impartial arbiter”.

Read more of McLachlin comments on the courts, and access to justice from CBC’s coverage of her appearance at the Canadian Bar Associations Annual Convention.

My Support Calculator as a Tool in Fighting Court Gridlock

My Support Calculator was covered by Luigi Benetton in The Lawyers Weekly:

…Toronto lawyer Omar Ha-Redeye is general manager of My Support Calculator, which offers a free spousal support calculation.

“Before this website was launched, there was no way for the public to do this,” Ha-Redeye says. “The spousal support advisory guidelines are so complex that there’s no way a self-represented litigant could get it calculated.”

 

Battling Court Gridlock With Tech Tools

Survey: Unbundled Services on the Rise

In recent years there have been significant changes in the demand for legal services. The rising costs of legal representation have made traditional legal services unaffordable for many litigants, and there has been a significant increase in the number of self-represented litigants (SRL) in Canadian courts. These changes have prompted lawyers to consider alternative methods of providing legal services, including offering unbundled services to their clients.

The legal magazine Law Times recently conducted a poll about unbundled services. More than 100 law firms participated in the survey, and the Law Times reported the following results.

  • 55% of lawyers who offer unbundled services found that doing so has helped them to attract more business, while a third of those surveyed found that offering unbundled services did have a positive effect on business.
  • Enthusiasm for unbundled services was mixed, even among lawyers who offered such services. Many lawyers reported concerns about liability and the risk of law suits. Others reported that unbundled services do not always make financial sense, and that the time spent on unbundled services often exceeds the compensation received from clients.
  • A third of the lawyers who were surveyed practice in family law.
  • There has been an increase in demand for unbundled services among family law litigants. Surveyed lawyers reported that a substantial number of family law clients are “unwilling to pay for full representation in litigation but want coaching instead.”

According to the Law Times, a number of lawyers consider the provision of unbundled services  to be a way of promoting greater access to justice.

 

Family Law Issues Which Could Trigger a Tax Audit

Alison Griffiths of the Toronto Star points out a couple of family law issues which could inadvertently lead to an audit by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

Only one parent can claim tax deductions like the children’s fitness credit (line 365), tuition transfer (line 324) or  amount for an eligible dependent (line 305). During separation or divorce, parents need to communicate during tax season in order to ensure that both are not inadvertently claiming the same thing.

Some people try to claim legal fees under the Line 232 “Other deductions.”

All of these areas, if improperly addressed, could flag the attention of the CRA and lead to an audit.

 

Law Times Focus on Family Law Television Show

Yamri Taddese of the Law Times has a focus on Family Matters with Harvey Brownstone:

Ontario Court Justice Harvey Brownstone says he’s tearing down the thick shroud over Canada’s judiciary by moving readily between the bench and the TV spotlight.

The family court judge has grown tired of looking on from the bench as litigants struggle to navigate the justice system. That’s why, Brownstone says, he didn’t hesitate when a producer approached him about hosting a TV show called Family Matters.

My Support Calculator is a proud sponsor of Family Matters.

Mouat Comments on the New B.C. Family Law Act

Mary E. Mouat of the Quadra Legal Centre in Victoria, British Columbia, has some commentary in The Times Colonist on the new Family Law Act in British Columbia:

Until Monday, common-law spouses had no property rights under B.C. family law. Now, like married people, they have a choice.

Mouat explains how the new legislation creates a different regime of excluded property to reflect changing family structures, and focuses on value flowing from pre-acquired property, gifts and inheritances and instead of the assets themselves.

She also describes how the focus of family law litigation will increasingly be mediation and out of court settlements:

 

…one of the underlying fundamental purposes of the new Family Law Act is to give families options beyond the courtroom.

The changes in family law in the 1970s saw family cases exploding into the courtroom. As more and more cases were litigated, the limits of that process for families became glaringly obvious. The adversarial system for determining truth between strangers was never designed to deal with the intricacies of a shared-parenting plan.

The unique demands of family law led to the development and expansion of mediation and more recently, collaborative law, which are designed to provide the participants control and support.

Litigation should now be seen as the alternative process, as it is not necessarily the first or best option for families.

 

One of the other important changes of the Act is that does not assume a separation agreement is in the best interests of the children, and will consider the physical, psychological and emotional safety, security and well-being of the children.

Statistics Canada: Living Apart Together

Living Apart Together

A new Statistics Canada report, Living Apart Together, has found that 7.4 per cent of Canadians over 20 are in a stable relationship but do not live together. These non-cohabiting couples are referred to in the report as ‘living apart together’ (LAT).

Josey Vogels suggested in a CBC Metro Morning interview that many older couples are reluctant to uproot their lives, and creative types often want their own space. For some couples the arrangement is dictated by economic constraints, but for 39 per cent the arrangement was by choice, possibly indicative of changing social structures of relationships.

The study concludes:

Since LAT couples remain concentrated among younger people, their reasons for being in this type of couple are usually motivated by constraints—although some are in it by choice, especially among older age groups. The aging of the population could therefore have an impact on this type of relationship in the future. The number of people in a LAT couple who wanted to continue to live as such increased noticeably among older people between 2001 and 2011. This is an important trend as the number of widows and widowers will undoubtedly increase in the future. In this regard, LAT relationships could be a source of emotional support and contribute to the wellbeing of some seniors who do not necessarily want to enter into another couple relationship and live together. There will certainly be much more to follow on LAT couples in future.

A summary of the study’s findings follows.

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Marriage After 50 – Financial Considerations

If you’re older than 50 and getting married, possibly not for the first time, there are 6 things that Catey Hill of The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch says you should keep an eye out for:

  1. Social security and pensions
  2. College financial aid
  3. Health care
  4. Estate planning
  5. Spousal support
  6. Beneficiaries

When accountant Richard Grebinger connected with teacher Cindy Lambert on the dating website eHarmony in February 2011, they “knew instantly that we wanted to be together,” he says—and indeed, they were married last July. But while love may have felt simple for the two 54-year-olds, the financial part of their relationship was less cut and dried.

Both Lambert, who lives in Ontario, Canada, and Grebinger, who lives on Long Island, N.Y., have children from previous marriages who are now in college. Each came into the marriage owning a home, and each had their own retirement savings, insurance policies and bank accounts. They faced—and still face—a variety of issues over how to combine their financial lives. “It’s complicated,” Grebinger says.