Going through a divorce is never easy. For many people who’ve experienced a divorce, it is a difficult and sometimes traumatizing experience. However, our team of professional and experienced lawyers here at Galbraith Family Law understands what you are going through. It can be complicated trying to comprehend the legal procedure of separation or divorce, but we are here to ease you through the process and to make it as clear and straightforward as possible.
A big part of working through the breakdown of a relationship is understanding the process so you can take it one step at a time, avoiding as much overwhelm as possible. To help you with this process we’ve outlined a few key terms and stages, defined what they all mean, and what to expect for each part of the divorce proceedings.
1. Resolution stage
Every divorcing couple has their issues, and its best to start by addressing any problems at the start. There are a few different ways you and your spouse can choose to resolve any issues or conflicts you may be having:
- Kitchen table talk: is when you and your spouse talk about the issues you may be experiencing at the kitchen table after the kids have gone to sleep. This is when you and your spouse resolve your issues on your own. Your lawyer will then create a legally binding separation agreement that reflects the terms agreed upon.
- Mediation: is when you and your spouse meet with a neutral third party (or mediator) to get advice on any problems and issues you’re experiencing so you can arrive at a mutual agreement. This includes anything you and your spouse are currently having a problem with such as child/family problems or property issues. The mediator is not there to give legal advice or tell you what to do, but they are there to help guide you and your spouse through resolving the issues you have in order for you to create your own solutions. This is an especially helpful process if you and your spouse are having a difficult time discussing the division of assets, child support and custody plan, etc. Your lawyer will then give you advice and create a legally binding separation agreement to finalize the matter.
- Collaborative Process: is when you and your spouse choose to work with a team of professionals to help resolve your issues without going to court. To keep costs at a minimum, you will each work with a financial specialist to help with any financial issues and a family coach to work through the emotional issues too. Each person has their own lawyer. There is a commitment to resolve the issues without going to court. The final agreement is incorporated into a separation agreement.
- Cooperative Process: is when your lawyer and your spouse’s lawyer email one another to reach a fair agreement. There may be four-way meetings between you and your lawyer and your spouse and their lawyer as well. Eventually, a separation agreement finalizes the process.
- Mediation / Arbitration: is only necessary if mediation does not work for you and your spouse to reach an agreement. If you and your spouse can not find a resolution through mediation, your mediator then becomes your arbitrator with the powers of a judge. They may hold a hearing in their office where the lawyers and clients involved will need to make their case and urge the arbitrator in their favour. Arbitration is very similar to the court process with similar rules and regulations. Eventually the arbitrator makes a decision which is legally binding on you.
- Court: is a last resort when a divorcing couple cannot resolve their issues. Typically, it’s best to be avoided as it can be expensive and time consuming. The issues you and your spouse are having difficulty resolving are taken to court and a judge makes a decision that is binding on you and the other party. It is often costly and slower but when it is needed, we will help you protect your legal rights in family court.
2. Division of Assets
During the resolution process, many of the issues that surface is “who gets what” in the divorce. This includes everything you and your spouse may own together including property, pensions and other assets. The key is to find a balance between the two parties. It shouldn’t be about “who gets what” but more about how you can divide the assets equally and fairly
between you and your spouse in a way that makes sense. We can help you. First we need to determine the value of every asset and debt and then we will help you resolve the division of property.
3. Separation agreement
Once an agreement has been made and issues have been resolved during the resolution stage, your divorce lawyer will then put together a separation agreement. This agreement will then be reviewed by you, your spouse, and their lawyer. This document will be one of the most important agreements you ever sign. That means we advise you to be extremely careful when reviewing the agreement before signing it. A separation agreement is a legally binding document and written record of how you and your spouse have settled the issues related to your separation. It is often easier to settle your case with a separation agreement than it is to have it drag out in court – making the divorce take longer and more expensive for both parties. A separation agreement will deal with everything from how you’ve divided your assets and debt to child custody and support plans. If you’re not able to settle into an agreement at this stage in the process you can take your debate to court.
4. Child Support Plan
A child support plan outlines how much each spouse will pay in child support. Many separating couples tend to overlook this step, resulting in a future conflict of unreasonable or unfair conditions. That is why having a written and signed child support agreement is important. By having a child support agreement, there is less chance of a misunderstanding and it’s also easier to enforce when there is a written and signed agreement if one side or the other doesn’t keep to their word.
The amount of child support is based on the payor’s income and the number of children. It varies from province to province. In addition to base child support, the extracurricular costs are shared in proportion to incomes of the parents.
5. Child Custody Plan
Thinking about child custody during a divorce can be extremely difficult for some people. Spouses may have very different ideas as to what is best for their children and therefore this part of the divorce process can get heated very quickly. This stage of the process determines whether you will have joint or sole custody of your children as well as visitation rights and how much time each parent will spend with their kids. It’s crucial to work with an experienced lawyer at this stage of the divorce, especially if you and your spouse are having a difficult time agreeing on custody rights. It’s even more important to realize that your children had nothing to do with your relationship breaking down and that they should never feel held hostage between both parties during or after your divorce.
6. Finalizing Divorce
This is the last stage of the process. In Ontario, a divorce isn’t finalized until a judge has granted a divorce order. You have to apply to the court for the order. After the divorce is ordered, you are officially divorced and ready to move forward with your life. You are free to remarry and give it another try.
The decision to end a marriage is not an easy choice to make and is definitely not an easy process to walk through. However, with our assistance at Galbraith Family Law, we can help you through each step of your divorce from negotiation to the finalization. Our experienced family law team understands what you are going through and we have years of experience to help you get through this difficult time with ease. Whether you’ve started down the path and are stuck trying to resolve the issues, or you’re in need of a divorce lawyer to represent you in court, give us a call at (705) 727-4242. Together we’ll deal with the overwhelm, the documents, the issues, and the emotions to get everything resolved one step at a time.