1. The Decision
You didn't enter your marriage expecting it to end, but here you are. Perhaps it is your decision or you and your spouse reached the decision together. Maybe the decision to separate wasn't even yours. In any case, now you must figure out how to get through the process with as little financial and emotional pain as possible.
2. Read this website
We have a lot of great information about the processes and issues you’ll face. Take your time on our website. It’s free and will help you make the most out of your time with our Newmarket divorce lawyers or Barrie/Orillia if you happen to be in those areas.
3. Book a Consultation
Making the first call to our office is often the hardest step. As you dial, you might be asking yourself: Do I really want to go through with this? Will this lawyer really care about what I need? Can I trust him or her? You'll be pleasantly surprised to find that a real person answers the phone – one that truly cares about your needs. When you meet your lawyer, you will discover that our lawyers are all drawn to family law because we truly love helping people through a difficult time.
4. Pre-meeting Preparation
There are a number of important things to consider when separating from your spouse, such as custody, access, child support, spousal support, division of property and equalization of assets. Before attending your first meeting, review our website so you have some understanding of the issues. Start thinking about creative ways of resolving the issues that will be acceptable to both you and your spouse, but try to remain open to other perspectives and solutions. Don’t become entrenched in “your solution”. We can help you find a solution that works for your family.
5. The Consultation
When you come to our office for your consultation, you will have to complete some paperwork, so come a little earlier. Your lawyer will listen to your story and answer your questions. We want to ensure you know exactly what is involved in the process, and what your legal rights and obligations are before you make any decisions. As the meeting progresses, you will be asked to describe what you want from life and from your agreement. You might not have all the answers, but it helps if you prepare some information beforehand, like estimated income and property values. Bring an initial list of assets and your thoughts about a schedule for the children. Our main goal during the consultation is to answer pressing questions and give you a basic understanding of what is ahead. When you are ready to proceed, you will be asked to sign a retainer agreement, which is a contract between you and us regarding the payment of legal fees. If you aren’t comfortable retaining us immediately, that’s okay. We will keep your information on file and you can come back when you are ready. You are under no obligation to retain us immediately.
6. Narrow the issues
Some clients are able to resolve all of the outstanding issues without our assistance. If you are able to do so, we will offer our advice on the resolution you have reached and then do a Separation Agreement for you which details the terms of agreement using proper legal language. Some have a few issues to resolve and others need our help to resolve everything. Whatever you need, we are ready to help.
To ensure your agreement is legally binding, we need to ensure there is full disclosure exchanged between you and your spouse. By that we mean you have to exchange documentary proof of all assets and debts you owned or jointly-owned on the date of marriage and date of separation. We also need to exchange proof of your income (tax returns for the last three years and a recent pay stub). The legal document we use to summarize the disclosure is called a Financial Statement. To keep your costs to a minimum, our law clerks will work with you to accumulate the proper disclosure and completion of the Financial Statement. Sometimes clients waive the necessity of disclosure but we recommend you don’t do this.
Negotiations can take various forms. We have articles on this website about each method outlining the pros and cons of each.
To summarize, your choices are:
a) Kitchen Table: you and your spouse negotiate around the kitchen table on your own. Once resolved, you meet with your lawyer who will offer advice and then create a separation agreement.
b) Mediation: you and your spouse work with a neutral person who assists you to discuss the issues but cannot offer legal advice or make the decisions. Once resolved, you will meet with your lawyer for advice and then your lawyer will create a separation agreement.
c) Collaborative Process: you and your spouse work together with specially trained lawyers and other professionals to create a win-win resolution of the issues without going to court. In fact, if one of you decides to go to court, you both have to get new lawyers and start over. Once resolved, your lawyers will create a separation agreement. We strongly believe this is the best process.
d) Cooperative Process: your lawyer will send emails or letters to the other lawyer attempting to negotiate a settlement. Sometimes, four-way meetings are conducted to negotiate agreements. Failing agreement, you often end up in court or arbitration. If resolved by negotiations, your lawyer will create a separation agreement. If not resolved, you will end up in court which is not desirable.
f) Court: The court process is slow and costly and the results are uncertain. You are giving the decision-making powers to the judges. This is a last resort. We do our best to keep your case out of the court system.
9. Separation Agreement
Once you and your spouse have agreed to the terms, the details are drawn up in a Separation Agreement. This is a legally binding document, but it does not get filed at court unless you or your spouse does not live up to the terms of the agreement. A separation agreement can be changed if both of you decide the original document no longer meets your needs. Of course, both parties must agree to the changes, or undergo further negotiations to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution. The new terms are then drawn up in an amending agreement. Usually, agreements regarding the division of property and equalization payments are never changed. Changes regarding custody, access and child support may be necessary, as the children grow older. If circumstances change and the agreement allows for it, spousal support can also be changed.
Divorce is the final step in the process. Once approved by the court, the Divorce Order formally ends the legal marriage. Obtaining the Divorce Order is a relatively simple process. It is usually ordered on the basis of having been separated for one year. One person completes the documentation requesting the divorce and the other person is served with a copy. They don’t need to do anything but accept service. Eventually, documentation is filed at court and it is sent for the judge’s approval. Divorces take about 5 to 8 months to process.
Our law firm focusses on supporting clients through the divorce process. Our divorce lawyers can help you through this transition in a cost-effective, efficient manner minimizing the cost and pain.