Family Law

 
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The circumstances that lead people to seek family law assistance are often sensitive and wrought with emotion. The family law team of Robertson Stromberg LLP is committed to the timely resolution of clients’ family disputes and calls on a rich breadth and depth of understanding of these issues based on many years of experience. Every family’s circumstances and needs are different, but our services include handling family property division; custody, access and parenting agreements; child and spousal support; pre-marriage, cohabitation and separation agreements; adoptions; divorce; and guardianship of adult dependent children. Beyond these considerations, your Robertson Stromberg LLP lawyer has access to the entire firm’s experience with wills and estates, real estate, and complex taxation issues that often arise in property division, particularly when a business or farm is involved.

When both parties in a dispute want to stay out of court, they can often successfully negotiate a settlement with the guidance of specially trained lawyers. Both parties enter the process committed to respectful communication. Both lawyers agree that, in the event of not being able to reach a settlement through collaboration, they will not take part in any litigation between the couple.

If required, our family law lawyers are also court room lawyers and can vigorously advance or defend your interests at all levels of court.

Our Family Lawyers

Kirsten M. Hnatuk

Direct: (306) 933-1351
Main: (306) 652-7575
Fax: (306) 652-2445
Email: k.hnatuk@rslaw.com

Tiffany M. Paulsen, Q.C.

Direct: (306) 933-1317
Main: (306) 652-7575
Fax: (306) 652-2445
Email: t.paulsen@rslaw.com

Sean M. Sinclair

Direct: (306) 933-1367
Main: (306) 652-7575
Fax: (306) 652-2445
Email: s.sinclair@rslaw.com

Paula Bittman

Direct: (306) 933-1388
Main: (306) 652-7575
Fax: (306) 652-2445
Email: p.bittman@rslaw.com

Kelsey R. Dixon

Direct: (306) 933-1359
Main: (306) 652-7575
Fax: (306) 652-2445
Email: k.dixon@rslaw.com

Siobhan H. Morgan

Direct: (306) 933-1308
Main: (306) 652-7575
Fax: (306) 652-2445
Email: sh.morgan@rslaw.com

Curtis P. Clavelle

Direct: (306) 933-1341
Main: (306) 652-7575
Fax: (306) 652-2445
Email: c.clavelle@rslaw.com

Andrew R. Gaucher

Direct: (306) 933-1336
Main: (306) 652-7575
Fax: (306) 652-2445
Email: a.gaucher@rslaw.com

Areas of Expertise

Divorce

Child Support

Spousal Support

Custody, Access and Parenting Arrangements

Property Division

Common Law Relationships

Arbitration

Cohabitation, Prenuptial and Separation Agreements

Collaborative Law

Adoption

Counsel for Children

Assisted Reproduction Law

Mediation

Speak with one of our experienced family lawyers today.

(306) 652-7575

Frequently Asked Questions

Parenting

My ex-spouse/partner and I have broke up, do I have the right to see my kids?

The short answer is your children have the right to spend time with both parents to an extent that is in their best interests. There is no parental right to have a certain amount of time with a child. A parenting schedule must be developed that is best for the children (not necessarily best for the parents).

How do my ex-spouse and I determine a parenting schedule for our kids?

Every parenting case is unique, so there is no all-encompassing set of factors that determines what is best for children. However, a few things that are commonly considered are:

  1. Ages of the children – Often with very young children (under three years old), extended absences from either parent is not ideal. Therefore, a schedule with more transitions between households is frequently recommended;
  2. Parents’ work schedules – A practical reality is that parents’ work schedule will often dictate the parenting schedule. For instance, if a parent works one week remotely and then is at home for a week, that parent’s time will, by necessity, have to be concentrated during the time that parent is at home;
  3. Parental conflict – Children are intuitive and will pick up on conflict between parents. To the extent that separated parents can work together for the children and put the children’s needs first, there is a much greater ability to minimize negative impacts on the children.  It cannot be stressed enough that parental conflict harms children.  Developing a parenting plan that minimizes conflict is encouraged;
  4. Children’s activity schedules – Parenting schedules need to consider the children’s activities. It may be unrealistic to have transition days that fall during activity days;
  5. Children’s temperaments and health issues – Children may have a myriad of issues that will impact the appropriate parenting schedule. For instance, a highly anxious child may benefit from fewer transitions.  Psychological issues with the children may increase the need to provide one stable household or time with a primary attachment figure.  It is recommended that parents jointly discuss children’s needs, potentially with support persons such as a child’s counsellor or doctor, to assess their own child’s needs and how to meet those needs between two households;
  6. Maximizing time with both parents – Except in extremely rare situations, it is best for children to have a strong relationship with both parents. This requires that significant time be spent with each parent in a variety of settings.  Each parent should be involved in important aspects of their children’s everyday lives and routines;
  7. Wishes of the children – The wishes of children, particularly older children (over 12), are an important consideration. However, the wishes of a child are not absolute and are only one factor to consider.  Judges have said that a parent who allows a child to decide that they are not seeing another parent has “abdicated” their parental role and no longer exercises control over a child.

Can I travel outside of Canada without my ex-spouse’s consent?

If you are travelling outside of the country, you need a signed consent form from the other parent. Ideally, that consent form should be notarized. The government has prepared a draft consent form that you can find online.

I am involved in a parenting court case. What should I know?

Most parenting court cases deal with parenting conflict. If you wish to increase your time with a child, you should take every opportunity to reduce conflict. This will have benefits both for your court case and for your child, who will not be harmed by continual jostling between warring parents.  In a high conflictual situation, your communication with the other parent should be consistent and respectful.  To the extent that the other parent communicates uncivilly, you should not reciprocate.  There is great software that you can use to assist with parenting communication, such as OurFamilyWizard, that gives suggestions on how to reframe your messages to reduce conflict.

Courts often also encourage reasonable flexibility by both parents. Allowing special arrangements for grandparent visits, birthdays, etc. should be encouraged.

Basically, you should always put your children’s needs first and act respectfully with the other parent. If you do so, you will benefit your children which also speaks well to your ability to parent your children.

Spousal Support

After separation, will I be paid spousal support?

Spousal support is the most complicated area of family law. A person’s entitlement to spousal support will depend on factors such as whether one party has given up career possibilities to benefit the other party, the length of the relationship, the role played by each party during the relationship and whether there is a “need” for support.

As a general rule, the longer a relationship, the more likely that spousal support should be paid if there is a disparity in the parties’ incomes.

How much spousal support should be paid?

Unlike child support, there is no pre-set law that sets out how much spousal support should be paid. There are, however, guidelines that give a potential range of support called the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAGs). If there is an entitlement to support, the SSAGs provide a good benchmark of how much spousal support should be paid and for how long.  It is recommended that you seek legal assistance in obtaining SSAG calculations, as there are many factors that are factored into these calculations.

Is spousal support tax deductible?

Monthly spousal support payable under a court order or signed agreement from one former spouse to the other is generally tax deductible for the payor and treated as income for the recipient. If a lump sum of support is paid (eg. Paying a large sum of money to avoid monthly payments), that is not tax deductible and is not treated as income for the recipient. Paying the bills of the other party is not generally treated as “spousal support”, unless the order or agreement is written in a very specific way to address this issue.

Child Support

How much child support do I have to pay?

If you have less than 40% of the time with your child(ren), your monthly child support obligation is based off of your gross income. The government has provided a child support calculator to assist with estimating costs.

If both parents have more than 40% of the time with the children, child support is often more complicated. The starting point is that child support is based off the gross incomes of each party. You would calculate the child support to be paid by each parent (using the calculator, above) and set off each parents’ support obligation.  The higher income earner would pay some child support to the other.  However, this starting point can be modified depending on what each parent is actually paying for their children.  If the lower income earning spouse is buying most of the children’s clothing, activity expenses, school supplies, etc., then the “set-off” amount of child support may not be enough.  So, this calculation can be more complicated.

In addition, parties are to share certain “extra” expenses proportionately to their incomes, such as the after-tax cost of child care, expensive extra-curricular activities, exceptional educational expenses (such as private schooling or university tuition), and health expenses. These expenses are shared as a proportion of each party’s income (if one party earns $60,000 and the other $40,000, one parent would pay 60% of such expense and the other would pay 40%).

Are there exceptions to the Child Support Guidelines?

There are a number of exceptions in the Child Support Guidelines that affect how much child support that you may pay, including:

  1. Gross income over $150,000 – The Guidelines say that child support may be adjusted if a payor parent earns more than $150,000 per year, because the child support amount may be “inappropriate”. Realistically, child support typically only gets adjusted based on this factor if a payor parent’s income exceeds $150,000 per year by a significant amount.  If this is a factor for you, you should seek legal advice on your child support obligation;
  2. Undue hardship – There are special circumstances where child support under the Guidelines may be too much because paying such support would cause “undue hardship”. These cases are rare and it is a difficult legal test to meet.  You will likely wish to obtain legal advice with respect to this factor, if you may qualify;
  3. Shared parenting – As noted above, if both parents have more than 40% of the time with a child, child support would likely be impacted;
  4. Various expenses that impact income – As noted above, child support is based on a payor’s gross income. However, there can be some adjustments to that income.  Those adjustments can be found here.

I own a corporation. How is my income calculated for child support?

Your personal income tax return and your corporate income will be reviewed to assess your child support responsibility. The starting place is your personal income tax return. Then, we look at your corporate income and determine whether some or all of that corporate income should be added to your personal income.  There are a number of factors to assess when considering corporate income, such as whether there are other shareholders, the capital obligations of the corporation, the earnings history of the corporation and whether there are personal expenses claimed by the corporation.  You should seek legal advice on your support obligations if you are self-employed or have your business.

Do I have to pay child support for my adult child?

It depends. Child support has to be paid for “children”, which is defined as a child who is under the age of 18 or­ is over 18 years old and unable to withdraw from their parents’ charge by reason of illness, disability or other cause.

A child who is attending university full-time and does not have significant resources/income is generally considered to still be a “child” because they cannot be self-sufficient.  The amount of child support to be paid for such a child will vary depending on whether the child resides at home while going to school, has a part-time job, has savings, has access to student loans or bursaries, etc. 

Property

How do you divide property after separating?

The presumption is that the family home is divided equally, regardless of whether one party owned it before the marriage. In some cases, though, it can be argued that an equal division of the family home would be unfair because of an extraordinary circumstance. For instance, a very short spousal relationship with one spouse owning the home beforehand, has been found to be an “extraordinary” circumstance.

With the balance of the property, the presumption is that any property that was acquired during the course of the spousal relationship should be divided equally. If one party owns an asset before the spousal relationship (other than the family home), the presumption is that the value of that asset as of the beginning of the spousal relationship should not be divided. For instance, if a spouse owns an RRSP for $15,000 at the beginning of the spousal relationship and that RRSP is worth $50,000 at the end of the spousal relationship, the first $15,000 of that RRSP is not divided.

There are exceptions and special circumstances that may make the “general rules” regarding property division inapplicable.

I have a business. How is it valued for dividing property?

Determining the value of a business is often quite complicated. Frequently, lawyers will obtain the assistance of accountants or chartered business valuators to value the shares of a business. Thus, a “general rule” is not really possible to use for this type of a complicated analysis. You should seek legal advice in valuing your business.

What are some of the exceptions that would make an equal division of property inappropriate?

There are a number of factors that could be considered in deciding not to equally divide property, such as:

  1. Gifts from third parties or inheritances;
  2. The debts of a spouse;
  3. The taxes that are inherent in certain types of property (such as RRSPs which take a tax hit when they are withdrawn); and
  4. Assets “dissipated” by a spouse (including gifts or transfers of property just before or after separation).

How to do I protect my property when marrying or living with someone? A pre-nuptial or cohabitation agreement can set out what each person is entitled to after a separation. Both parties should sign such agreements with their own lawyers (not at the same firm). Also, both parties should be clear as to what they own and owe at the date that the agreement is signed.

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