Family Law

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Divorce and Separation
Marriage or Separation Agreements
Child Custody and Support
Property Division

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Family Law

We provide legal advice and represent clients in family law matters at all levels of courts in Ontario. We regularly represent clients at trials, on appeals and Alternative Dispute Resolution processes (ADR), such as negotiations, mediations and arbitrations. At Bykov Empel Law, we vigorously pursue every possible option in an effort to secure the best possible outcome for our clients and work hard to obtain an order that provides the greatest benefit to our clients and their children.

We specialize and represent clients in family law matters in areas including:

Separation and Divorce can be a difficult and uncertain time. Our team of Toronto family lawyers is dedicated to relentlessly pursue our clients’ interests and goals, and getting outstanding results. Our clients turn and rely on us for timely and effective legal advice and representation. If you intend to apply for divorce, it is highly recommended to consult an experienced family lawyer to determine what is the best way to proceed in your particular case.

Only the court can grant you a divorce. There are three grounds for divorce based on which the court can grant you a divorce. If you and your spouse have been leaving separate and apart for at least one year, if one spouse threatened the other with physical and/or metal cruelty to the point that cohabitation is unbearable or if one of the spouses committed adultery. The majority of divorces are granted based on the fact that spouses have been living separate and apart for at least one year. Depending on circumstances of your case, you might not even have to go to court. It is important to consult with our team of lawyers and obtain legal advice before you initiate divorce proceedings.

When married spouses decide to divorce or separate, more often than not spouses will come to the point when they will have to divide property that they have accumulated during marriage. In Ontario, this procedure is known as Equalization. It involves valuation of all property, including but not limited to, matrimonial home, savings, bonds, stocks, RRSPs, pensions, vehicles and other property. After all property owned by both spouses has been valued and calculated, then it will be necessary to subtract all liabilities and determine net family property for each spouse. The spouse whose amount is higher will be obligated to pay the other spouse whose family property amount is lesser. However, there are certain provisions of Ontario Family Law Act that deal with exclusions and deductions of property from the equalization payment.

With respect to unmarried couples, which are often referred to as common law relationships, the law in Ontario treats these coupes differently compared to married couples. However, if you are in a common law relationship, it does not mean that you do not have any rights with respect to property that was acquired during the period of the relationship. Depending on circumstances of your case, you might have rights to the property if you can establish that you and your common law spouse had joint family venture or that you have rights under the legal doctrine of constructive trust. These areas of law are very complex, since a successful outcome of your claim will depend on evidence and application of the law. In order to ensure that your rights are protected, it is imperative to obtain a legal advice from an experienced lawyer. At Bykov Empel Law, we make sure that the rights of our clients are protected when it comes to division of family property.

A separation agreement is the written record of how a couple has settled issues arising from the end of their relationship. Sometimes, parties are able to work out the terms of their separation by writing them down in a separation agreement. For most spouses, these issues include:

  • Who the children should live with and how decisions about the care of the children will be made
  • How the spouses will share the children’s time
  • How the spouses will cover the children’s financial needs
  • Whether a spouse is entitled to financial help, and, if so, who should provide help and in what amount
  • For married spouses and unmarried spouses who have lived together for at least two years, how property will be divided
  • How responsibility for debts will be shared

If you can manage to settle these issues, you should consider making a separation agreement for two reasons. First, separation agreements are legal contracts that can be enforced by a court. Second, it’s much cheaper and quicker to resolve these issues by an agreement rather than in court.

A separation agreement is a contract that you must honour. You should speak to a lawyer to ensure you understand the legal consequences of your decisions. It is important that you understand what the separation agreement says and that you agree to it. A lawyer can help you review your separation agreement before you sign it.

You can file a copy of the separation agreement with a court, but you do not have to. If you and your former partner have both received independent legal advice and agreed to the terms of your separation agreement, you do not need to go to court. A separation agreement must be signed by both of you in front of a witness for it to be legal. The witness must sign the agreement too.

Separation agreements can have a serious and ongoing impact on your rights and obligations. Therefore, it is always a good idea to have a lawyer prepare your separation agreement. The cost of preparation of a separation agreement depends on how complicated your situation is. To save time and money, take as much information with you as you can when you come to a lawyer. For example, some of the documents you should bring are the following:

  • Income tax returns
  • Paystubs
  • Documents about the house and mortgage
  • Documents related to other assets, such as RRSPs, investment accounts and savings accounts
  • Documents relating to any debts, including credit cards and lines of credit
  • Other financial information

Also, think about what your financial needs are and consider preparing a list of your monthly expenses before you go. This way you will be given an informed advice about financial matters. No matter how complex your situation is, lawyers at Bykov Empel Law have the necessary knowledge and experience, and are well prepared to draft and review your separation agreement with you.

Marriage contracts and cohabitation agreements (which are also sometimes referred to as prenuptial agreements) set out how a couple will deal with issues that may come up during marriage, separation or divorce, including property division and spousal support. These contracts outline each spouse’s rights and responsibilities in the relationship, and define their intentions regarding these rights and responsibilities. These contracts are often entered into by people going into a second marriage or by people who have substantial assets.

For any marriage contract or cohabitation agreement to be valid, it is necessary for both spouses to exchange full financial disclosure. In other words, if one spouse is not fully aware of the true financial situation of the other, such spouse can challenge the validity of the contract. Also, it is necessary that each party to the contract obtain independent legal advice prior to signing the contract. What usually happens is that one of the spouses retains a lawyer who drafts a contract, then it is provided to the second spouse who reviews it with his or her own lawyer and, if there are no issues with its contents, signs the contract.

If you are entering into a domestic contract or cohabitation agreement, it is in your best interests to have it reviewed by an experienced family law lawyer who understands all aspects of the agreement and legislation to ensure that your rights are fully protected. Lawyers at Bykov Empel Law are experienced in the negotiation and preparation of domestic contracts and are available to provide you with the competent legal advice. If your spouse presents you with a proposed cohabitation agreement or marriage contract, our experienced lawyers will review the agreement, provide you with legal advice regarding your rights and responsibilities under the contract, and assist you with negotiating its terms to ensure that your rights are protected.

To learn more about marriage contracts and cohabitation agreements, call us today at 416-519-3259 to schedule your initial free consultation.

Often, children are found in the middle of a legal battle when parents go through separation. This is a very challenging and unpleasant time both for the children and their parents. If parents cannot agree on issues of custody or access and cannot settle the terms, the last resort is to apply to court. Court proceedings are highly stressful and emotionally charged, since the Court has to decide what is in the best interests of a child. The Court takes into consideration a variety of factors, including whether there was any violence committed against the child or the other parent.

This is a very sensitive and complicated area of law, where success of your case depends on specific evidence, interpretation and application of the law. Therefore, it is very important to speak with a qualified lawyer about the circumstances of your case as soon as you and your partner decide to separate. In addition, in some cases you will need to act very fast in order to obtain a court order against your former spouse. The preliminary court orders can be obtained if your spouse threatens you or the child, or if there is a realistic threat that your spouse will remove the child from the jurisdiction where you reside without your consent. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to bring such an emergency motion before the court, or if you need to defend your rights as a parent, call us immediately at 416-519-3259 and schedule your free consultation.

A spouse or parent may have to pay support because of a court order or separation agreement, but may not pay the support as required. When the payor stops making payments, a debt begins to accumulate to the recipient.

A court order for the payment of support is a mandatory direction of the court. Therefore, an individual can take steps to enforce a court order. A separation agreement, on the other hand, is a private contract between spouses. To enforce a separation agreement, it must first be filed in court. Once it is filed, it can be enforced in the same way as a court order. To collect arrears of support, a person can try to enforce a court order or separation agreement in court him/herself, or he/she can get help from the Family Responsibility Office.

If the payor has not been making payments, the Family Responsibility Office will first try to work with him/her to develop a payment plan for the amount that is owed, while making ongoing support payments. If the payor does not enter into a payment plan, the Family Responsibility Office can take enforcement action against him/her, including:

  • garnishing bank accounts and money the payor receives from the Government of Canada (i.e. income tax refunds, employment insurance benefits, CPP benefits, etc.)
  • reporting the payor to the credit bureau
  • suspending driver’s licences and Canadian passports or other federal licences
  • placing a lien on personal property
  • issuing a writ of seizure and sale for property the payor owns
    reporting the payor to his/her professional or occupational organization(s)
  • starting a Default Hearing, which could result in up to 180 days of jail time
  • and other measures

Lawyers at Bykov Empel Law can help you navigate through various family law rules and help you understand your options when it comes to enforcement of support payments.

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