Whether you are anticipating moving in together as either a common-law or married spouse with your current life partner,or splitting up and going your separate ways, it is important to seek proper legal advice to ensure that you are protecting your rights and perhaps the rights and interests of the people who are counting on you.
We can help you determine whether an agreement such as a Cohabitation Agreement or a Marriage Contract (for those building their lives together), or a Separation Agreement and/or a court order (for those separating and establishing the ground rules for their new post-spousal relationship), will ensure that your interests are properly addressed and your legal rights and responsibilities are protected and defined.
How are you going to find that balance that properly addresses your interests, rights and responsibilities both as they exist presently and as they shall evolve over time, while remaining within the parameters of the laws of the land? We are here to provide you with caring, resolute, and experienced legal services to help you navigate these major life changes while helping you make decisions that are in your best interests, as well as to represent you in preparing and negotiating these documents with your spouse-to-be or soon-to-be former spouse.
WHAT IS A COHABITATION AGREEMENT / MARRIAGE CONTRACT?
If your relationship has reached a stage where you are anticipating moving in together – either with marriage contemplated or simply as common-law spouses – then it is wise to take some time and get some expert advice on the preparation of an agreement that will set important parameters for the important issues that will exist in your relationship, such as those revolving around the balancing of your respective rights and responsibilities as they affect property and other family issues Perhaps your own parents are lending you money to purchase a home together, or one of you already has more assets than the other, and an agreement about how these assets will be treated during the relationship is required. You might even have to address issues related to children you have now, might have in the future, or even that one or both of you are bringing into this current relationship from a previous relationship. Perhaps an understanding is needed about how these assets will be treated in the event of the breakdown of the relationship – either through the parties deciding to end their relationship or the death of one of them – which should be considered and written into a binding agreement.
Time spent preparing these documents in advance can be of crucial importance in the future when rights and responsibilities are being determined by the parties themselves or perhaps by a court of law, and a little money spent in preparation now can result in huge savings and avoid unpleasant surprises in the future.
WHAT IS A SEPARATION AGREEMENT?
A Separation Agreement is a contract between two spouses in which they determine the rights and obligations that will govern their post-spousal relationship. It is enforceable through the family law courts in Ontario and can be filed with the Family Responsibility Office for the collection of support payments. As a contract, it is private between the parties (unless filed with the court) and generally is less expensive in terms of costs and time than a formal court proceeding. Also, as a contract, it is negotiated between the parties, ideally with the help of their lawyers, and must be signed by each of them of their own free will in order to be enforceable. We can help you to address the important issues such as:
- What will happen to your home? Is it a “matrimonial home” and do you only have the one?
- Who will have custody of the children to make the decisions in their lives? Will it be shared custody or will one party have more say than the other?
- If the children are living mostly with one parent, how much time will the other party have to access the children and how will that be organized?
- Do you need to have a parenting plan to provide you both with a road map of how decision-making will be shared for the children, as well as to help withfiguring out the details of sharing responsibilities and time with the children?
- Who will pay child support and how much will be paid? What about sharing the costs of their activities?
- Are you entitled to spousal support, or do you have a responsibility to pay spousal support? How much will be paid and for how long?
- How will the property and assets acquired by both parties during the relationship be divided between you? How will you share the property, assets and debts that were accumulated by either or both of you during the relationship?
- With every couple, there are those specific issues unique to your relationship that will need to be identified and addressed. What specifically tailored issues do we need to explore and resolve to make this “your” agreement?
Where parties can negotiate productively, collaborate and compromise, the Separation Agreement is often the best answer to address these questions in a timely and cost-effective manner.
DO YOU NEED TO GO TO COURT ON A SEPARATION-RELATED OR OTHER FAMILY LAW ISSUE?
We believe that where people can work out a resolution between them in a collaborative manner and with the assistance of counsel, that is ideal; in this way, we are committed to our Collaborative Family Law Practice, Mediation, Arbitration, and Med/Arb practice when that is appropriate.
But, there are times when a person simply needs to go to court to gain access to the judicial resources and expertise it provides to the public. Perhaps you simply need to go to the court for a simple divorce order after resolving all the other issues through a Separation Agreement. On the other hand, collaboration may not be possible if you require the court to compel the other party to make fair financial disclosure, or address issues they are not willing to negotiate on in good faith such as custody, access, support or property issues. At times, you require specialized orders to address urgent or emergency situations, which carry the power of the law and the promise of police enforcement. It is also sometimes the case that a person simply needsto have their “day in court” to achieve closure and a final order.
In deciding to go to court, as well as preparing for and appearing in court, it is wise to have a lawyer you are comfortable with and have confidence in to provide you with sound legal counsel; this lawyer can thus help you navigate the court process and your evolving responsibilities under court orders as well as the law in general.
We would be pleased to sit down with you to talk about your particular situation and determine what tool best fits your immediate needs, as well as to see whether our firm is a good fit for you in addressing your overall needs and interests.