Ashley Madison, Adultery and Divorce. Is Your Life a Mess?

Ashley Madison is a website that facilitates married people having an affair. Their motto is "Life is short. Have an affair." It has been hacked, and the data related to the personal profiles of people registered has been made public. This will result in many divorces and separations when people discover their spouse was registered on the site.

What is the impact of the Ashley Madison hack on your divorce?

Adultery has no impact on your legal rights and obligations. In fact, the court is precluded from considering adultery when determining your legal rights and obligations.

Of course, if you are not an involved parent because you are preoccupied by your affair, adultery could indirectly have an impact on custody and access. Likewise, if you spent a lot of money on your affair, a judge may decide it is unconscionable that your spouse share in the resulting debt. Indirectly, adultery may have an impact.

Do you want revenge?

If you are the victim of adultery, you probably feel deeply hurt and want revenge. We have seen people get involved in long, bitter, costly legal battles because they wanted revenge from the court. In the end, they're just disappointed and frustrated because the judge did not give what they wanted. The judges are precluded from doing that. It is a “no fault” system in Canada.

What is your best next step?

Your best course of action is to get a resolution of the legal issues in a timely and cost-effective manner. Get it resolved and move on. Collaborative Practice is a process in which the parties work together to problem-solve the issues without going to court.

Go to our website. www.GalbraithFamilyLaw.com to learn more. When you are ready to move forward, contact us for a consultation. We can help. 

Written by Brian Galbraith, Owner and President of Galbraith Family Law.

Separated, Stressed and Meeting with a Lawyer: How to Make the Most of Your Initial Meeting

By Anna Preston

If you are feeling stressed about the idea of meeting with a lawyer about your pending separation or divorce, you are totally normal. Everyone feels stress. Chances are you will feel much better once you are equipped with some knowledge about your various options and rights.
To make the most of your consultation with us, I’d like to share the following tips:

 

1. If you are able, try to do a bit of reading online to familiarize yourself with some of the issues that may apply in your situation. Our website at www.GalbraithFamilyLaw.com offers a wealth of free information and blogs on topics common to all relationship breakdowns.

2. Come to the meeting a bit early and as rested as possible so you are able to digest the information and options we have to offer you.

3. If you are really upset and stressed, bring a family member or friend with you who can take notes as it is difficult to remember everything when we are stressed.

4. Think about what your concerns are and what you hope to achieve in the long run.

5. Bring a list of questions. It will help in keeping our discussion focussed and directed.

6. If you have received a letter from your spouse’s lawyer, bring it with you.

7. Do a short summary outlining your family history. Include in it your date and place of marriage, your date of separation, the dates your children were born and any special events during your relationship. List any special needs that you may have, or those of your spouse or children, and a very brief employment history for both you and your spouse.

Remember that we are in the business of helping you navigate through the separation process and are happy to help you. Just be yourself, and know that I look forward to meeting you and working with you to reach your goals!

Written by Anna Preston, a lawyer at Galbraith Family Law. Here is a link to Anna's profile. To book a consultation with Anna, please go to our website.


Are you struggling to communicate with your ex about parenting issues?

By Toni Nieuwhof

It is common for parents to experience difficulties communicating with the other parent about their children, post-separation. Inflamed emotions, shock, denial and grief over the separation may be interfering with your ability to make day-to-day parenting plans involving scheduling, children’s health issues or behavioural concerns.

Here are a couple of strategies that may reduce the tension and allow you to have more peaceful and productive conversations with your ex:

1 – Respond to hostile emails or texts using the “B.I.F.F.” method, recommended by Dr. Bill Eddy, founder of New Ways for Families and the High Conflict Institute.

“B.I.F.F.” stands for:

Brief – make sure your messages are brief, clear and to- the- point. Use brevity to signal that you don’t wish to get into a prolonged back-and- forth argument;

Informative – include all the necessary information about the co-parenting issue, while avoiding negativity and criticism;

Friendly – use a writing tone that treats the other parent the way you would like to be treated. This increases the chances of getting a friendly – or neutral - response;

Firm – while following the guideline of being friendly and doing what you can to promote a good working relationship with the other parent, you will also need to clearly state your position on an issue.  Avoid inviting more discussion or asking for more information unless you are negotiating or need the dialogue to continue. 

For more information about BIFF communications and to read Bill’s article, go to our website which is found at  http://www.galbraithfamilylaw.com/responding-to-hostile-mail-biff/ 

2 – Enroll in the Our Family Wizard web service. This is a communication platform designed to assist parents post-separation. It has many helpful features including a mobile app and special features such as ‘ToneMeter’, which is described as an ‘emotional spell-check’ for your messages. The sign-up fees are reasonable, and may well be worth the investment in more peaceful co-parenting. For more information, visit www.ourfamilywizard.com

Written by Toni Nieuwhof, a lawyer at Galbraith Family Law. Here is Toni's profile. To book a consultation with Toni, please go to our website.

 

Complaints Against The Children's Aid Society

By Lynn Kirwin

Nobody listens to me!

If my grandchild needs protection, why won’t the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (the Society) do something? 

The biological mother and father hold greater rights than grandparents in child protection laws or custody/access disputes.  As a grandparent, (unless you also qualify as a parent) you are entitled to be informed of the reasons for a decision made by the Society, but you are not entitled to have a voice in decisions made by the Society about your grandchild.  Complaints against the Society and the right to be heard in decisions affecting the care of a child are typically reserved to parents.

A parent can initiate a complaint against the Society by following a procedure governed by Ontario Regulation 496/06.  The complaint must be in writing. 

Within 7 days of receiving the complaint, the Society will determine if it is eligible for review. If deemed ineligible, the Society must inform you of the decision and the reasons in writing. 

If it is eligible for review, you will be notified by the Society and provided with a date and time for a hearing by an Internal Complaints Review Panel (ICRP).  The members of the ICRP are selected by the Executive Director of the Society and include a senior manager from the Society, other Society staff and at least one person who is external to the Society.  No person selected as a member of the ICRP has been directly involved with the complaint on review. The ICRP meeting must be held within 14 days of the date provided in the written notice or meeting time requested by you. You may bring along a support person. 

Within 14 days after the meeting The ICRP will send a written summary of the results within 14 days after the meeting, including any agreed upon next steps to you. If you are not satisfied with the response, you may apply to the Child and Family Services Review Board (CFSRB).

According to the Child and Family Services Act, the Society must ensure that families have the opportunity to be heard and represented when concerns over services and decisions arise.

The CFSRB may review decisions made by Societies where the right to be heard was not provided. The concept of ‘being heard’ is described by the Board as: active listening, discussions and the Society actively taking the steps needed to address concerns and communicating so that you feel your concerns were taken seriously.

The CFSRB may also review allegations that the Society has failed to provide you with reasons for a decision that affects your interests. What constitutes sufficient reasons is examined on a case-by-case basis. Information on what factors were taken into account to arrive at a decision must be provided.

When the Society makes a decision regarding a complaint, it must provide you with reasons for the decision. This is mandatory for parents and for non-parents. You may appeal to the Board if you feel the reasons are insufficient, and you can go directly to the Board if the Society failed to provide sufficient reasons. The Board may then order the Society to provide a detailed written explanation.

The Board will not hear your complaint about a child’s care if you are a grandparent that does not qualify as a parent (a person who has been provided services by the Society.)

If you are a parent seeking to complain about the Society’s decision regarding the care of the child ‒ such as a placement decision or a failure to investigate decision ‒ then reference should be made to the Society’s obligation to fulfill its mandate within prescribed standards.

Under Ontario Regulation 206/00, the following mandatory obligations must be carried out by the Society upon the receipt of a referral: Within 24 hours of receiving information that a child is or may be in need of protection, a Society shall, if the decision made that a child protection investigation should be initiated, determine, in accordance with the Child Protection Standards, the time within which a child protection worker should first meet with the child and family who are the subject of the investigation.

The tool mandated for the response assessment is the Eligibility Spectrum. Based on the way a matter is “coded,” the response time will be either 24 hours or 7 days. If a matter is coded above the intervention line, an investigation is needed and if not, there is no need for an investigation.

Regulation 206/00 under the CFSA prescribes standards for social workers in conducting investigations.  The Society worker must develop an investigation plan after reviewing all current and historical information about the child and family.

As part of the investigation, each family member will be individually interviewed. Any additional children in the home will be interviewed and observed. The Society and/or police will interview the alleged perpetrator. 

Next, if there is to be ongoing involvement, then a safety assessment must be conducted. The family and extended family will help to identify safety threats to be included in the safety assessment. A safety plan will be developed and implemented and then monitored.    The safety plan should not solely rely on reports by the clients or on the client’s promises to change their behaviour.

Next, the Society must assess future risk of harm by conducting risk assessment.  This risk assessmentis a vehicle to engage families in defining problems, identifying what needs to change and working towards a concrete goal-child safety.

Concluding a child protection investigation requires the Society to determine whether original or new child protection concerns have been verified, not verified or are inconclusive.  It also examines if a child is in need of protection, if a child and/or family requires ongoing services, if all reasonable efforts have been made to collect evidence and if a continued investigation would yield new information.  The child and the person alleged to have caused the need for protection are to be advised of the outcome of the investigation within 14 days of completion. 

Service obligations between a parent and the Society do not cease when active court proceedings are in progress. Rather, they are different and run parallel to the proceedings. If your lawyer receives a letter from the Society, this is not sufficient. This does not replace the Society’s obligation with regard to communication and engagement of parents in the decision regarding their child’s care. 

If the Society worker has failed to abide by the Standards, the only way for you to be heard is to follow the procedure outlined above.

We can help you should you have concerns with how you have been treated by the Society.

Written by Lynn Kirwin, a lawyer at Galbraith Family Law. Here is Lynn's profile.  To book a consultation with Lynn, please go to our website.

Travelling with the kids? Get consent!

By Thea Cameron.

Planning a trip across the Canadian border with the kids this summer without the other parent?  You need a notarized travel consent!

If you are separated, trips without the other parent are the new normal. There is nothing worse than being stopped at the border with your kids in tow because you don’t have the right paper work. Your holiday could end before it starts.

Here’s what to include:

1.      Full names and birth dates of each parent and each child. 

2.      Specific dates for travel and mode of transportation.

3.      The destination address and contact details.

4.      A statement authorizing the travelling parent to make emergency medical decisions while the children are in their care.

5.      The letter should be in the form of a statutory declaration and must be notarized.

 We can help prepare and notarize the letter for you so you can travel worry free.  Bon voyage!

 Written by Thea Cameron, a lawyer at Galbraith Family Law. To book a consultation with Thea, please go to our website.

Separation Agreements - An Investment In Yourself

By Anna Preston

It is no secret to anyone involved in the legal industry that family court is an expensive method to resolve the issues arising from separation. Frankly, it can hemorrhage a family financially. 

One way to avoid huge court costs is to engage in the negotiation of a separation agreement.  This enables you to keep your dispute private, and out of court.  While some believe they can draft their own agreement, it is not always wise to do so.  If a dispute arises in future about the terms of your home made agreement, the courts may toss your agreement aside, declaring it invalid.  

A legally binding agreement must meet the following criteria:

  1. You must make full disclosure of your income, expenses, assets, debts and any other information that is relevant to your agreement.
  2. Don’t take advantage of the other party’s weaknesses or ignorance to get a good deal for yourself.
  3. Don’t pressure someone into signing the agreement, using the children or finances as a means to control their decision to sign. It must be entered into voluntarily.

Make the decision to obtain independent legal advice prior to signing the agreement.  In this way, you have evidence that each of you understood the agreement and the consequences of signing it. 

Written by Anna Preston, a lawyer at Galbraith Family Law. Here is Anna's profile. To book a consultation with Anna, please go to our website.

Kids and Divorce

 

By Toni Nieuwhof

You may have come to the point where you admit to yourself that your marriage is over. You haven't admitted it to anyone else because you were trying to make it work for the sake of your kids. But despite your best efforts to make the marriage work, the conflict between you is unbearable.

 
So, how do you separate in a way that protects your kids? You worry that your marital conflict is starting to affect not only your relationships with them, but also their behavior at home and at school.  What can you do to help them?
 
According to the Canadian Pediatric Society, the three most important factors that help children emotionally adjust to separation are:
 
1) Quality of parenting:  Avoid becoming distracted from your primary role as a parent, which includes both love and nurturing, and effective discipline and limit-setting.
 
2) Quality of parent-child relationship: When you have time with your children, be fully present. Spend quality one-on-one time doing activities you enjoy plus those that are essential for healthy development, such as homework.  Be supportive, help your children to solve problems and aim for positive communications as well as low levels of conflict.
 
3) Avoid parental conflict: Emotional harm to a child is related to exposure to parental conflict.  The Canadian Pediatric Society recognizes the negative impact that court proceedings of separating parents can have on the emotional well-being of children and teens.
 
Make it your goal to set a peaceful, cooperative tone for your separation process and future parenting relationship, for the sake of your kids.
 
Written by Toni Nieuwhof, a lawyer at Galbraith Family Law.  Here is Toni's profile.  To book a consultation with Toni, please go to our website.

 

Divorce Fears

By Thea Cameron, Lawyer

Separation and Divorce: these words bring up feelings of pain, disappointment, fear, and uncertainty.   Are you worried about the way this will impact your children, and what the financial implications will be - How will my children cope? Can I afford to stay in the home?  This is normal.  You don’t want to be the next casualty of divorce.

I have seen firsthand many families destroyed by a messy divorce. It especially saddens me to see kids caught in the middle.

The good news is that there is a way for couples to “divorce with dignity”.   By using Collaborative Practice you will keep your personal life out of court.  How?  Simply put, everyone involved agrees to negotiate outside of court.  Family counsellors and financial specialists give you the tools to make lasting decisions unique to your family.  In this way, Collaborative Practice enables you to avoid the stress, expense, animosity and unpredictability of court.   The lawyers at Galbraith Family Law are trained in this process and are committed to helping you resolve your issues quickly, effectively and with the least amount of pain possible. We give you the information and support you need to find your way to a resolution.

Written by Thea Cameron, a lawyer at Galbraith Family Law. Here is Thea's profile. To book a consultation with Thea, please go to our website.

 

Reducing Family Conflict

 “We don’t agree on much, but we want to protect the kids”

By Toni Nieuwhof

Does this sound familiar?  Parental conflict in a family may be high whether you’re separating, living separate and apart under the same roof, or working through conflict as a married couple.  And it comes as no surprise to you that the emotional health and well-being of your children is affected by out-of-control conflict under any of the above scenarios. 

Depending on the personalities of you and your spouse, and the norms of the families you grew up in, it may be difficult to hold yourselves back from arguments- gone- bad – from mud-slinging, name-calling and other forms of verbal attack.  Both of you may have perfectly rational reasons for the positions you’re defending.  The problem is that as you battle it out, the children at are risk of being saddled with emotional harm that will impact their lives, now and even as adults.

How do you protect the kids when you’re in the middle of conflict with your spouse?  There is no one answer to this question, but you may find the following suggestions helpful;

1.  Make a mutual commitment to behavior change:

To make a commitment means that you both acknowledge the problem as being real.  No more denial or excuses.  You both commit to each other to protect the children.  As a sign of the level of your commitment to your kids, you may want to write out your agreement and your strategies, and date and sign it, to refer back to if and when the going gets tough.

2.  Get professional advice:

Often people resist the idea of having a marriage counsellor or other family professional involved in their personal affairs.  They see it as a sign of weakness or of mental health issues.  Let’s face it – human nature being what it is, and dysfunctional relationships surfacing in virtually every extended family – professionals who are trained to help people overcome emotional struggles and to diagnose unhealthy emotional responses and communication patterns can be extremely helpful.  The ability to seek help from someone who is specially trained, and to be teachable in the sense of applying what that professional teaches, is a life skill and an important strength.

3.  Agree to disagree – then get help:

There are some issues you may honestly disagree on, and in and of itself, having various viewpoints can be helpful.  When conflict leads us to refine a course of action and improve it, the conflict is proven to be positive. But the conflict process, if handled poorly, may be damaging to each other and the kids.  Perhaps you’ve reached an impasse on a financial matter or a behavior issue of a child.  If you cannot agree on the course of action and the conflict deteriorates into a yelling match, then recognize the issue.  It is okay to agree to disagree.  Focus on the ‘attacking’ the problem but not each other.  Seek out a third party whose opinion you both respect, and look for solutions with that person.   If you have to pay for an appointment with an advisor to help the two of you agree on a course of action, look at it as a wise investment.

4.  Physically separate the kids from the conflict:

If you find other measures haven’t worked to contain conflict and an argument is inevitable, at least be mindful of protecting the kids.  Mutually agree that you will keep your voices low (if you can manage this!) and go to another room.  Get a babysitter and take the dispute away from home. Go somewhere they cannot hear you.  Don’t assume kids are asleep when they are in bed.

5.  Continue to support each other in front of your kids

Research shows that children are better off with healthy relationships with, and respect for, both parents.  Anything you say that denigrates the other parent in front of your kids may negatively impact their relationship with that parent.  In extreme cases, it may cause the kids to turn against or reject the other parent. When you hurt the other parent, you are hurting your kids.  You have to ask yourself – do you want that?  If the answer is ‘yes’, then see number 2 above.

6.  Clear space in your life for problem-solving and self-care

People are only designed to carry a day’s worth of problems at a time.  If you can identify several problems needing your attention, then you’ll need to look at your calendar going forward to ensure you have time to deal with them.  Be sure to build in time to care for yourself as well. Take care of the three basics – diet, sleep and exercise.  It’s important to build a little bit of ‘awesome’ into your day, especially when you’re dealing with tough, emotional issues.  Make sure you have a few friends or family members who you can share your experiences with as you work to resolve the conflict.

Written by Toni Nieuwhof, a lawyer at Galbraith Family Law. Here is Toni's profile. To book a consultation with Toni, please go to our website. 

Top Five Reasons Why You Need a Will

by Toni Nieuwhof

“Oh yeah, I need to make that appointment.”  I hear this so frequently from successful people who generally have made sound financial choices.  Let’s face it – it’s difficult to conjure up a sense of urgency about a future event – death – one that we expect is half a lifetime or decades away.  Why do you need to have a will now?

Let’s start with a fictitious case.  You have been separated from your spouse for 3 years.  Once it was clear there was no turning back, you moved on and are now in a stable relationship.  You’re living together but there’s no divorce and you’re undecided whether or not your current relationship will lead to marriage.  You adore your 2 teenage children who live with you and both have promising academic prospects. 

If you passed away at this point without a will, the Succession Law Reform Act of Ontario determines that your legal spouse will receive the first $200,000.00 of your estate.  Your current partner may or may not be entitled to raise a claim for support from your estate.  Your children will inherit 2/3 and your legal spouse 1/3 of whatever is left over. Whether or not your estate will be available to support your teenagers through their post-secondary education will be up in the air.

This leads to the 5 top reasons you need to have a will executed:

1.  You, and not the default law of your region, will determine who receives which share of your estate.  It is wise to obtain legal advice about who your depend ants are, and therefore who would have legitimate claims for support from your estate.

2. If you have sole custody of your children, then you will have the right to determine who will assume custody in your place for the first 90 days if you pass away.  Your choice will likely be influential in the judge’s decision, but the ultimate order for ongoing custody rests with a judge who decides what is in the best interests of the children involved.  You might want to write a letter explaining how your choice meets the legal tests the judge would have to consider.

3. You will have the opportunity to appoint a trustee to hold the designated portion of your estate, and to make decisions about how funds are allocated to your children before they reach a certain age.  For example, you may decide it would not be in your children's’ best interests to receive a large inheritance at the age of 19.  The funds may be controlled by someone you trust to make those decisions until they have reached a certain age such as 25.

4. You will have the opportunity to plan to minimize your estate’s tax exposure.

5. You will be able to thoughtfully appoint someone, or more than one person you trust, to wrap up your estate.  A lot of confusion and extra burdens at an emotionally difficult time are avoided if you get consent from the people you wish to appoint in advance.

In most cases, for less than the amount you would spend on a car repair or new furniture, you can take care of these questions by consulting with a lawyer about your will.  Although the chances of an early, tragic end to your life are small, your loved ones will be grateful for your advance planning.

We have two lawyers at Galbraith Family Law Professional Corporation who draft Wills for clients. Both Anna Preston and Merv White can assist you with the preparation of your Will. If you like to learn more, please contact our office to set up an Initial Consultation. Merv is in Newmarket at (289) 319-0634 and Anna is in both our Barrie office (705) 727-4242 and Orillia office (705) 418-0901. Go to our website to learn more about our firm. 


This blog was written by Toni Nieuwhof, a lawyer with Galbraith Family Law Professional Corporation. Toni enthusiastically helps families transition through separations and divorces. She is known for her excellent analytical skills as well as her persuasive writing and oratory skills. More than just being a great lawyer, she is a great person. As the mother of two grown children, she cherishes family and helping her clients work through their challenges efficiently and cost-effectively. 
Call Toni for an Initial Consultation at (705) 727-4242.