Interview with Sue Cook, Owner of Family Therapy and Life Coaching Group
We all know about lawyers being involved in the divorce process, but what about other professionals? Family professionals are often used in the collaborative practice process and may assist parties through their separation, both inside and outside of Court. Livia Jozsa, lawyer with Galbraith Family Law in Barrie sits down with Sue Cook to ask her about her work as a family professional/family therapist and how she can help both lawyers and clients through the separation process.

Continue Reading Working with a Family Professional: Sue Cook Tell All

Parental Alienation is harmful to children. The negative impact of alienation may include depression, substance abuse, low self-esteem, self-hatred, guilt, poor interpersonal relationships, distorted view of reality, and self-doubt.

Most of my clients don’t realize how harmful it is to the child’s development to try to separate the child from the other parent during your access time. The child should not have to hide the fact that they may wish to speak to their mom during your access time or that having a picture of their mom by their bedside might help them fall asleep. It is not healthy for the child to simply erase the mom during their time at your home. Similarly, mom should not try to erase you from the child’s life. You should be invited to watch the child’s extra-curricular activities. Mom should let the child have a picture of you to look at when they are feeling lonely about not being with you. Mom should let the child speak freely to you on the phone at their own initiative. Mom should share all information with you about the child’s progress in school and about significant events, good or bad.

Continue Reading How to Spot Signs of Parental Alienation in Your Family

I’m surprised at the number of married clients who tell me they either haven’t been involved in the family finances, or they don’t know what their spouse owns.  In many of these cases, their partner was secretive, or dismissive or evasive when faced with questions about the family, the business or their own finances.

Money problems are at the root of many separations I’ve seen.  Even if it wasn’t the primary cause, conflict over money often plays an essential role in arguments and builds the level of distrust, leading a couple to decide to separate.  So, it’s no surprise when money struggles plague the separation process.

Continue Reading My Ex is Sneaky about Finances – What Should I Do?

What is Financial Disclosure?

Are contemplating a separation or divorce? One of the most important procedural steps you can anticipate is the exchange of full and frank financial disclosure. Family law legislation requires both parties to have sworn financial statements including supporting documentation. The forms needed for this process depend on whether the resolution of issues includes both property and support considerations, or just support.

Continue Reading Learn How to Keep Your Composure with Financial Disclosure


There comes a time in our life when you must make decisions based on what lies ahead in your future. The decision could be to pack up and move to another country for a promotion, go back to school, get married, start a family, even file for divorce or separation. These choices are determined by the people in your life who influence you to go left or right or walk or run. Your network is made up of influential individuals like yourself. Friends and family are there for you when you need advice, reassurance, appraisal, and support. Their words can either bring you joy or discomfort. One word or one sentence can change your mind in a matter of seconds. But what if those words do more harm to our thought process than they should?

Continue Reading Discussing Your Divorce: Avoiding Dangerous Advice

Are Limited Scope Retainers Right for Everyone?

img class=alingnCenter shadow scr=image jpg alt=scopr retainers title=Lynn

You may feel that you have a strong case. Feeling that you have a good case is different than proving that you have a good one. Remember you need to be realistic. I can provide you with a professional outlook on your case. When you hire me under a limited scope retainer, I can do certain parts of your case while you handle other responsibilities. Whether you’re going through a divorce or separation, I can make the process as quick and painless as possible.

Continue Reading Limited Scope Retainers and Self-Reps

I often have clients that ask, is it really necessary to get a travel consent letter? The short answer is yes. Unless you want to take the risk of having your beautifully planned trip ruined, then yes. It can be a small bothersome task to have a travel consent prepared and notarized. And, you will likely have to pay a fee to have the consent letter witnessed and notarized, but it’s a small price to pay to the alternative of not being able to go on your trip.

Continue Reading Why Do I Need a Travel Consent Letter?

You can be self-represented and sue the CAS but I recommend that you hire a Lawyer on a limited scope retainer to assist you with preparing your Statement of Claim. You may also consider hiring a litigation coach on a limited scope retainer to assist you with preparing your argument at court.

The CAS will not negotiate with you and it will resist paying you any sort of money for having wronged you. It will want a court to order that you can’t have your case heard by a judge at trial or in other words it will want to have your claim struck. It will argue that it doesn’t owe you a duty of care and that it only owes the child a duty of care. You may want to sue on behalf of your child but you will need to sue in the name of a litigation guardian for the child. You may feel that you have been personally wronged but the law is not clear as to whether you have a right to be compensated monetarily for having been wronged.

However, the law in respect of finding a CAS negligent and/or acting in bad faith is evolving. It is very important that you have a lawyer prepare your Statement of Claim who can assist you with setting out precisely why you feel wronged and why a court should order that you should be compensated with money. It is true that CAS employees are protected against personal liability for any act done in good faith execution or intended execution of their duties. This immunity can only be displaced if you can show bad faith, malice or intentional wrongdoing on the part of CAS employees. If you can show that the society worker was biased, that he/she deliberately ignored pertinent information, knowingly filed a false and misleading affidavit, refrained from following up with collaterals, or demonstrated malice towards you then you may be successful in suing the CAS and being compensated monetarily. But, the court will and can strike out your claim if it doesn’t think that you have a reasonable prospect of succeeding.

Therefore, it is very important that you consider hiring a lawyer on a limited scope retainer, at the very least, to assist you with properly drafting your documents and assisting you with your argument before proceeding to sue the CAS.

Written by Lynn Kirwin. Family Law lawyer at Galbraith Family Law. To book a consultation with Lynn, please click here.


What Happens to Our Home When We Get Divorced?

As Divorce Lawyers, this is one of the most pressing concerns facing our clients. The most significant asset that many families have is the family home.  To most people, the house is more than just a house, it is a family home.  It has special significance to both spouses and can often be a cite of contention within the separation process.

The Ontario Government recognized the special place the matrimonial home plays in many families and has created special rules for how the home is to be treated within the divorce process. This blog post will address some of the main questions people have concerning the matrimonial home including:

  1. What is a matrimonial home
  2. How is the matrimonial home treated in property division
  3. What does possession of the matrimonial home mean
  4. What happens when parties can’t agree what is to happen to the matrimonial home
  5. What can you do to protect your home in the event of a divorce

It is important to note at this stage, that this post is intended only for married spouses.  There are separate legal considerations that are relevant to your situation if are cohabiting spouses (otherwise known as “common law” spouses).

What is a matrimonial home?

The Ontario Family Law Act defines a matrimonial as “Every property in which a person has an interest and that is or, if the spouses have separated, was at the time of separation ordinarily occupied by the person and his or her spouse as their family residence is their matrimonial home”.  For example, if you buy a house prior to the date of marriage and your spouse moves in with you after you are married, this house becomes your matrimonial home because it is ordinarily resident by you and your spouse.

The definition of matrimonial home also does not limit the designation to only one home, as it includes “every property …”.  For example, if you also have a cottage, which you and your spouse spend time a significant amount of time at.  This cottage may be considered ordinarily occupied by you and your spouse as a matrimonial home and will be treated as such, even though it is not your primary home.

It is also possible for a house to lose its designation as a matrimonial home.   Let’s say you retire.  Upon retiring you decide you want to move to the cottage and no longer want to live in your home.  You then rent out the house for income, and no longer reside there.  This house is no longer considered a matrimonial home, because the parties are no longer ordinarily resident there.  The house will then loose its designation as a matrimonial home and be treated similar to any other asset in family decision process.

How is the Matrimonial Home Treated in Property Division?

In order to understand how the matrimonial home is treated in property division, it is important to have a basic understanding of how property division work.   Basically, each party determines their net family property and then the party with a higher net family property is responsible for paying half the difference between the two amounts.  In order to calculate net family property, both parties take their total assets on the date of separation and subtract their total debts as well as anything property which is exempt from property division, such as inheritance or gifts.  Each party then subtracts the value of their pre-marriage property from their separation date property.  These numbers are compared, and the party with the higher number must make an equalization payment.

The matrimonial home is given special treatment within property division in several respects.  The first is that if a party owned the matrimonial home on the date of marriage, the pre-marriage value of the home cannot be subtracted.  For example, you owned a home worth $300,000.00 on the date of marriage.  The home is worth $500,000.00 on the date of separation.  You cannot deduct the $300,000.00 as pre marriage property, as you would be able to do with other assets.  You must include the entire $500,000.00 as part of your net family property

Another way that the matrimonial home is treated differently is that exemptions related to gifts and inheritance does not apply, if they were used to buy or improve a matrimonial home in some way. Typically, inheritance and gifts are exempt from equalization and therefore are not included in equalization payments.  In addition, assets to which gifts and inheritance can be traced are also exempt from equalization.  However, once these gifts or inheritances are used to improve the matrimonial home, an exemption can no longer be claimed.  For example, let’s say you inherit $30,000.00 from a relative.  This amount would typically be exempt.  If however, you use it as a down payment to buy a new house; you lose the protection of this inheritance.

A further issue arises if you inherit a house and decided to use it as the family home.  A house that would otherwise be exempt as inherited property loses its exemption when you and your spouse decide to live there. For example, if your mother leaves you a beautiful fully detached Victorian home in downtown Toronto, and you decide to live there with your wife and kids, the entire value of that property will be included in your net family property calculation for purposes of equalization.

What Does Possession of the Matrimonial Home Mean and Should I be Concerned?

It comes as a surprise to many people that, in property division, spouses do not share in the underlying property itself, but in the increase in value of the property across the marriage.  This means that if you own a house, you still own that house upon equalization, even if the house was the matrimonial home.

It is important however, to distinguish ownership form possession.  In other words, you can potentially own something but not be in possession of that thing.  A good example is if you lease a rental property to someone else. While you are still the owner of that property, you have a contract setting out that your tenant will have the right to possess the property for a fixed or indefinite period of time.

There are also special provisions surrounding possession of the Matrimonial home.  First, spouses have an equal right to possession of the matrimonial home while they are spouses.  This means that you cannot unilaterally exclude your spouse from the matrimonial home, even if you own it.  This remains true after separation, until the parties are no longer spouses, or there is a separation agreement or court order that addresses this issue.

A spouse may apply to the court for exclusive possession of the matrimonial home.  This means that regardless of ownership of the house, one spouse may be excluded from the property for a period of time that the court directs.  There are several factors a court will consider in deciding whether to order exclusive possession of the matrimonial home.  These include the best interests of any children affected, any existing property orders and any existing support orders or obligations, the financial position of both spouses, any written agreement between the parties, the availability of other suitable and affordable accommodation, and any violence committed by a spouse against the other spouse or children.  A spouse to whom exclusive possession is order may be required to pay occupation rent to the other spouse.

If an order for exclusive possession is made against you, it is important that you follow it.  There can be significant consequences for breaching an order for exclusive possession.  This includes a fine up to $5000.00 or a prison term of up to three months or both for a first breach.  In the case of a second breach, a court may order a fine of up to $10,000.00 and to imprisonment for a term of not more than two years or both,

What if We Cannot Agree on What to Do With the Matrimonial Home?

If the parties both have a property interest in the home and are unable to agree on what to do with the matrimonial home, one party may apply to court for an order of partition and sale.  The court will order that the parties are to sell the house and split the proceeds based on their interest in the property.  There is no right of first refusal within family law.  If the house is ordered to be sold, the party wishing to stay in it, must bid on the open market with all other buyers.

I Have a Home and I am About to Get Married.  What Can I Do to Protect My Home?

If you own a home or are contemplating buying a home for you and your current or future spouse to move in with, you may consider entering into a domestic contract with your spouse. A domestic contract is an agreement between you and the other party that sets out each party’s rights and obligations upon separation.  For example, if you own a home, part of the agreement might say that the home will not form part of net family property.  This means that your house will not be considered as part of your net family property when you determine whether or not an equalization payment is owed.   A domestic contract can be negotiated either in anticipation of marriage or after a marriage has already happened.  It is important to note, however, that possession of the home cannot be subject to a domestic contract.  Courts always retain discretion to grant one party possession of the matrimonial home for a period determined by the courts.

If you decide to enter into a separation agreement, it is important that you retain a lawyer to help you with the process and give you legal advice.  The lawyers at Galbraith Family Law (GFL) have assisted many clients in negotiating and drafting domestic contracts.  Retaining one of our lawyers will ensure you comply with all of the requirements required to enter into a valid domestic contract and that the contract itself is clear, concise, and anticipates issues which may arise in the future.

Written by Andrew Cox. Family Law lawyer at Galbraith Family Law. To book a consultation with Andrew, please click here.

German Shepherd Dog and cat together

I love our family dogs, Becky and Ryder.  My husband loves Ryder and Becky, too! I love my daughter’s cat, Enoki. In fact, my husband loves Enoki, too!

Are dogs and cats just property? No, they are not. In Ontario, there is case law to say that dogs in particular have “feelings, are capable of affection, need to be shown affection and that a dog’s affection can be alienated; that its needs must be provided for and that, generally, it must be treated humanely and with all due care and attention to its needs and that these factors are to be considered as well in determining the right to possession or access thereto.”

Where there are competing claims for family pets, the court should be mindful of the fact that inanimate objects should be treated differently from family pets.

A 2001 IPSOS-Reid research study found that “Eight in ten of the pet owners … (83%) consider their pet to be a family member; only 15 percent said they love their pet as a pet rather than as a family member. This perception of the pet as family translates into ‘parental’ behavior for many pet owners: seven in ten (69%) pet owners allow their pets to sleep on their beds and six in ten have their pet’s pictures in their wallets or on display with other family photos. Almost all pet owners (98%) admit to talking to their pets.”

The nature of the relationship between an owner and a pet dog is qualitatively different from the relationship between an owner and all other forms of personal property. Most people view a pet as “a member of their family to be cared for until death, not a possession to be bought and later sold in a garage sale or on craigslist or given away to charity when it is worn, outgrown, out of date or no longer needed or desired by its owner.”

The treatment of the dog or cat in the custody of the owner and the best interests of the dog or cat are factors that can and must be taken into account in family law proceedings.

Written by Lynn Kirwin. A family law lawyer at Galbraith Family Law. To book a consultation with Lynn please click this link.