Family & Estates
Divorce matters typically involve resolving issues relating to children, support and property matters between couples. The course this takes often depends on how cooperative the parties wish to be. Our family law lawyers are equipped to help you navigate your divorce regardless of whether it is amicable or highly contentious. Canadian law accepts that it is not appropriate to force parties to remain married against their will. A divorce can be granted based on separation for one year or longer or on the basis of grounds of infidelity or physical, mental or emotional cruelty, which may include substance abuse.
Property acquired during a marriage is generally divided equally. There are some exemptions and there are some situations that give rise to other considerations. Valuing property for division or allocation can be an issue. Minimizing tax effects may also be a concern. Our family law lawyers have experience with all types of property division matters from straightforward to complex, high net worth scenarios. Depending on the type of assets involved we can work closely with other advisors such as Chartered Business Valuators, Appraisers and Actuaries when necessary.
Spousal support is often the most contentious factor in a family law dispute. This is a challenging issue in terms of both determining what the correct payment might be, how long it should be paid or whether there are alternate ways to address the compensatory or non-compensatory spousal support issues. Spousal support may have tax considerations as well that should be properly addressed.
How parents will share time with their children after they cease to live together is often the most emotional issue between parties. Considerations of attachment theory, fairness to the children as well as to the parents, conflict management, and parenting styles are all elements to consider.
The Federal and Alberta Child Support Guidelines have reduced the uncertainty about the appropriate level of child support. Child support is taxable in the hands of the payor and tax free to the recipient. Issues can arise when there are claims for retroactive child support or if one or both parties is self employed or earns income through a closely held corporation. Child Support for adult children is another area where issues can arise.
If there is persistent conflict, and particularly physical contact, it may be necessary to consider whether a court order is necessary to keep the parties apart. Often the Emergency Protection Order (EPO) is obtained by one party without a lawyer. When the EPO comes up for further court review, there may be other options that will achieve the necessary cooling off without the police involvement, depending on the circumstances. Our lawyers can help you navigate this difficult process.
Prenuptial and Cohabitation Agreements should be considered at the start of a relationship. Many people make certain assumption about how property and income will be dealt with if a relationship ends and are surprised when they obtain legal advice on those issues. If you have property or income that you wish to address in some fashion other than what the law may prescribe if the relationship ends, you should consider one of these agreements. These agreements are often a good idea if you are entering a second marriage, if you are living together and want to keep your finances separate or if you expect to inherit significant property in future or have a family business or agricultural property to protect.
We are proud to say that Canada was one of the first countries in the world to legalize same sex marriages. Canadian divorce law applies equally to LGTBQ and heterosexual couples. The Alberta Adult Interdependent Relationships Act does the same for those people who are not married but who are in what is commonly known as a “common law” relationship.
In our mobile world, parents may not live in the same country. We have experience in pursuing claims under the Hague Convention on the International Abduction of the Child protocols and enforcing support between jurisdictions. We also have access to lawyers in many jurisdictions through our membership in Mackrell International.
Although a court proceeding is necessary to finalize your divorce, most parties enter into some form of alternate dispute resolution to address the matters between them. Mediation is a guided process to assist you and your former partner in reaching a settlement that works for you and your family. Arbitration is usually used for those issues where the parties cannot agree. It could encompass all issues or it could be focused on issues that remain after a broader agreement is reached.
WILLS AND ESTATES
By planning for the transfer of your estate, you may be able to ensure that your wishes are met or minimize tax to allow your beneficiaries to enjoy an inheritance. If you have significant assets or wish to manage intergenerational transfers, a Family Trust or other trust might be a tax effective tool for you.
A primary financial tool is your will. Everyone should have one! We can help you get this in place and ensure that it reflects your wishes.
A personal directive allows you to identify who can make personal decisions for your health care or other personal matters if you are unable to do so. It will save your family from the time and expense of seeking a Guardianship Order from the court if you suddenly lack capacity. It can also communicate your wishes to your family or others to ensure that they have guidance in making those decisions.
A power of Attorney allows someone else to manage a specific financial interest (for example, to sign real estate documents on your behalf because you are out of the country). An Enduring Power of Attorney appoints someone to manage your financial affairs when you are unable to do so due to a disability. It saves your family the time and expense of seeking a Trusteeship Order from the court after you lack capacity and allows you to make choices about how your affairs will be handled.