What is the Difference between Joint Custody and Sole Custody

The term custody refers to how parents make decisions for their children. Joint Custody means that the major decisions are made by the parents together. Sole custody means that one parent makes the major decisions. If the other parent has sole custody, you have a legal right to access information about your children from caregivers, health care professionals and educators but you don't have the ability to give them instructions regarding your child. If you share joint custody, both parents need to make decisions together and instruct caregivers, health care professionals, educators and anyone else involved in your child's care together.

A common mistake is thinking that Joint Custody means the children are with both parents about an equal amount of time. The term used to describe an equal time sharing of the children is "Shared Custody". "Joint versus Sole Custody" is not about how much time the children spend with each parent but rather how decisions are made. 

Day-to-day decisions related to the care of your child are made by the parent in whose care the child is at the time. Only "major" decisions are governed by the "joint or sole" designation. For example, major decisions related to health care, spiritual upbringing, education are made together. Of course, deciding which decisions are "major" can sometimes be a source of conflict. 

If you are unable to make a decision together, you can try working with a mediator to resolve the issue or you can go to court. A third option is to hire an Parenting Coach to help you work out a resolution. A Parenting Coach can work with you to resolve the issue without going to Court. Unlike a mediator who must remain neutral, a Parenting Coach can offer advice as to how best resolve the issue for the sake of your children. 

The Courts of Ontario tend to assume it is in the best interests of the children that both parents are involved in decision-making but if there is clear evidence that joint custody would result in the children being in the middle of constant arguing and fighting they will order sole custody. 

When you need help determining custody issues, please contact us for a consultation. We are here to help. 

 

How To Reduce Stress for Children of Divorce

Daily structure and routine can help your children feel more secure.

Children often find school stressful.  Add to that the anxiety and worries of a recent separation and it can be a very difficult time for children. 

Giving your children a solid foundation of daily activities can help alleviate stress, anxiety and help with the psychological well-being of both parents and children alike. 

Create a time table for your children so they know the routine. It may include getting ready for school, doing homework, personal time, transportation to and from each parent’s home, special activities such as organized sports and taking time just to be together. Set aside time for fun activities like a board games, sports and just hanging out together.

The bedtime routine might include taking a bath, brushing teeth and reading books.  As long as it is consistent and predictable, it will give your child a sense of security.

Even though your teenage children may resist you imposing a routine on them, they will benefit from some structure and routine in their day. You just might not get thanked for imposing it on them.

For some children, it is helpful is to let your children know in advance where they will be and what they will be doing in the future.

I used to post on the fridge a calendar showing “mommy days” and “daddy days”. I also inserted special activities such as their sports and special family events, birthdays and other activities on the calendar.

I remember finding a copy of the schedule in my son’s pocket one day. He said it made him feel better just being able to know what was happening next.  

Often during separation children demand a lot of attention from their parents. Give them the time they need. You likely have to share your time with the other parent so focus on your children when they are with you.

You can also normalize your child’s anxiety and fears. Let them know that it is okay to feel bad some days. It will get better one day.

If your children are really struggling, you may need to get them help of a Child Specialist who can offer your children individualized therapy and professional support.

Providing routine, consistency and letting your children know what is coming next will help to decrease their anxiety and fears.  Of course, if you ask your children they might suggest some ice cream will help too. Not a bad idea.  

Our lawyers can answer your questions about how to reduce your stress. Book a consultation today

Divorce Apps: "There's an app for that!"

Yes, there are apps to help make divorce go more smoothly. Edward Weinstein's most recent blog introduces some new ones that can help make divorce less stressful and more functional. In addition, I encourage you to use Skype or Google Hangout. These are great ways of doing video conferencing with your children when you can't see them easily. 

Communication with your ex is often a challenge. I like emails because you have a written record of your communications and if you get a nasty one, you can take a day to ponder your response. Here is an article by Bill Eddy that he allowed me to put on my website regarding how to respond to hostile emails. It is a good place to start. The advantage to email is that you avoid knee-jerk reactions and can use strategies like Bill is suggesting in his article when you eventually respond. 

Other apps to organize the schedule are Our Family Wizard and Google Calendar. Here is an article about maintaining your schedule for the children after divorce that describes these apps. 

At Galbraith Family Law, our team of lawyers can help you minimize the the stress of divorce.  

 

What's Trending in Divorce?

Avvo recently did a survey of 890 consumers and 447 lawyers. Their results are in the infographic below. The number one concern for consumers going through a divorce is cost. Not surprising. Yet so many people end up in Family Court. Here is a good comparison of the costs of Ontario Family Court proceedings versus Collaborative Practice cases. In most cases, it is substantially less costly to proceed by way of Collaborative Team Practice.  

In article an published in Forbes regarding Avvo's research, the author suggests that the best plan is to start secretly saving if it looks like you are heading for a divorce. I guess the author does not know about Collaborative Team Practice. Of course, saving money is usually prudent but saving money for a court battle is silly. Just find good Collaborative lawyers for you and your spouse. Our lawyers have Collaborative Training. We are also members of Collaborative Practice Simcoe County. Their website lists the other Collaborative professionals in our community and offers great articles about the process. 

It is also to note that more and more consumers are finding their lawyer "online". Hmm. I guess that's why you are reading this blog. Makes sense! 
 

Doomed Marriage Before the 'I do's': Premature Signs of Divorce

Julia, a paralegal with a firm in Philadelphia, was tired of looking for (but not finding) Mr. Right. That is, until she realized she was continually choosing Mr. Wrong. By finally seeing the red flags and figuring out exactly what she needed/wanted, she had a better chance of finding a man who was ready and able to commit. How can you tell if someone is ready to be a good long-term partner? According to the CDC, almost half of all marriages end in divorce. No one wants to be a part of that grim statistic. The emotional turmoil and financial havoc of going through a divorce can be devastating and destroy a family. Ask yourself honest questions and be true to yourself before you say "I do." With some honest introspection, you, like Julia, can dodge Mr. or Ms. Wrong, and avoid a tumultuous legal separation down the road. 

Just for the Wedding

If all of your friends are getting married, you may start to feel the pressure. You have more bridesmaid dresses than a bridal shop. A desire to be the one who finally gets their day can be overpowering. Make sure you want a marriage and not just a wedding. Are you really ready to commit to one person forever? Or do you just want to be the star of the show called your own wedding? If you're more excited about the wedding plans, party, dress and cake than your potential spouse, you could be headed for trouble. Every bride-to-be is excited about her wedding, but if you're not thinking seriously beyond the ceremony and reception, then you may need to re-evaluate your priorities.

Too Young

Your age can actually have an effect on the outcome of your marriage. According to Divorcerate.org, 36 percent of women who get married when they are between the ages of 20 and 24 have a higher divorce rate than any other group. The likelihood of divorce drops as the potential bride and groom age and mature. Young marriages can and do flourish, but if either of you are under 24, you may want to evaluate your needs and wait for the wedding day.

The Bank

Money and debt are major stressors in a marriage. When you get married, your income will go up (if both spouses work), but any existing debt increases as well. While debt is not a reason to avoid or delay marriage, make sure to communicate openly about money and household finances. Review your debts, expenses and financial goals. As a couple, you'll know what to expect, so engage in timely and in-depth conversations about money— before popping the big question. Perhaps it's unfair, but money may just give you a reason to call it quits.

Ex-Spouses & Kids

You want to marry your boyfriend, not his ex-wife, right? Your significant other's ex may play a role in your life, whether you like it or not. If your new matrimonial partner has children with a former spouse, you can certainly expect a wide range of issues, from child custody to acceptable bed times. Are you open to these outside forces that can impede on your marriage and the family you're trying to create? Also, it's not uncommon for someone with kids to not want any more with a new potential partner. If you see kids of your own on the horizon, make sure your significant other is on the same page before legally committing. 

Addictions & Red Flags

You love him unconditionally, but you can't seem to shake that gut feeling telling you he may not be the one. Little things you dismiss can grow exponentially into triggers for divorce. Does he borderline on suffering from alcoholism? Does he become emotionally closed off? Does she have terrible spending habits? Say in tune with your instincts. Ending a relationship and enduring a broken heart is hard, but a divorce is unimaginably worse. 

 

Wiping Away Credit Debt After a Financially Messy Divorce

 

The total amount of revolving debt in Canada is more than $600 billion, and that doesn't include secured debt, like mortgages and car loans. When you carry a chunk of this debt on top of the expenses and difficulty of a divorce, you're paying interest every month just for the privilege of continuing to borrow the money. Make your financial footing more solid by evaluating your debt and taking concrete steps to get rid of it.

Manage Your Credit Report

When you have a lot of debt after a divorce, your credit report is a bit of a mess. It may be littered with late payments, collection accounts and credit cards dangerously close to their limits. Get a copy of your credit report for free each year from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion through AnnualCreditReport.com. Not only will this give you a full picture of what you owe, but you can also see if your accounts are being reported correctly. Disputing errors through the credit bureaus that provided the erroneous reports can help boost your credit score.

One of the main steps to restore your life and start over is to get out of debt and improve your credit score. This not only makes borrowing in the future less expensive, but can also help you get lower auto insurance rates and have an easier time renting a home. For newly separated or divorced people suffering from bad debt, renting an apartment or buying a car doesn't have to be as difficult as you might think. For example, former buy-here-pay-here dealerships offer auto loans with various repayment plans. Making payments on time will slowly but surely improve your credit score.

Create a Detailed Budget

Once you know what your debts are, it's time to make a plan for how to make consistent payments on them every month. Take full stock of the money coming in each month, then create a budget to plan how you will spend it. Start with necessary payments, like your housing, utilities and all of your debt payments. Then allocate any remaining money to variable expenses (gas, groceries) and luxuries (new clothes, entertainment and vacations). When you have a plan, you won't need to keep going into more debt each month to make ends meet.

Change Your Lifestyle Perception

Your lifestyle may drastically change after you're divorced, so changing your perception and expectations may be a necessary part of getting out of debt. If you embrace a frugal lifestyle and enjoy the good you do have in your life, it's a lot easier to forgo those things you see others getting that you can't afford. In the book "Living Well with Bad Credit," the authors encourage you to realize that the good life is subjective, and you can be perfectly happy even when your credit is horrible.

Use Extra Money to Pay off Debt

When you end up with unexpected money, don't spend it on things you don't actually need. Instead, pay off debt to lower your balances and reduce your monthly interest charges. For example, CBS reports that the average tax refund is $3,000. Putting this toward the typical credit card bill will save you over $500 on interest in the next year. If you get a raise at work, put that extra income toward debt repayment rather than expanding your lifestyle. You can also scrape together extra money by clipping coupons to save on grocery bills or foregoing usual luxuries like your morning latte. Putting all of this money toward debt repayment will help you get out of debt sooner.

Conclusion

Most people who go through divorce have a difficult time adjusting to the new financial reality. It's normal. The good news is that most can recover from it. The key is to be focussed on getting rid of your debt and living within your means. Winning the lottery is also helpful. 

Children and Divorce - How You Can Help Your Child Adjust

A child of divorce writes on how to help your child during divorce. What better source? Thanks to Melissa Farrell a freelance writer who lives in Kansas for her insights.

Speaking as a child of divorce, every situation is different. My parents were high school sweethearts and were together for over 10  years before they decided to call it quits. And when they finally divorced, they tried their best to make sure it didn't affect me negatively. I was too young to really remember anything, at four years old, but I do remember they were always nice to one another around me.

So how can you help your child adjust to divorce?

Explain the Situation

If at all possible, both of you should sit down and explain in the simplest, most straightforward way why you decided to get divorced. Explain that it is in no way the child's fault, but that you don't work together any more. A possible conversation could be "Mommy and daddy fight all the time, which isn't good for anyone. We've decided to live in different houses and not be married any more." Calmly answer any and all questions your child might have and reiterate the fact that it was not his or her fault and you both still love your child.

Throw Around the Idea of Therapy

Sometimes children feel more comfortable expressing their feelings to a third party, someone who will listen to them and not judge. Find someone who can help them express their feelings and work through their struggles. It may be your pastor, a family coach or someone else who is trained to work with children of divorce. 

Don't Let Your Child Be the 'Middle Man'

Although parents know it's not healthy to put the child in the middle, sometimes they just can't seem to help themselves — they roll their eyes or sigh when they talk about their ex, they make negative remarks about the other person in the kids' presence, they ask the children to relay messages to the other parent. DON'T be like those people.

Allow Substantial Time At Both Houses

As a kid, I lived with my mom during the school year and visited my dad once a week and stayed with him every other weekend. During the summer months, I lived with my dad and saw my mom once a week and every other weekend. Every situation is different, but making sure you allow equal time between the both of you is important. Split school breaks and holidays. If it's not your weekend but there's a fun event going on you think your child would love, talk it over and switch weekends. Communication is key.

Avoid Fighting

Children remember when parents fight, argue and yell at one another and it mentally effects them. Although seeing parents fight helps the child understand why the parents can't stay together any more, it is hard on them when they're surrounded by it all day long.

 

Thanks to them I have a  healthy outlook on relationships and marriage and I never saw divorce as this horrible monster. But there are many out there who have the opposite feeling, especially in children who are old enough to understand the situation. Divorce is not easy on anyone and children often feel anger and resentment towards their parents unless you commit to helping your child through your divorce like my parents. 

 

5 Mistakes Made in Divorce Proceedings

Today's guest blogger is writing about the 5 mistakes made by people who are in family court. While the advice is sound, it reinforces to me how undesirable it is to be in Family Court. It really is an awful experience. But, alas, if you are in Family Court, heed the following good advice... or better yet, find a lawyer who specializes in Collaborative Practice and get out of the litigation process.

At Galbraith Family Law, all of our lawyers are trained in Collaborative Practice. We do our best to keep you out of Family Court and support you to resolve your divorce issues efficiently, minimizing the pain. Thanks to Ken Myers for the following article. 

Although it's never our intention to file for divorce when we say our vows, sometimes people just can't be together in matrimonial bliss. Sometimes, the divorce proceedings can get a bit messy which could cause great strain on one or both parties. Of course, this all centres on why the divorce is happening in the first place.

Too many times have the actions of one during a divorce severely crippled the other financially and/or emotionally. When talks of this stressful time become a serious situation, there are things you need to do in order to prevent your significant other from taking advantage of the situation.

1. Financial Evidence - One of the most important pieces of evidence in a divorce proceeding could be the financial activities of your household as a whole. Any record and receipt of monetary transactions and bank accounts should be copied and safely stored. Any amounts in joint bank accounts should be closely monitored and recorded as well as one spouse may have to pay the other as per the final judgement.

2. Settlement Proposals - During divorce proceedings, a spouse's lawyer could provide a settlement proposal in order to reduce the time spent in courts which can increase your budget for your legal fees. Out of anger or frustration, many of these proposals are thrown out by the party for a variety of reasons. When dividing the assets, you should expect to lose something. Dismissing these proposals too quickly could cost you more in fees than you would have lost in the proposal in the first place.

3. Children as Weapons - Many times, a spouse will threaten the other to deny visitation to the children during a divorce. What you need to realize is that this is an empty threat that will not be upheld if you are indeed a good parent. Regardless of how much the threat may cut you to the bone, keep your cool. During the proceedings, the courts will determine if that threat has any validity. Unless you are a parent who constantly endangers your child, there is absolutely nothing to worry about. Let the spouse blow off as much steam as they want.

4. Debts - Sometimes, dividing debts accrued by a couple can be a difficult task to manage. Neither one of you want to pay the bills of the other. A compromise may need to be acknowledged or the courts may assign what is paid by whom. This could greatly depend on the income of each spouse and the total number of bills. You will need evidence that shows a specific bill would have been accrued by your spouse regardless of your marriage. At any rate, the bills will need to be paid and someone will need to pay them.

5. Life After Divorce - Before you have committed yourself to a divorce, you should have taken the time to evaluate if you are able to survive on your own or not. You should never assume anything and having a plan for re-building your life can save you a great deal of trouble in the short-term. The most important aspects to consider are home and income.

Divorce can feel like hell on Earth to some and a blessing to others. In order to prevent the former, you should always protect yourself the moment a divorce is inevitable. If the situation is created from a bad set of circumstances, timing could be very important. Don't let your significant other take advantage of you.

Guest Author Bio:

Ken holds a master’s in business leadership from Upper Iowa University and multiple bachelor degrees from Grand View College.  As president of  morningsidenannies.com, Ken’s focus is helping Houston-based parents find the right childcare provider for their family. When he is not working, he enjoys spending time with his three children and his wife.

Build Trust in Divorce and Avoid Family Court

Trust is essential for every relationship and is often damaged when people are getting divorced. It can be damaged many different ways. An affair, a lie or a betrayal can damage trust. Trust may also be broken when people change and no longer understand each other. They just grow apart. 

In my life, I know how disorienting it is when I have lost my ability to trust someone who I once trusted implicitly. Equally uncomfortable is when someone no longer trusts me. If the relationship is important, I feel frustrated and want desperately to repair the relationship and the loss of trust. Without trust, we can't have a relationship. 

Have you had a loss of trust in your marriage? Maybe there was an affair. Maybe you feel that your spouse has given up on the dream you once shared. Maybe you feel like you or your spouse have done or said too many mean things to each other that you have become like strangers to each other – strangers who can’t trust each other.

Some of our clients want to go to Family Court because they don’t trust their spouse and can’t imagine negotiating an agreement with them. Family Court can’t ensure your spouse will become trustworthy again and you are giving up the power to make decisions about your life to the judge. Court is slow, costly and the results are often difficult to predict. Often, the court process itself increases the animosity of the parties. Court is the place of last resort. Family Court won’t solve the trust issue.

If Family Court is not the answer, is there a better way? How can we build sufficient trust that our clients can negotiate an agreement, keeping the power to decide important issues, rather than go to Family Court?

I came across some interesting research that is helpful. You can use Confidence Building Measures to build trust. You offer unconditional and unilateral gestures of goodwill to your spouse so that your spouse can see you are genuine about wanting to negotiate a deal.

Our lawyers know how to help you to develop and offer effective Confidence Building Measures so that you and your spouse can engage in negotiations. It won't save your marriage but you can build sufficient trust that you can begin to negotiate an agreement and avoid the pain of Family Court. We can help.

Handling the Holidays after Divorce

Christmas is for children but when Mom and Dad have separated or divorced, it can be a difficult time. I remember how difficult it was my first year after separation. I was devastated. Now, many years later, we schedule our "Christmas" any time between December 22nd and December 28th. The actual date does not matter... it is the joy of spending the day together. 

Here are links to two past blogs I did about the holiday season Part 1 and Part 2

Our guest blogger, Marvin Hoffman from the Houston, Texas law firm Holmes, Diggs and Eames, PLLC offers some very good advice for parents.

The holidays can be a difficult, anxiety-filled, and frustrating time for anyone, regardless of your situation. It’s a time when a lot is expected of you, from buying presents to traveling from place to place, and it seems as if there is less time to get it all done. However, after going through a divorce, the holidays can be even more difficult, particularly when children are involved. Depending on a divorced couple’s custody and/or visitation agreement, the holidays can be an especially complicated time, as parents are trying to juggle who gets the children during which holidays, how long they have them, and what to do about the myriad of other holiday arrangements that need to be made.

Making it through the holidays as a divorced parent doesn’t have to be as difficult as many make it sound, though. With careful planning and taking a few tips into consideration, a divorced parent can more thoroughly enjoy the holidays and make them fun for the kids.

Tips for Divorced Parents

You want to do more than just survive the holidays after a divorce – you want to enjoy them fully. Although being a divorced parent can certainly put more pressure on you, making this a harder task, it’s not impossible. In fact, you may be able to make the holidays much easier to handle by keeping the following tips in mind:

  • Make very detailed and specific plans – whatever you and your family are doing for the holidays, try to make the plans as detailed as possible so arguments and problems do not arise, particularly with your ex-spouse. The more planned you are, from the time you’re leaving for a vacation to exactly which days and times you’ll have the children, the more you’re likely to reduce potential frustration and fighting.

  • Plan well ahead of time – by making plans as far in advance as possible, you can allow your ex-spouse, children, and family to plan better and more accordingly, which also helps prevent more arguments from arising at inopportune times. This way, you can also make arrangements with your ex-spouse and vice versa.

  • Find out what’s most important – decide what holidays, traditions, and arrangements are most important to you. This way you will know what you can compromise on and what you should ask for.

While these tips are not the only ones that can help you through the holidays (and if you are looking for more, consider talking with a Houston divorce lawyer about tips and options), they can dramatically decrease your frustration with the holidays, helping you to enjoy your family and loved ones during this special season.

If you are in the Simcoe County, Muskoka or York Region, you can get good advice from our lawyers. Here is our website and our contact information.  We can help you get it sorted out... so you can just enjoy the holiday season. 

Helping Children Deal with Divorce

Iphoto of father walking with children have four children and my wife is pregnant. Children are the focus of our lives. The first three are from my first marriage. I remember feeling very worried about how they would do when we separated. I did some research at the time and did my best to make it work for them. I can report that they are thriving in spite of their parents' divorce. 

Nancy Parker is this month's guest blogger. She offers some excellent advice for parents going through divorce so you can help your children thrive too. Below is her article and here is her website

There are a lot of innocent victims in a divorce. Many times that includes the divorcees as well as the family and friends but if there are children involved they are the most innocent victims of all. They tend to take on most of the blame as well. I don’t know why but children almost always think that the demise of mom's and dad's relationship is their fault. In their minds someone has to be at fault and if no one else will take the blame they will. It could never be mom or dad's fault, because they are perfect.

When I was very small I thought my mom and dad were perfect, that they knew everything, and that they would never allow anything bad to happen in my life. As I got older I kept seeing things to make me question those ideals. It was truly devastating for me to find out that my parents were not superhuman. After the initial shock of finding this out I learned to love them for who they were. Because despite the fact that they weren’t perfect I realized they loved me the best they knew how and that they were doing the best that they could.

It is hard for children to understand that their parents are just people, people who do not always have it all together. Somehow in their young minds they think that to become a parent means you are some kind of a superhero or that you are closer to God than other people. The reality is far from that. Many parents not only do not have it all together but do not even know where the “all together” store is to buy it! As you have all heard many times before, parenting is the most important job anyone could have because you are molding other lives and there are absolutely no degrees required.

Then divorce comes and lands smack dab in the middle of our already not great parenting. We are struggling to deal with a marriage, our children, a job, extended family, and friends, and then along comes divorce. We are still dealing with all those things plus a failed marriage, grief, hurt, anger, resentment, fear, anxiety, and on and on. Where does this leave the children? People say kids are resilient and they will bounce back. If things are handled right this is a possibility but there are no promises. How many of us actually handle it right when we ourselves are so emotionally compromised? But this is what we must do because we love our children.

As I stated above about my folks, when I realized that my parents were not perfect but I knew they loved me and were trying the best they knew how, I learned to love them for who they were. Here is the key to helping your children get through a divorce: love them the best way you know how and talk to them as much as possible about what is going on. Not the gory details mind you, just give them something to help them understand. If you do not then they will come up with unbelievable ideas of their own usually pointing the blame at themselves.  This is not where the blame needs to rest and we need to let them know.

If you are overwhelmed with the divorce, if it is not a civil time between you and your soon to be ex spouse then you need to appeal to the other parent based on their love for the children in keeping it civil. If that is not possible then you should get help from family and friends. If you are passing the children back and forth between each other then send a trusted family member or friend to deliver the children or be at the door when the other person comes. If you need some time to sort out your thoughts then you need to talk to your children and let them know how much you love them and tell them you need alone time to think. Ask a family member or friend that the kids know and trust to take care of them for a few days. Keep things as normal as you can. Try not to turn the children’s lives upside down because yours is. It is hard enough for them to lose the day to day presence of one parent so do your best to remain calm and mature for their sake. After all, we are the adults. We are teaching our children self control so we must practice what we preach.

Keeping children on the same schedule is important. They need to be able to see the same friends and family members just as always. If they are close to a member of the other parent’s family then do not take that away from them unless that family member is not handling the divorce well. As much as it depends on you however, do not take these relationships away from the children. Try your best to keep things status quo in their lives. Above all keep letting them know how much you love them. But in turn, do not start giving them “things” instead of your time and love. They do not need the things; they do need you and the other parent. Whatever you do, do not use the kids as leverage to manipulate the other person. These are your children, not pawns in a game of chess.

Counseling is always a good idea if you think things are not going well with your children. Family counseling is a good way to start so that you can all talk about how you are feeling and get some new perspective from an unbiased third party. This is also a good place to express your feelings that perhaps you were not able to sort out when talking to your children at home. It is good if both parents are involved, not at the same time of course but every other session. The children need to know that both of you care about what they feel and that you are both still going to be there for them. If one or all of the children seem to be guarded or unresponsive then you can have the counselor try a one on one to see if they can get to the bottom of their feelings. Sometimes other family members can help the children to express how they feel. Once you have found out how they feel do not respond in a defensive posture! They are telling you how they feel, it is not wrong that they feel that way. You can talk to them about their feelings and do your best to alleviate their fears and concerns but do not reprimand them for their feelings. You may never hear another feeling again and these are not the desired results.

Let love be the reason for everything you do. This is from the Bible and is not only spiritual but practical advice for everyday life, not only in a divorce but for everything and everyone. If your main goal is to do whatever you do for the good of others then you are on the right track. Think back how you felt as a child: your anxieties, fears, needs, and desires. What could someone have done to help you? Did you have misconceptions growing up? Sometimes we forget what it was like to be young because the cares of this world strangle that innocent part of our life out. Be kind, loving, and gentle. Treat your children the way you want to be treated. They are people with valid feelings and they will grow into whatever kind of adult you train them to be. Love is the key. Don’t let your emotions cloud your mind so much that you forget who you are. Your children will stick by you and love you all the more if they realize you are doing the best you know how and that you absolutely love them no matter what. Stay strong and hold on. This time in your life will pass and you and your children can grow and be better off than ever before. That is if you do everything you do for their good and with lots of love.

Author Bio

Nancy Parker was a professional http://www.enannysource.com/ and she loves to write about wide range of subjects like health, Parenting, Child Care, Babysitting, nanny background check tips etc. You can reach her @ nancy.parker015 @ gmail.com

 

Family Law Information in Ontario: New Government Website

One of the most stressful aspects of separation and divorce is the uncertainty.You don't know how much money you will have, how much time you will have with your children and when the pain will go away. When I went through my own divorce, I hated the uncertainty and I am a divorce lawyer! 

The government of Ontario has launched a new website for the public that helps to address some aspects of the uncertainty. It is called www.YourOntarioLaw.com. It provides general legal information. One page that I especially like shows the inside of a courtroom

The problem with the website is that it is so focussed on the Court process. It has only one line about Collaborative Practice which is a way of resolving disputes without going to court. I guess this makes sense since the government is in the business of providing the Court system. It also has very little information about family law. 

Other excellent websites that provide information about the Collaborative Process are as follows: 

www.CollaborativePracticeSimcoeCounty.com This website provides information including professionals in Simcoe County who practice Collaboratively. It is a great resource. 

www.DivorceHappens.ca  This website provides more information about Collaborative  Practice, comparing the cost to the court process. It includes some great videos, and lists professionals I have helped train in the Collaborative Process throughout Ontario. 

www. OCLF.ca This website is our provincial umbrella organization. It has general information about Collaborative Practice. 

More Information...

Our firm website offers both information about the various process choices and lots of information about the law. We regularly receive positive feedback about what a great resource it is for the general public.  www.GalbraithFamilyLaw.com 

Of course, the best way to learn about your rights and obligations is to have a consultation. Our firm of experienced lawyers only practice family law. We offer one hour no-obligation consultations at a substantially reduced rate. You can ask all your questions and get answers particular to your case. Clients feel relieved of the uncertainty after a consultation.

Call 705 727-4242 or email JMcTighe@GalbraithFamilyLaw.com to book a consultation today.  

No Child Support for Adult Children Living in the Basement?

More and more children are no longer able to leave home when they become adults, or are returning home to live with their parents even after completing post-secondary education. There are fewer "empty nests" these days.

There are many reasons for this new trend. What is alarming for divorced parents is that in Ontario you cannot get child support for an adult child living at home unless the child is unable to obtain employment because they are ill or are in school full time. The adult child who is under-employed and is a costly boarder does not warrant child support. So, if your child returns to your home after graduating from university and  is only able to get a job at McDonalds, you are stuck paying the bills. 

We have several articles dealing with the issues of child support, custody, and the sharing of expenses on our website. But, alas, there is nothing about seeking child support for the under-employed adult child sleeping in your basement. Sorry. There is no relief for you. 

 Here is an interesting graphic about the impact of adult children living at home. Thanks to www.CollegeAtHome.com for this graphic. It is amazing! 

Divorce - What is the First Step?

Simage of couple pulling rings aparteparation and Divorce: These are ugly words. They conjure up feelings of pain, disappointment, fear, and uncertainty. What is the first step? How do I get through this? 

I remember when I went through my own divorce (yes, divorce lawyers sometimes get divorced too) how stressful it was for me. I feared the impact it would have on my relationship with my children and wasn't sure what the financial outcome would be. I felt embarrassed and could hardly focus on anything.  I just wanted to get through it  with the least amount of pain as possible. 

It does not matter whether you were married or lived common law, the first step is to find a lawyer you feel comfortable with and who is committed to resolving the outstanding issues in a cost-effective and timely manner. Simply put, you need to find a Collaboratively trained lawyer. 

Going to Family Court just makes things worse. Collaborative Practice keeps you out of court. 

Collaborative Practice is a way to get through your divorce that minimizes the pain, both financially  and emotionally. It is a problem solving process. You are given the support you need to make the best decisions for your family. 

All of the lawyers at Galbraith Family Law are trained in this process and are committed to helping you get your issues resolved 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. 

For more information about the process, here is an article about it. 

Other Collaboratively trained professionals are profiled at www.DivorceHappens.ca and www.CollaborativePracticeSimcoeCounty.com

Forensic Accountants: A Lying Spouse's Worst Nightmare

Grant Webb of Bisk Education has many insights into the use of Forensic Accountants in divorce actions. Here is Grant's blog. Thanks Grant. 

No one goes into a marriage expecting to end up in divorce, but sadly almost half of all U.S. marriages end that way. Some people are able to end their marriages relatively peacefully, but for others, a collapsing marriage can quickly lead to hostility and anger. Resentments and dissatisfactions that have built up over time may explode into outbursts of temper and fierce arguments. Spouses may engage in deception or even drugs and alcohol as a form of retaliation or in order to escape or relieve the pain of their dissolving relationship, which in turn creates more animosity. In general, the more hard feelings and enmity there are in the relationship prior to the divorce, the more there will be during litigation, especially when there are substantial assets at stake.

In almost every case, at least one spouse knows that divorce is likely and sometimes they will proactively plan for the end of the marriage. For some people, those plans include hiding marital assets in an effort to retain full ownership of those assets after the divorce. Whether driven by greed, reprisal, or both, the bottom line is that spouses who hide assets will go to great lengths to prevent the other spouse from receiving any portion of those assets.

Depending on how long the person has to plan and how sophisticated they are, hidden assets can be difficult to find. Spouses who own a business or are a principal stakeholder in a business often have the easiest time of shielding assets from the court. Putting friends and family on the payroll, reporting large business losses or expenses, and accelerating depreciation schedules are all tricks that opportunistic spouses may use. Spouses in a marriage with a high net worth and complex investment portfolios also have ample opportunities to conceal assets. They can shift funds to overseas accounts or new, unreported personal accounts. They may also create false paper trails of investment losses to hide income, or invest in property or other assets in other states or countries. As concealment techniques get more complex, it becomes much more difficult to locate the hidden assets and to prove that they were generated with marital funds or other assets that should rightfully be included in divorce settlement hearings.

Family law and divorce attorneys are skilled professionals, but they are not trained or licensed to conduct the type of financial investigation that difficult divorce cases require. Although they have the best intentions of helping their clients achieve the most favorable financial end result, their skill set is not equal to or as effective as that of a forensic accountant. Forensic accountants are highly specialized licensed financial and accounting experts who are often able to reconstruct historical financial transactions and analyze bank statements, tax returns, and other documents to arrive at a true picture of a couple’s net worth and total assets. A forensic accountant is extremely adept at ferreting out financial misbehavior and is likely the last person that a deceitful spouse trying to conceal assets would want to deal with.

Attorneys will often examine public documents, tax returns, and bank statements to look for any irregularities. Forensic accountants will examine these same things, but at a much greater level of detail. Forensic accountants function like financial crime scene investigators. Many of them are also CPAs as a result of passing the uniform CPA exam. They gather every piece of evidence available at the smallest level of detail and then painstakingly reconstruct transactions and trace assets to identify anything that was originated using marital assets, and therefore subject to distribution to both spouses.

People are often surprised to find that forensic accountants also examine a spouse’s lifestyle, spending habits, and other personal habits. They may interview known associates, friends, and relatives and even past romantic interests to further their investigation. When it comes to bank and credit card accounts, forensic accountants don’t just look at current or recently closed accounts. They may go back years and examine every account a spouse has ever held, looking for clues that may indicate the spouse has transferred funds or opened new, unreported accounts.

Forensic accountants possess expertise in financial and accounting matters and a dogged determination to thoroughly examine every aspect of a person’s past and current financial and personal life. For this reason, spouses who are trying to hide assets from the eyes of the other spouse and the court system usually find that a forensic accountant is their worst nightmare.

For those that find themselves in situations that require the expertise of forensic accountants or CPAs, it is a best practice to research the qualifications of any given forensic accountant. This also helps in hiring the right CPA as well. 

Divorce and Financial Planning

Sandra Ramos is a financial planner who has helped many clients who are going through a divorce make good financial decisions about their future. Sandra graciously agreed to offer a guest blog with her insights. Here it is. 

Following any marriage breakdown there is a time of emotional healing, but there is also a need for financial healing. During a marriage we have often comingled our assets, income, goals and dreams. And when divorce occurs, it seemingly all unravels right before our eyes, leaving us feeling unsure about our financial future.

It is easy and somewhat naïve to suggest that all you need is a new Financial Plan. The reality is divorce can result in some significant changes financially and this can lead to a tremendous amount of stress for both parties. In extreme cases some individuals will not be able to meet their current obligations, let alone think about saving for the future.

 

The first and best financial decision you can make is to commit to the collaborative process during your separation and divorce negotiations. This process is designed to minimize feelings of animosity and therefore promote cooperation, communication and of course collaboration. From a financial point of view, the result is financial savings of potentially thousands of dollars.

 

The collaborative process is something that I promote in my practice because, I know that it will save my clients money, undue stress and create an environment of cooperation to ensure both parties walk away with what they need to start their new life on their own. This is even more important when there are children involved.

 

When the collaborative process is over and we have a written and signed a separation agreement and all of the details around finances and children have been agreed to, it is time for the next step. This is where the services of a Professional Financial Advisor are needed.

 

The first step for my clients is the budget. Most people dislike budgeting and cringe at the word. However, it is the essential first step in moving forward. We must identify with accuracy what are your regular monthly income and your necessary expenses. The difference between these two numbers will be your discretionary income; it is with this income we can re-plan and re-design your financial future.

 

There are many factors to organize and understand:

 

-
Tax Planning – understanding the changes to your Personal Taxes
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Retirement Planning - RRSP’S, TFSA’S & Pension Plans
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Estate Planning - New Will and Powers of Attorney & Life Insurance
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Education Planning - RESP’S
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Employer Benefits

 

I have 20 years of experience in the Financial Planning Industry and I have also experienced Divorce personally. I know how overwhelming this period in your life is; however by re-establishing your goals and taking control of your financial situation you will be on the right path toward financial independence.

 

If you are interested in learning more about how I can assist you please do not hesitate to view my website www.sandraramos.ca. Or contact me at 1-866-949-1027 x 235.

Sandra Ramos, CFP

Senior Executive Consultant

Investors Group Financial Services Inc.

138 Commerce Park Drive

Barrie, Ontario

L4N 8W8
















 

Protecting the Children of "Baby Mommas"

Brenda Shapiro, a lawyer in Florida, submitted the following article to me about how in the USA there are provisions for wealthy parents to pay money into trust funds for their child as child support. We don't have such statutory provisions in  Ontario, Canada but I really like the idea. In Brenda's example, a young wealthy father, perhaps an elite professional athlete, could be ordered to pay some money into a trust fund for their child so as to provide future security. What a great idea! 

Although we don't have legislation that would allow a judge to order this, we certainly could set up a trust fund by agreement. 

Thanks Brenda..... Here is Brenda Shapiro's blog entery. 

Protect the Children of 'Baby Mommas'

By Brenda Shapiro, Esq.

When a young girlfriend of a professional athlete, musician or other celebrity gives birth, she joins the growing number of “baby mommas” in South Florida and the nation. While these women in their teens or early 20s come from very different social and economic backgrounds, they would all like their children to have a secure financial future.

The fathers have different goals. Even if he has a good relationship with the baby momma and contributes to his child's care. Fathers live in the fast lane focused on career and endorsement contracts. They buy every boy toy imaginable including cars, jewelry, multiple residences, boats, planes, et al. spending their new wealth freely.

For most of these fathers, marriage to the woman who gave birth to their child is unnecessary. They hope to avoid a host of legal and financial complications. And there are other fathers who try to distance themselves from the situation, forcing the baby momma to file a paternity suit to establish her child’s rights.  

Today, a professional athlete might have a three-year contract for $5 million, $10 million or more per year. That's a big chunk of change for a young man in his early twenties whose life has suddenly changed. He is in the media spotlight and constantly being told he's a star.  He is pursued by money managers, who promise to manage the financial and investment side of his life, who may or may not have his interests at heart.  

Few professional athletes think ahead about what will happen to their money after their peak earning years come to an end. Only a handful of pros like Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal or celluloid stars like Brad Pitt have been able to harness their skills and celebrity status to find success in the business world. Yes. Angelina Jolie is a baby momma.

So, what does short-term earning curve mean financially for baby mommas and their children?

First, the new mother is entitled to child support, based on guidelines established by state statute. Those guidelines are designed to meet the immediate needs of the child – not the mother. And unless the child requires special medical or developmental care, the monthly cost of providing food, shelter, clothing and day care is going to be relatively small compared to the father's high income.

Paying child support usually poses no immediate problem for the high-earning father – at least until the contract comes to an end. Then the financial picture will probably change dramatically. There may be no money left for the child, since the flow of funds has been drastically reduced and the many assets are now liabilities without cash flow to pay the debt.

In light of this all-too-familiar situation, statutes should be revised to address "Good Fortune" child support. Good fortune child support recognizes the long accepted principle that children who are dependent on their parents should share in their parents' wealth. It does not require a lifestyle analysis. Instead of little league baseball or soccer, it allows the court to consider the special benefits available to the wealthy; little league baseball and soccer, swimming lessons, horse-back riding, ballet, music lessons, tennis lessons, private schooling, tutoring et al. It would create the opportunity to order irrevocable trust funds established for each child. The trust funds would be funded from the difference between reasonable child support and the statutory guidelines based upon the parents' net monthly income. An athlete earning millions a year will not notice the contributions needed to fund a college education or career training in the future. Placing the fund under the management of a disinterested third party, preferably a bank trust department selected by the parties or appointed by the court, can help assure that those dollars will be available as the child grows into adulthood.

Putting a court-ordered trust fund in place today provides the child of a baby momma with long-term financial security. Long after the father’s income disappears, those funds will be available to give his son or daughter a better opportunity in life. It's the right thing to do – for all parties.

Brenda B. Shapiro, Esq.

Attorney Brenda B. Shapiro provides legal counsel to clients on family law matters, including prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, divorce, child custody, access and time-sharing, post-dissolution, domestic violence, and grandparents’ rights. She established the Law Offices of Brenda B. Shapiro, LLC in 1994, where she is managing partner. She is also a founding director of the Collaborative Family Law Institute. For more information, www.bbshapirolaw.com. 

Four Steps to Take with Your Child After Divorce

divorced couple with babyHelping your children adjust after your divorce is essential. Heather Smith offers excellent advice on what you should do to help you child after the dust settles.

 

Here is Heather's blog: 

 

 4 Steps to Take with Your Child After Divorce

You have sat your child down and given the dreaded speech that you never thought you would have to make. Mom and Dad are getting a divorce are some of the most difficult words a child will hear from their parents mouth. There are a few things that will help you and your child during this time; here are 4 things to consider doing:

Get them a counselor: Once you have shared the unfortunate news with your child it is important that no matter their age, you get them a counselor to speak with. Weekly sessions are best for them. It gives them one day a week to discuss and work out their thoughts and feelings. Children have a difficulty opening up to parents and need that third party when it comes to dealing with the divorce. It is a life change for them as well and you need to provide them with help.

Keep quiet: No matter what you do, keep your thoughts to yourself. Do not speak negatively about your former spouse in front of the child. Keep your arguments and frustrations away from the child. Do not share details of the divorce. It is so important to keep that out of the child’s life. Children already feel a sense of responsibility of the parents’ divorce and hearing things like this will only push them further into that belief. As hard as it can be to keep your feelings in, just do it.

Remain positive Make the transition easier on them by remaining positive. Most likely parental rights and visit have been established and now come the difficult part for child, spending time in two different homes. When you drop off and pick up, be sure you remain positive. Be interested in their time at the others house and respond with a smile. You want this to be easy and comfortable for the child.

Get them involved and active: If you child isn’t already part of a sports team or involved in a hobby, be sure that you start them in something. There are all sorts of emotions for your child during this time and having a sport or hobby is a great for them to express it without doing harm to themselves or others when they act out. Sports teams are great because they require practices and game days. They are exercising and socializing with peers their age and can act like a child that they are. Hobbies like painting, learning a musical instrument will stimulate the child’s need to share their emotions. Try a few things out and allow your child to make the decision on what makes them the happiest.

Your divorce is what you make it. It may be a difficult and stressful time for you, but remember you aren’t the only one feeling that pain. Remain positive, get your child involved, find them a counselor and always keep your negative thoughts to yourself. Don’t allow your child to feel like it’s their fault, because it is never the child’s fault.

Author Bio

Heather Smith is an ex-nanny. Passionate about thought leadership and writing, Heather regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and parenting blogs/websites. She also provides value to nanny service by giving advice on site design as well as the features and functionality to provide more and more value to nannies and families across the U.S. and Canada. She can be available at H.smith7295 [at] gmail.com.

Forensic Accounting and Divorce

image of couple pulling rings apartThe role of a Forensic Accountant in a divorce is not well known. Erin Palmer offers great insights into this valuable professional who can help uncover hidden assets or income of a deceptive spouse. Here is Erin's blog: 

All’s Fair in Love and War, Except in Divorce – That’s What Forensic Accountants Are For

You aren’t alone. Many couples considering divorce find themselves in a predicament they never expected to be in and begin to look at each other in a new light. Here’s one scenario: One spouse may be shuffling money around and squirreling it away. The other is offered a piteous settlement and is none the wiser, but instinctively feel that the numbers just don’t add up. Here’s a second scenario: One spouse offers the other a blunt settlement with no questions asked, without a way to alter the settlement later on. Both scenarios should be considered cautionary tales. If your intuition is telling you something isn’t adding up, or your divorce lawyer recommends getting a forensic accountant, you should listen. Large corporations aren’t the only ones guilty of moving and hiding assets these days.

Three Things You Should Know About Forensic Accountants

1.       Why You Need a Forensic Accountant

It’s such a simple question to ask, “Why?”, but the answers can vary greatly. An article posted, April 30, 2012, on the Wall Street Journal’s website gave staggering data from several studies…

·         31 percent of U.S. adults who join their earnings and savings with their spouse or significant other admitted they have been deceptive about money at times. – National Endowment for Financial Education

·         58 percent from the same study (mentioned above) admitted they hid cash, as well. – National Endowment for Financial Education

The Wall Street Journal article goes on to report something else of significance – technology is playing a larger role in discovering deceptive financial practices between couples.

·         During a 2010 survey, members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers were asked if in the past five years had they had seen an increase of information and evidence used that was gathered from social media/social networking websites (think Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter). Can you believe that 81 percent of the members said yes?

·         Two years later the members were polled again with the same question and the number of lawyers answering yes climbed to 92 percent. That’s an increase of 11 percent in just two years.

2. What Forensic Accountants Look For

Forensic Accountants are highly trained professionals who may also possess a CPA license as a result of passing the Uniform CPA Exam. These financial professionals have received specialized training in locating financial information through research and technology. When a forensic accountant is assisting with a divorce, one of the first things they review are tax returns belonging to both parties. Believe it or not, a forensic accountant can learn a lot from a tax return such as real estate information, investments, partnerships and businesses, trusts and estates, and much more. Once they’ve reviewed this information, the forensic accountant can branch out and continue digging.

Other items forensic accountants look for are things like unreported retirement funds and decreased earnings being reported by the main bread winner. An unreported retirement fund is a deceptive practice. And decreased earnings may not be a red flag to most lay people, but to a trained professional this could lead to much more. They will look to see when the earnings first started to decrease and study as to whether they can put a tangible reason to the decrease or if it looks like money is being funneled in another direction.

Another task a forensic accountant may perform requires the use of specialized computer programs that can sift through all the data that is currently living on a hard drive or had once been there. Yes, even if data has been deleted from a drive, the information remains deep within the heart of the hard drive and these professionals have the ability to try and retrieve it.

The work of a forensic accountant isn’t always structured around finding a deceptive spouse. They also help lawyers create financial statements based upon their review of the couple’s assets. This has proven to be very helpful in creating an accurate financial picture that presiding judges can utilize to make his or her decision on the separation of assets.

3. If You Want It Done Right (Legally), Hire a Professional

When it comes to divorce, emotions can run high. And it’s natural to have your anger and frustration build. However, trying to take matters into your own hands is not advisable. If you have decided to Google or follow your spouse’s trail online and started finding information pertinent to your case, discuss this with your lawyer first.

The Wall Street Journal article “Why Hiding Money From Your Spouse Has Gotten a Lot Harder” mentions the grey area between following your soon-to-be former spouse’s online history versus putting a key logger on their computer. A key logger can be a piece of hardware or software installed on a computer that records the actions of whomever is using it.

If you are considering going rogue and ‘bug’ your spouse’s computer, it is very important that you talk to your lawyer first. More than likely they will advise against it and the information obtained may not be admissible during your legal proceedings. Not to mention, you could end up in legal trouble of your own.

If you are considering divorce and want to allocate your assets properly, or suspect your family’s assets have been mis-handled or-represented by your spouse, a forensic accountant will be your best line of defense next to your attorney. There are various reasons why you would hire this type of legal representation but for those who may not know the benefits to hiring a Forensic accountant or  how to hire the right CPA for your situation, it is highly suggested you research or interview multiple professionals in search for the best fit for your situation.

Erin Palmer writes about CPA exam review and CPA continuing professional education for Bisk Education.

Divorce and Debt: Tips to Get Out of Debt

Sophie Kinsella wrote an interesting blog about dealing with debt after divorce. Although the Oak View Law Group is not Canadian,it is  found in many of the states of the US, her comments ring true in Ontario too. It just makes good sense. Thanks Sophie.

 

Here’s is her blog…

 

Tips to follow in order to come out of your divorce debt

Many people believe that divorce is the beginning of a fresh new chapter in life, but that’s far from being true. Years of marriage often lead to years of accumulated debt, especially on the recent economic surface. Almost more than 50 percent of the divorce couples are under knee-deep debt and looking for a solution to come out of it. In this situation, it is generally not recommended to enroll on a debt settlement program as it sometimes becomes an intimidating task and hurts credit score. Instead, it is usually suggested to follow a few simple tips that will help you dig out of your divorce debt soon.

 

1. Budgeting:

 

One of the most important tips to come out of your divorce debt is to make a budget plan. Make a list of all the sources of your income and expenditures, and determine where your money goes out. You may do it on a paper or in a spreadsheet. Either way is good, but you have to see which one is more convenient for you.

2. Modify your spending habit:

Being a girl, you might have a few bad habits when it comes to shopping. You might often end up buying unnecessary goods and doing impulsive shopping. But now when it is crucial for you to come out of the debt, you must have a control over your spending habit. Always carry your budget along and abide by it. Every time you go for shopping, list down the items that you need to buy and are of utmost important. Make sure, an item which is not there in the list, should not be there in the cart.

3. Prioritize your expenditures:

When you are by yourself, you might wish to text your friend or log in to Facebook. But now it’s time to prioritize your expenditures. You must understand that now it’s time to focus on debt repayment rather than paying the bills.

4. Make some wise decision:

When you have come half the way of budgeting, make some wise financial decision. Think twice if you can do without the basic voice service on your cell phone in order to save $40 per month. Also think if you can bathe your dog by yourself instead of keeping a groomer. These are a few important questions that you need to ask yourself in order to determine how to reduce monthly expenses.

Also take a decision in regard to a debt payment plan. Determine how you are going to pay your bills. You may either pay the bills on a monthly budget cycle or may pay on a bi-weekly cycle, depending on your unique financial situation.

5. Snowball:

Consider repaying your debt in a snowball method. Aim at paying off your lowest balance first while making small amounts to the highest balance. This will help you pay off your debt and will boost your moral support.

In conclusion, afore mentioned are some effective tips to follow in order to get rid of your divorce debt.

Determining Income for Support Purposes

Determining income is the first step toward determining the proper level of child support and spousal support. This is easy to do for employees. We just look at line 150 of their personal income tax return. The challenge is determining the proper level of income for those people who are self-employed or are employed by a corporation they solely own. 

Self-employed people often write off various expenses for tax purposes that have a personal component to them. For example, the monthly costs of the cell phone might be written off as a business expense but that cell phone may also be used for personal calls. Some self-employed people will write off meal expenses, some of which are with family members or friends. Those meals are really of a personal benefit and not considered a legitimate expense for determining your income for support purposes. As a result, the portion of the expense that are of a personal nature are added back to the self-employed person's income for determining support. Since taxes are not paid on this income, it must be grossed up to take into account the taxes that are normally paid on it.

For those people who are the sole owners of the shares of a corporation, the issue is whether there is a legitimate reason for the earnings to be retained by the corporation. For example, a corporation that has to make major capital purchases periodically may have good reason to retain their earnings. They will need them to buy new equipment or other capital and will need the money. On the other hand, if a corporation is retaining earnings as a tax savings shelter for its only shareholder and there is no legitimate business reason to retain the earnings, some or all of the retained earnings can be added to the shareholders' income for the purpose of determining his or her support obligation. 

These are often complicated cases. There has to be a careful analysis of the business and the purpose for the earnings being retained. We sometimes use an outside expert such as an accountant or business valuator who has experience looking at these issues. 

If we are working through these issues using the Collaborative process, both parties might jointly retain an expert to help determine whether some or all of the retained earnings should be considered income for determining support obligations. This is better than the court process where both parties retain experts who fight it out. 

Once we have determined both party's incomes, we put the numbers into our computer and determine the likely range of support appropriate. It's easy once we have the incomes. 

 

Fairness in Your Divorce: Court Compared to Collaborative

The other day the judge in Family Court said "We can't consider "fairness" when deciding cases." I was shocked but then I realized that she is right. Family Court is about rules and process. Like cases are to be treated alike according to the law. The law is a set of principles that the judge uses to prescribe the rights and responsibilities of the parties. Judges have a lot of discretion when applying the law to the facts so we speak in terms of the likely "range of outcome". Fairness in family court means applying the rules and principles impartially to each party. The resolution is not necessarily seen as "fair" to both parties. In fact, neither party may feel it is "fair".

One of my clients, referring to Family Court, said "It's not a justice system, it's 'just a system'." How true. Family court is a system intended to resolve disputes. That's all.

This is not in any way to impugn our Family Court judges. We have brilliant judges who care about the parties before them. It's just that the court system is an adversarial system. It isn't intended to meet the core concerns of each party.

Of course, in a sense it is "fair" to impartially apply the same rules and principles to all parties to resolve their disputes. That's what courts do.  

What most people want is a resolution that takes into consideration their core concerns: their underlying needs, desires, concerns and fears. Courts are not allowed to take into consideration the core concerns or interests of the parties. Courts take into consideration only those facts that are logically related to the applicable principles of the law. Judges' discretion is limited by the law.

Collaborative Practice is a process that involves interest-based negotiations. The professionals help the parties discover their core concerns. We then help the parties brainstorm solutions that take into consideration both party's core concerns. It's hard work but in the end the parties have a "win-win" resolution: a resolution they both feel is "fair". At Galbraith Family Law, all of our lawyers are trained to help clients using Collaborative Practice. We also go to Family Court but if we can help you reach a win-win resolution using Collaborative Practice, we do it.

Ontario Collaborative Law Federation Conference 2012

OCLF LogoThe 2012 OCLF Conference will be held in Horseshoe Resort in Simcoe County, just north of Barrie on September 26, 27, 28, 2012. 

I will be chairing it along with Sue Cook and Jackie Ramler. We have formed sub-committees with volunteers from throughout Ontaro. 

The theme is "Building High Performance Teams". 

The Ontario Collaborative Law Federation represents 18 groups of specially trained professionals across the province. The members provide legal, family and financial support to couples during separation and divorce. This unique approach avoids the conflict and expense of going to court and promotes a family-focused resolution based upon open communication and mutual respect.

The conference will be a great way for professionals to hone their skills and develop relationships with like-minded professionals. 

Why Do I Need To Do A Sworn Financial Statement?

Everyone hates having to do a sworn financial statement. This is a court form used in Ontario to list your assets, debts, income and expenses.  It is long, cumbersome and, frankly, a pain to complete. If your case is in Court in Ontario, you must complete the form. The Rules require you to complete it and the court clerks won't even open your court file without you filing a sworn financial statement.

If you aren't in court, I don't blame you if you don't want to complete it.

As your lawyer, we ask you to do a financial statement to ensure that you are protected. Yes, to protect you! We want you to fully disclose your assets and debts on the date of separation and date of marriage to ensure that your spouse cannot wiggle their wait out of the agreement, claiming that you were hiding assets. The Family Law Act allows the Court to "set aside" (which means not enforce) a separation agreement if there has not been full disclosure. 

The financial statement is an easy way to ensure that there has been full disclosure. It is like a checklist for lawyers. 

We ask your spouse to provide a sworn financial statement for the same reasons. It is an easy way to ensure we have a complete financial picture from him or her too.  

Once we have a complete financial picture, we can advise you as to the range of outcome should the matter proceed to court. In other words, we can give you legal advice. Without complete disclosure, we can't give you advice: we are just guessing.

Lawyers can get into big trouble with the Law Society if we give advice based on guesses or assumptions that turns out to be bad advice. Okay... you got me... we are also covering our own butt when we are asking for sworn financial statements. 

Disclosure is Essential

It isn't the financial statement itself that is important - what is important is that there is full disclosure. It's just that the financial statement makes it easy. 

A recent case before the Ontario Court of Appeal, known as Ward vs Ward clearly states that the exchange of financial statements is not necessary but full disclosure and knowledge of the other person's financial circumstances is essential. In that case, the parties exchanged some documentation with the assistance of the family's accountant. Financial statements were not completed but there was full disclosure and knowledge of each other’s financial circumstances.

The court describes the disclosure process in that case as follows:

“...neither party filed a financial statement, nor was one required under the terms of the process to which they agreed. While this did not diminish the obligation to disclose, in this case, the parties relied on the collaborative law process and other avenues of disclosure, including net family property statements and information from Mr. Wetstein [the family friend and accountant]”

In the end, the Ontario Court of Appeal determined that the husband's disclosure and the wife's knowledge of financial circumstances of the husband were sufficient even without sworn financial statements exchanged. The Court refused to set aside the agreement reached.  

Lawyers often use the financial statement because it is easy. It lists all of the categories of assets and debts so you don't miss disclosing something important. In our law firm, we insist on backup documentation to verify every value in the financial statement. It is the backup documentation that is important and fulfills the obligation to disclose. 

Collaborative Cases

In Collaborative cases, the Financial Specialist works with the clients to obtain a complete and accurate representation of the financial circumstances of the parties, usually without the use of a sworn financial statement. The Financial Specialist does a report and attaches the backup documentation for every value. Both lawyers ensure that their client has fully disclosed everything. Equally important, every lawyer must review what the other client has provided to ensure s/he has provided full disclosure. 

In Collaborative cases, as lawyers we always carefully review the Financial Specialist's report with our client to ensure it is accurate. Ultimately, the lawyers will ask for a sworn statement from each client stating that they have fully disclosed their assets, debts and income and that the Financial Specialist's report is accurate and complete. Alternatively, the lawyers will add wording to the separation agreement that states both parties are warranting that they have fully disclosed everything and that the Financial Specialist's report is accurate. Either way works. 

Full disclosure is essential. If you are trying to hide assets or income, we won't be your lawyer. We don't play those games. 

If you don't like having to provide full disclosure, we get it. You are not alone. Complain all you want. We have big shoulders. We want your agreement done right and made to last so just get it done. It’s for your own sake. 

 

"Divorce Happens, Now What?" A New Video About Collaborative Practice

I interview people who went to Family Court and those who chose Collaborative Practice instead. Clearly, Collaborative Practice is the better way. I hope you enjoy the video.

 

Settlement Meetings: Getting Your Divorce Resolved

Do you want to save money and get through your divorce with as little pain (financial and emotional) as possible? Okay... dumb question... everybody does.

The challenge is "how?"

"Negotiate" is the simple answer but how do you negotiate with someone you don't trust, respect and can't communicate well with? Some lucky few are able to negotiate on their own but most people need some help.

Anne Shale wrote an excellent blog in the Ohio Family Law Blog that extols the benefits of the four way meeting in which both parties and lawyers meet to discuss, negotiate and resolve the issues.

Anne suggests the following benefits of negotiating through four way settlement meetings:

Savings of money: Litigation is expensive!  If all disputed issues are to be litigated or “tried” before the Court, there may be hourly fees to be paid for one (1), to two (2), to three (3) days of trial time.  Multiplying the hourly rate of your counsel ($150.00 to $250.00+ (per hour) [ed. in Ontario, the cost is between $250 to $500 per hour]  times one eight (8) hour day of trial reflects that you could easily incur attorney fees of $1200 to $2000 per day for the length of the trial.  If matters could be resolved or even partially resolved with a settlement conference, there will be a savings of money!

Savings of time: Time is “money” is often stated!  Domestic relations cases can be resolved over time by attorneys sending various settlement proposals back and forth by facsimile, scanning and email, or ordinary mail.  However, if the parties and their counsel elect to have a settlement conference, significant savings of time can be realized. The case might be “settled” or “resolved” quickly rather than over months of time.

Peace of mind: Going through a divorce or a dissolution is an emotional and sometimes “gut-wrenching” process.  Parties often experience physical symptoms of distress and anxiety in not knowing how the case is going to be “resolved”.  With resolution of disputed issues, the parties can experience peace of mind in knowing what is going to happen and how things are going to be resolved providing to each of them some “closure” without the discomfort,  angst, and expense of a trial.

Narrow the issues to be “tried” before the Court: Even if a settlement conference or conferences are not fruitful in resolving all issues, if some issues can be “settled” or “resolved” before the final hearing or trial, expenses of time and money can still be saved.  For example, if the parties commenced a settlement conference with six (6) disputed issues, to wit: (1) custody of the children, (2) parenting time schedule, (3) disposition of the marital residence, (4) division of retirement assets, (5) division of household goods and furnishings, (6) payment of marital liabilities, if any issues can be resolved at the time of the settlement conference, time and money can still be saved!

Even better than the simple four way meeting is the Collaborative Process. In this process, the parties and lawyers agree in writing that they won't go to Court and they will work together to find a resolution of the issues together. Four way meetings no longer are intended to simply narrow the issues: there is a commitment to resolving issues.

If an impasse occurs, there are many ways of overcoming it such as getting experts to offer opinions, or by asking the Family Coach to help resolve parenting issues or the Financial Specialist  to help resolve the financial issues. Ultimately, you can use arbitration (you jointly hire someone to act as the judge who will make an order which is enforceable like a court order).

Even if you do not choose the Collaborative Process and end up in court, you will be forced to negotiate. About 97% of family law cases are resolved by agreement. The problem with negotiations as part of the court process is that you are negotiating in a pressure cooker - the court house. It is much more costly as there are so many more procedural steps and delays, and you must proceed according to the court imposed time lines. Nobody likes the court process. It should be seen as the "last resort".  The Collaborative process is much better.

Settlement meetings are magical. When two people who really want to get a resolution sit together with their settlement-oriented lawyers, it is amazing. Resolution of even the most difficult issues can be achieved. There are often bumps in the road but that's normal. In the end, you will have an agreement that you helped craft and it will be achieved in a timely and cost-effective manner... even if you still don't respect, trust or communicate well with your ex.

Should Equal Parenting Time be Presumed?

 Hilary Linton, LL.B., LL.M. (ADR), Acc. FM.Hilary Linton is a well respected mediator, trainer and lawyer in Ontario. She writes a provocative blog about whether there should be a presumption of 50/50 in custody cases. I have reproduced her blog for you below. The Riverdale Mediation Blog always is an interesting read. 

In response to Hilary's blog below, I feel the movement toward a presumption of 50/50 in custody cases is in response to the traditional, unspoken presumption held by some traditional judges that mothers are best suited to care for children.  Of course a true "best interests" test would be best but unfortunately it seems the pendulum is, once again, moving in the opposite direction.  Thanks Hillary for your excellent, thought-provoking blog.  

Here is Hillary's blog. 

Should equal parenting time be presumed?

The always-hot topic of post-divorce parenting time is once again in the news.

The Canadian Bar Association is speaking out against a Conservative bill that seeks to make 50-50 time sharing for children of divorce the norm.

Such a presumption, of course, puts the rights of parents ahead of the best interests of their children, but is hard to get the advocates of such legislation to understand this.

Without question, a 50-50 time sharing arrangement is often best for the child. But not so in all cases. The only way to arrive at the best possible plan for each child is to look at all the circumstances, in each separate case, of both parents and the child and tailor the parenting plan to meet that child’s needs.

To legislate any particular parenting plan as the presumptive norm would eliminate the “what is in the best interests of this child” analysis. And that would put children at risk of not having their needs met.

There are many cases where a 50-50 is not the best for the child. This does not make one parent better than the other. Nor does it mean the child will be estranged or alienated from the parent who is less involved in the day to day upbringing. Research is clear that a child’s bond with his or her parent is determined more by the quality of the time spent together than by the amount of time.

To presume that it will always be in the child’s best interests to live equally with each parent could seriously jeopardize the stability and well being of a child, especially a young one, who has formed different kinds of attachments to the parents. A presumption of a 50-50 arrangement ignores the possibility that what will be best for the child is a gradual change to allow the child to develop the kinds of safe attachments necessary to be parented differently from what the child has grown accustomed to.

It is unfair to the child that the onus of proving that any particular arrangement is NOT in the child’s best interests should fall on the parent who may in fact understand the child better but not have the resources to fight a legal battle. That is why mediation is almost always the best way for parents to determine, together, what will be in their child’s best interests.

The system is not broken. The “best interests of the child” test is the only one necessary and it works. Leave it be.

How Collaborative Practices Saves Money in NJ and Ontario

Linda L. Piff, a respected lawyer and blogger in New Jersey, writes in her blog, reproduced below, that Collaborative Practice is far more cost effective than litigation.

Although most family law cases do eventually settle, they do so on the court house steps after most of the damage of litigation has occurred. The inflammatory court papers have been filed and become a public record, large sums of money have been spent on litigation and the children become victims of the divorce process.

Collaborative divorce in a relatively new concept for New Jersey. It was approved by the Supreme Court as a way for parties to divorce on December 5, 2005. While relatively new, collaborative practitioners are experiencing a demand for this way to divorce.

In a collaborative case, the parties agree not to litigate from the onset. Unlike mediation, which uses a neutral as the only professional in the dispute resolution process, in a collaborative case each party is represented by an attorney. The value for clients is that they avoid the damage that is done through litigation and save the expense of the lengthy court room battle.

What can be said with confidence is that no other kind of professional conflict resolution assistance is consistently as efficient or economical as collaborative law for as broad a range of clients. While the cost of attorney fees cannot be predicted accurately, a rule of thumb is that collaborative law representation will cost from one-third to one-half as much as being represented conventionally by a lawyer who takes issues in your case to court.

Our experience in Ontario is the same. Collaborative practice is a far more efficient and cost-effective way of getting through your divorce.  Learn more about Collaborative Practice. 

International Academy of Collaborative Professionals

IACP Logo

I just returned from an amazing conference of the IACP held in Minneapolis. It was a fantastic learning opportunity and chance to meet some of the best collaborative practitioners from around the world. I believe there were about 550 people in attendance, 48 of whom were from outside of North America.

The outgoing president is Canadian Nancy Cameron. I was so proud that we had a Canadian at the helm of this great organization and she served us well. I met Stu Webb who is the founder of the whole process when he decided that the Court process was not helping separating and divorcing parties. What a great visionary. Stu was honoured at the Saturday banquet. A video biography of him was shown which I understand from past president of IACP Ron Ouskey, will be available for purchase through IACP. I can hardly wait to show it to our practice group in Simcoe County.

There were many, many presentations and workshops - too many for me to highlight them all - but here are a few comments about some I attended.

Canadian and IACP Board Member Victoria Smith and IACP President Sherri Goren Slovin did an outstanding workshop called "Advanced Collaborative Negotiations". They gave us insight into the theory of Collaborative Practice, the nature of "interests" and tools we can use as we practice the art of collaborative negotiations.

Cat Zavis of Bellingham, Washington taught a full day workshop on Compassionate (Nonviolent) Communication. She taught us so much. I especially enjoyed learning how to express empathy by exploring with our clients how they are feeling and what unmet needs are causing such feelings. 

Daniel Shapiro from Harvard Law School and director of the Harvard Negotiation Project outlined the main principles of the book written by him and Roger Fisher called  Beyond Reason. I bought the book and am really enjoying it. They show how to use emotions in a disagreement to turn a disagreement into an opportunity for mutual growth.

The next conference will be in Washington, DC on October 28 to 31, 2010 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.

I certainly intend to attend. Put it in your calendar too!

 

Interview with Financial Specialist Jackie Ramler

JacJackie Ramler photokie Ramler is a financial specialist. She helps clients who are going through a separation or divorce resolve the financial issues. We have used her many times and find she does excellent work, saving our clients thousands of dollars in fees and helping them attain a resolution in a timely manner.

She is the owner of Divorce Choices Inc.

She also works with me and Sue Cook in our business called The Divorce Team. We teach financial specialists,  lawyers, parenting coaches and divorce coaches how to work together in the Collaborative Team Process.

Jackie is very good.

Here is my interview with her.

 

 

Q: What do you do as a Financial Specialist? 

As a Financial Specialist, I work with the couple as the neutral, and provide 6 distinct services.

1) I collect the financial information and documentation to prepare a report which can be used by the couple to review the Net Family Property Settlement as well as by the lawyers for the sworn financial statement.

2) I collect income information that can be reviewed to prepare Income Sharing options for income equalization.

3) I use that same information to run Child support figures as well as can prepare education projections for their children so they can negotiate how they will handle that future expense

4) I collect financial information from the family and prepare a report for the lawyers so that they can assist negotiations by both knowing what the primary financial issues for the couple are.

5) I educate the couple on what the various financial areas of the report are and how to read and understand the report. This gives them more confidence going into the negotiations.

6) I assist both individuals in better understanding how various settlement options will impact them now and in the future.

Q. Don’t lawyers perform the same role? Isn’t there overlap? 

Often it is the lawyers and their Assistants who collect this information and enter it into the court forms. Unfortunately, this does not catch misinformation or mistakes until the forms have been swapped by the sides. Instead of catching this misinformation early and in the spirit of it just being a simple mistake by working with me as the neutral, in the court documents it can be seen as being devious or deceitful. It then takes considerable effort and time to get the two sides to agree on the facts of the file. In this respect I believe I am more efficient with my time and the cost to the family, as there is just one document being prepared. Working with the couple during this information gathering process, we can often resolve small issues very quickly. As well, in the environment of working with a neutral, in my opinion it sets the stage for the clients to work together on the other aspects of the process.

Q. Do you offer advice to the clients? 

In reviewing the financial options available to the clients, I will make suggestions regarding the use of the various assets for equalization. When it comes to investments, I make no recommendations and give no advice- this is not appropriate in this environment. My financial advice is centered around budget and expenses, equalization options and helping them to better understand the financial components of their situation. Of course, I don't offer legal advice either. They have lawyers for that purpose.

Q. What about clients that really hate each other. Can you help them?

The challenging files are in cases of betrayal or infidelity. Ensuring that both parties have trust in the information being collected is paramount and I am particularly diligent in assisting the couple to ensure that both have confidence that all information is on the table. Because the Collaborative Practice agreement stresses full disclosure and transparency, if any of the professionals believe this is not being followed through with then the file is discontinued. I feel much more efficient working in the collaborative environment.

Q. What happens when clients get stuck? What do you do? 

Drawing on my mediation training, I have been finding it easier to assist clients in getting to agreement. In our first meeting, I address the issue of getting stuck and run through the options they have to find agreement. Often, when an issue presents itself and the couple begins to position, I go back to that initial conversation and they often quickly choose one of the options to find agreement. I really appreciate that for the big issues, especially when there is a difference of legal options, the couple can go forward with the four way meeting with their legal counsel. If we cannot negotiate an agreement, the clients can also use arbitration as part of the collaborative process.

Q. How do your costs compare to other processes?

I would venture that the costs to the family in working with one neutral Financial Specialist, in contrast to two lawyers and their Assistants, that I am more cost efficient. Not only from the amount of time and money spent but also in reducing the arguing over simple mistakes. In my opinion, the biggest advantage I have in the process is in laying the foundation of getting the clients to cooperate and work together early in the process so that they are better prepared to find agreement on bigger issues.

Thanks Jackie. We appreciate you taking the time to explain the role of the Financial Specialist.

More information about the process can be found on the website for the International Association of Collaborative Professionals