in Children's rights

Private Child’s Lawyer for Your Divorce

The Office of the Children’s Lawyer (OCL) is a government agency that represents children in custody and access proceedings. A judge cannot order that the OCL act for a child but simply can “request” that it do so. The government agency has the discretion to,
• decide whether to have a child’s lawyer appointed;
• decide whether to have a child’s lawyer with social work assist appointed or;
• decide whether to have a best interest assessment conducted by a social worker.

If the OCL decides to accept the case, the parents have no choice over the selection of lawyer or social worker and cannot insist upon a best interest assessment being conducted. You can expect delay in having an OCL lawyer/social worker becoming involved. It’s the government that makes these choices about your family.

There is an alternative…

I can help you. You can hire me privately to be your children’s lawyer. I team up with a social worker and together we can speak to your child to ascertain his/her views and preferences. We can also perform a best interest’s evaluation. I will even set a flat-fee so you know the costs in advance. It is cost-effective, fast and we can assure you that the work is performed by highly qualified and experienced professionals.

Written by Lynn Kirwin, Lawyer a lawyer at Galbraith Family Law. To book a consultation with Lynn, please visit our website.

in Collaborative Practice

The Emotional Journey of Separation and Divorce

If you are in the process of separating, I know you have that friend. That already divorced friend – the one that is telling you it gets worse before it gets better.  The one that says it’s a process.

Your friend is right.  Don’t discount what they’re saying.  There is lots of literature on the four emotional stages in your separation/divorce journey.  These are described as:

  1. Shock
  2. Crumbling
  3. Acceptance and
  4. Relief

While they are listed here as stages 1-4, people don’t necessarily experience them in that order and they may think they are progressing to the next stage  only to be triggered by an experience and find themselves back in an earlier emotional stage.

It is important to understand that when you are in shock, experiencing mood swings, having difficulty sleeping, blaming your spouse, caught up in anger, feeling guilt, fear and shame, the feelings you are experiencing are completely normal.  However, it is not the time to negotiate the terms of your separation or divorce.

While it is important at the outset to seek advice and learn what your rights are, if you have the aforementioned emotions, you are not really ready to negotiate the terms of your separation agreement or divorce.  Start that process when you can commence envisioning your future, and are able to consider the impact of decisions on all parties, children included.  In the meantime, you are welcome to contact our office to find out what your rights are.


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

in Children's rights

Your Child’s Voice In Your Separation and Divorce

Do you want your child to be heard in your separation/divorce? Are you in mediation and want your child to have a say in the parenting plan? Are you in the midst of court proceedings and were turned down by the Office of the Children’s Lawyer? Has your lawyer recommended an assessment that you both can’t afford? I can help.
I can give a voice to your child in your separation/divorce. You and your spouse jointly retain me for a flat fee to speak to your child and find out what s/he wants. I also work with a social worker to find out what is in your child’s best interests and to help you develop a parenting plan.
Often children tell parents what they want to hear. I can tell you what your child really wants. I can make practical recommendations that can be re-visited as information changes. I can help you implement the recommendations. I can help you to craft a plan that best meets the child’s needs from the child’s perspective.
There is confidentiality in what the child tells me and I will share with you only that which your child wants me to disclose. It is comforting to your child to know that what s/he tells me won’t be shared unless they tell me its okay to do so (except in the case of abuse as the CAS must be notified).
You may have different aspirations for your children. You may have different approaches to discipline and parenting styles. Perhaps you have different parenting strengths and weaknesses. Your children are vulnerable and need your help to understand that you both have their best interests in mind. Your children deserve the best from you. How well are you responding to each of your children’s needs while they are adjusting to mom and dad’s separation/divorce? Is the conflict between mom and dad causing your child to become anxious? How can your children express how they are truly feeling? Often they are afraid to tell you how they really feel for fear they may hurt your feelings. Maybe your child is acting out at home or at school. Maybe this is their way of trying to tell you that they are hurting.
Your child might be worried about how your plans will affect them. How will it affect relationships with friends, participation in extra-curricular activities, relationship with other family members, moving away from neighbourhood friends or their school, travel time in the car, missed social events because of access visits. They may be saying “What about ME! Do you know how I really feel?”
I am not a parenting coach. I am not a counsellor. What I am is an advocate. I can be your child’s advocate. I will provide your child with a voice in your mediation and in the court proceedings so that you can make better decisions for your family. I can help your child be heard.
Written by Lynn Kirwin. Family law lawyer at Galbraith Family Law. To see Lynn’s bio click here. If you wish to book a consultation with Lynn please go to our website.

in Matrimonial Home

Equalization and Date of Marriage Deductions.

Are you curious what will happen to your wealth when your marriage comes to an end?

In Ontario, you must share the equity that you and your spouse collected during your marriage upon separation. Simply put, each of you adds up the total value of all your assets, less your debt, on the date of separation. You also get to deduct the assets less debt that you had on the date of marriage. The more assets you can prove you owned on the date of marriage; the more money you will save.

Whoever has more assets, pays the other to equalize it.

In other words, if you came into a marriage owning, a car, some RRSPs, maybe even some other property, those assets were not accumulated as a result of the marriage so you don’t have to share in the value of them with your spouse.

If the assets still exist on the date of separation, then any growth in their value is shared, since the increase in value occurred during your marriage.

There are some exceptions and other deductions but this is the process in a nutshell. The law is seldom simple.

We have helped hundreds of people just like you sort out their equalization issues. We can help you too. Please go to our website if you want a more detailed explanation of the equalization process. When you are ready, call or go to our website at to book a consultation.


Written by Mervyn White. Family law lawyer at Galbraith Family Law. To see Merv’s bio click here. If you wish to book a consultation with Merv please go to our website.

in Divorce, Holidays

Representing Yourself in Separation/Divorce: Is There Anyone to Help?

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Do you want to represent yourself in your separation/divorce? Makes sense. You can save a lot of money. But you aren’t a lawyer. It can be a bit scary. We can support you in a variety of ways.

We can draft documents for you but you go to court on your own thus saving you money. We can offer legal advice and coaching in the background but you do the direct negotiations or represent yourself in court. Alternatively, we can go to court with you for just one or two steps in the process but you don’t retain us for the whole process.

Whatever help you need, we can craft a plan that will give you a leg up and save you money.

A clearly worded limited purpose retainer agreement is critical to ensure that we, at Galbraith Family Law, know our responsibilities and you know your responsibilities. Together, we agree what services will be provided. You aren’t signing a blank cheque for legal fees but you are getting help so that you can do your best.

We can help you understand the process options, court procedure, ensure that you meet filing deadlines, help you develop a compelling legal argument and advise you as to the likely range of outcomes. We can suggest the evidence you need and guide you through the maze of the law.

In the end, you are calling the shots but we help you do your best and save money in legal fees. You may not be a lawyer but with some help from us, you can achieve your goals.

Written by Lynn Kirwin. Family law lawyer at Galbraith Family Law. To see Lynn’s bio click here. If you wish to book a consultation with Lynn please go to our website.

in Divorce

3 Ways Your Divorce is More Complicated than It Needs to Be (and How to Fix It)

Nobody says at the wedding ceremony: “People have gathered together to celebrate the very special love between BRIDE and GROOM, by joining them in marriage, for approximately 3 years.” No one would hire that priest if that would be the case. Sadly, though, a lot of marriages will end in divorce sooner or later, according to data from the National Survey of Family Growth.

This process comes with pain, anger and frustration in most cases. It is the equivalent of performing surgery on yourself. But it doesn’t have to be that way.  You can always try to pull through this with dignity.

Here’s how…

There Are Kids Involved

And this is how it becomes infinitely more painful and complicated. Traumatic for both parents and children at first, it turns out that staying in an unhealthy marriage is far more difficult for children than a divorce.

In order to protect your kids, you should try to smoothen the transition for them, keeping them away from your conflicts or arguments. Furthermore, it is known that children who have passed through their parent’s divorce will cope with it better if they will keep a strong relationship with both parents.

You can even try a program specially designed for situations like this, when the parents need to make the relationship with their children even tighter. Another option is for the parents to think of a plan to present to the kids and to openly talk about everything. If you are going to move them to a new home, it would be helpful if you would let them know that at least a few weeks before the change.

Mediation Should Come First

It is given that the ending of a marriage represents a carousel of emotions –grief, pain, fear, you name it. The things you knew are never going to be the same, you will have to build a life from scratch, and this is a heavy burden on any person’s shoulders.

You must keep in mind that all of these feelings are normal, in order to maintain yourself calm, and that they will slowly subside in time. You mustn’t be too harsh on yourself in this period, and most of all, if possible, you should be kind with your partner, because the process will be much easier for both of you.

In order to not forget important details, you must consider writing some things down, and use that list when you will talk to your ex-partner.  You can always discuss some of these things over email, if you are feeling that meeting face to face would be too difficult.

Legal Options

A rather simpler and cleaner way to handle a divorce is either by having a collaborative one, or by mediation. For the first one, you will need professional help from attorneys, and perhaps even divorce coaches or therapists. They will be of great help when needing to divide a property, to split finances and even on coping with the emotional stress.

There are voices that disagree with this option, arguing that they are time and money consuming, and that they rarely are experts. However, you can not contradict the fact that it is a much cleaner way to end a marriage, being less adversarial and personal.

Your other option is mediation. In this case you will only have to deal with one person – the mediator. In contrast with the collaborative divorce, this is more of a long term process. In addition, you are allowed to consult an attorney if you believe it is necessary, at any point of the mediation.

Undeniably, cooperation and communication are the Holy Grail of divorces, since they are usually very difficult to achieve. It does pay off, though, if you manage to control your emotions and choose to be open in this process. The end goal is to make the best decisions about your children, financial aspects or even about ending a loving relationship in the proper way.

It is critical to have a clear mind, since many mistakes are being made in the heat of the moment that will probably impact later on. You must always think of the end goal and of the fact that you will survive this bravely, with as little bruises as possible.

A new chapter awaits…

This article was provided by Queens personal injury lawyer Michael Dreishpoon

in Children, Custody and Access

CLEO’s Steps to a Family Law Case

Here is a new tool for family law clients. It is an interesting flow chart that explains the various processes for resolution of family law issues.

Unfortunately, it gives very little space to Collaborative Practice  and ignores the interdisciplinary nature of the process but it details the court process well.

I think you’ll enjoy it!


in Divorce, Spousal Support

Disclosure- Why You Want to Provide IT!

In an ideal world, parties who see their relationship/marriage ending would voluntarily exchange all the relevant financial information required under the law. This would facilitate the negotiation of both support and property division and an agreement could be quickly drafted. Sadly, this is not yet the norm in family law disputes.
Both the Family Law Rules and Judges have repeatedly stated that parties have an obligation to make full and fair disclosure, even if a particular item is not requested. Without disclosure, it becomes quite a challenge to even start talking about a resolution to financial matters arising from relationship/marriage breakdown.

The Courts are becoming increasingly annoyed by parties who refuse to provide the required relevant disclosure. So it is important to remember that more information is better. If you choose to make the tragic mistake of refusing to provide the information to your former spouse, the courts can force you to do so by way of court order. If you ignore a court order to do so, the courts could strike your pleadings and order costs against you. This means, that your ex can now proceed without you having any say whatsoever in the outcome.

Failing to provide financial disclosure is nothing but an exercise in wasting time and money (not just your ex’s but yours as well). While a non-lawyer may have difficulty in deciding what is and is not relevant to resolving the financial issues in a marriage/relationship breakdown, we at Galbraith Family Law are happy to help you.

Written by Anna Preston. Family law lawyer at Galbraith Family Law. To see Anna’s bio click here. If you wish to book a consultation with Anna please go to our website.

in Divorce, Holidays

Your First Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzza Since Divorce? Ugh.

I published this blog a few years ago. Many people have commented positively about it. As a result, it is becoming a Christmas tradition.  So, here it goes again!

Are you dreading Christmas? Will it be your first special holiday since your separation? Are you depressed about not having your children for New Year’s Eve, or Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or some other special day. Whatever the holiday, you are not alone.

I remember the first Christmas that my three boys were with their mother Christmas Eve and Christmas day. I cried and felt depressed most of the day. The time seemed to creep by so slowly. I felt all alone and like a failure.

I should have taken my 6 year old son’s advice.

A few days before Christmas, he knew he would spend Christmas Eve and Christmas day with his Mom because that’s what we agreed. So, he asked me to write a letter to Santa and ask him to come to my house on December 26th instead of the 25th. My son said that Santa comes to Steve’s house (Steve is my friend who is divorced with kids too) on the 26th so he was sure he wouldn’t mind coming to our house then too!

Of course, Santa did come on December 26th, even without a letter, but I think the message my son unwittingly was giving me was that it does not matter when we celebrate Christmas…lets just make whatever day we have together full of love, gratitude, Santa and fun. He knew Santa (and joy) would arrive whenever we wanted them to arrive. We just had to schedule it.

To help make your holidays special, here are ten things you can do:

1.  Ensure your schedule is specific. You and your ex spouse should confirm well in advance when each of you will have the children. If you don’t have specific times already agreed, negotiate the days and times as soon as possible. There are too many other sources of stress in December so try to nail down your times with your children now.
2.  Don’t fight over which days you have your children. Whenever you have them, make it special. If you really need particular days, offer to trade days with your ex spouse or give your ex spouse those special days next year. Treat your ex they way you would like to be treated, even if it isn’t reciprocated.
3.  Do something special for yourself. I make myself some of my favorite food, pour myself some wine, watch some basketball in front of the fireplace and wrap presents all day on December 25th. Actually, I look forward to my day spent all by myself. I am totally relaxed and ready when the boys come over on December 26th.
4.  Support your children having a good time with their other parent. If you need to speak to someone about your sad feelings, talk to a friend or therapist – not your kids. The children don’t need to hear it. They need to hear that it is okay to have fun with their other parent too.
5.  Create new traditions. This is a new beginning for you and your children so don’t try to replicate the past. Find new ways to celebrate the event. You can preserve some of the past traditions but find new ways of celebrating too. My parents always put a maraschino cherry on the top of our grapefruits Christmas morning so I continue to do the same now. Change things up too… I started singing Christmas carols after our Christmas dinner.
6.  Get outside. Go for a walk or ski or snowshoe. There is nothing more rejuvenating than being outside with nature and your family. When your kids are with you, take them outside too. A good snowball fight can really build up an appetite.
7.  Give of your heart. If you have just recently separated, money is likely short so don’t try to spend like you did in the past. Do something special for the people you love. Maybe you can write a special little poem for each of them or list twenty ways you appreciate them. Gifts often don’t have lasting meaning. Can you even list five gifts you received last year or the year before? It is the feelings of love and appreciation that last forever.
8.  Stay sober. If you over-drink, you run the risk of crumbling into a pile of self-pity and depression. Nobody wants to see that and certainly your kids don’t need to see it. Have fun but be careful so you can keep it together emotionally, especially during your first Christmas since your separation.
9.  Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. If your family or friends are negative, remind them the season is all about gratitude, love and appreciation. Park you own negativity and search for the positive in everything and everyone, even your ex spouse.
10.  Relax. Know that in time the holidays will become easier to get through and more fun. Just take a deep breath and get through your first set of holidays. Next year, it will be better. Trust me.
There are several wonderful blogs about surviving the holiday season after divorce.

Now, my youngest son is 12 years old and he says the best thing about Mom and Dad having separated is that he enjoys “two Christmases, two Easters and two Thanksgivings!” He says “if you like that kind of food, it’s great!” Let me assure you… he certainly does like “that kind of food!”

So make it a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa or whatever special holiday you are celebrating this year. Joy will come whenever you schedule its arrival. It is up to you.


Written by Brian Galbraith. Owner and family law lawyer at Galbraith Family Law. To see Brian’s bio click here. If you wish to book a consultation with Brian please go to our website.

in Property Issues

Living Together: 5 considerations to protect yourself

  1. In Ontario you are usually considered common-law if you’ve lived together for 3 years or as soon as you have a child together. In most Federal laws, a common-law relationship is recognized after 1 year.  If you fall into this category – read on!
  2. If you have a child together, and later separate, the same rules apply regarding child support as for married couples. Common-law spouses also have similar rights and responsibilities regarding spousal support as married couples in Ontario.  The legal responsibility to support your spouse applies if you have lived together continuously for 3 years, or are in a relationship of “some permanence” and have a child together.
  3. Only married couples share the value of their property when they separate. But, when two people live together in a common-law relationship their property often becomes intermixed.  If they separate, disagreements arise about what each person will take from the relationship.  If one partner has contributed time or work that helps the other buy or maintain property, such as a home, this may give rise to a claim for the non-owner spouse.  It gets complicated, fast….
  4. Common law spouses do not have equal rights to stay in the family home following separation if their name is not on title. And the spouse who has legal title to the home can sell or re-mortgage without the other’s written permission.
  5. A Cohabitation Agreement is the best way to protect yourself from the uncertainty of separating from a common-law spouse. In it, you and your partner can decide how to arrange finances and how to deal with property, support, and debts if you separate.

Please visit our website to learn more and click here to book a consultation with one of our lawyers.