FAQ

Consultations

  • What can I expect at the consultation?
  • Do I need to bring anything to the consultation?
  • Is there a fee for the consultation?
  • Do I really need a lawyer?
  • My spouse and I already reached an agreement. Do we still need a lawyer?
  • Can you meet with both of us?

The consultation is an opportunity for you to meet a lawyer and discuss your case. At Lakhani Law, we believe in providing you with quality information during your consultation. Generally our consultations are one hour. This is because we don’t feel that thirty minutes enough time for an in-depth consultation.

As you approach the date of your consultation, you will likely think of a number of questions you want to ask the lawyer. As is often the case, most people are so overwhelmed by this process and the “data dump” of information, that they forget many of the questions they wanted to ask. We suggest that you write down your questions so that you have a list ready and don’t forget anything. There’s no such thing as a dumb or stupid question. You are also welcome to bring a support person with you to help you remember questions and information.

Yes. Once we contact you personally by phone (at no charge) to confirm that your matter is something we can assist with, you can book an in-person consultation and there is fee for this meeting of $250 plus HST. During the in person consult, we will be providing you with in-depth information that is specific to your matter and give you our suggestions on what process to select for your matter. Our consultations are approximately an hour in length, so that we have sufficient time to ask questions and gain the information you need to move forward with the next step.

It is strongly recommended that both you and your partner hire lawyers. Family law is very complex and deal with all of the important aspects of life including one’s children, home, finances, support, pension, to name a few. Trying to navigate this process without a lawyer to guide you can add addition challenges and stress to an already difficult situation. If costs are a concern, speak to us about how to keep your legal fees to a minimum.

We love hearing that spouses are able to part amicably. Hiring a lawyer doesn’t mean that you can’t still speak to your spouse, in fact, we encourage it. The role of a family lawyer is to help you navigate the nuances of family law and it’s multitude of different legislation. We will ensure that the agreement you reached with your spouse is fair and equitable to both of you, so that any agreement you sign is entered into with a comprehensive understanding of your rights and responsibilities. We also help you firm up the agreement, so that it doesn’t risk being “set aside” by a court at a later date if either party is no longer happy with the deal. In fact, the lack of independent legal advice is a ground for seeking that an agreement be set aside by a Court.

If you are looking for mediation services, yes. If you are interested in mediation services, please refer to our mediation services link.

If you are looking for legal advice, the short answer is no. The Law Society of Ontario does not permit a family law lawyer to advice both parties in a family dispute. This is because part of a lawyer’s job is to look out for the best interests of our clients. Seeing both parties would be a conflict of interest. Each party to an agreement should have independent legal advice (ILA) from separate lawyers. This is also a crucial component for the integrity and enforceability of any agreement.

Process

  • How much will this cost?
  • How long will this take?

This is a common question. Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer. Generally speaking, cases that are amicable will often settle quicker, which usually translates into a cost savings to you. Going to court costs more than the alternatives to court, but sometimes court is necessary. We will make every effort to settle your case as quickly and cost-efficiently as possible. We believe that we should treat a client’s money as we treat our own. We would also be happy to speak to you about full retainers vs. limited retainers.

The short answer is that there is no set time for how long this process will take. Some cases settle very quickly and are resolved in less than a year. Other cases unfortunately can take considerably longer to reach a final settlement, either because one party is being difficult, because the cases is extremely complicated, or because of delays with the court’s schedule. We understand that this process is stressful, and we will endeavour to help you reach a final resolution as quickly as possible.

Separation & Divorce

  • How do I file for legal separation?
  • What is the difference between separation and divorce?

In Ontario you do not have to file for legal separation.

Separation marks the end of the relationship, whereas divorce marks the legal end of the marriage. This can be a confusing concept for many people. When parties are separated, they file their taxes as separated, they manage their finances separately, they live their lives as though they were single, but they are still legally married to their estranged spouse. Parties may even live as a separated couple under the same roof. A divorce legally ends the marriage. While this may seem like a trivial distinction, it can be very important in other areas, such as medical benefit coverage, remarriage, and estate entitlement.

Court and Alternatives to Court

  • What happens if we go to court?
  • Do children ever come to court or speak to the judge?
  • Do we have to go to court?
  • We can’t reach an agreement ourselves, but we don’t want to go to court. Are there other options?

The court process has several steps before a case reaches a trial. Fortunately, approximately 95% or more of family law cases settle before ever needing a trial. The family court system is set up to assist parties in reaching resolution much soon. At Lakhani Law we are effective at avoiding the cost and stress of Court in most cases. If a case had to progress through the Court, the following are the typical steps:

  • A court Application would be started and served on the other party
  • The other spouse would file a response (an Answer)
  • A Reply may be filed
  • The first court date, known as a Case Conference, would be scheduled (depending on the court this can take anywhere from two to four months) – some cases have multiple case conference if the judge deems fit
  • A Motion may be scheduled, if needed
  • A further court date, known as a Settlement Conference, would be scheduled (again, depending on the court this can take anywhere from two to four months)
  • If the case has not settled by this stage, then a Trial Management Conference or Trial Scheduling Court would be booked. At this stage the case will begin the preliminary preparation for trial
  • A trial will be heard. Depending on the court, you will either be given a fixed date (or series of dates) for the trial, or you will be place on a “trial sittings list” and will be “on call” during the trial sittings

As much as possible, children should be kept insulated from the legal aspects of your separation from your partner. Remember that when all is said and done, your children will still need both of their parents in their lives. We strive to keep you and your children’s best interests as the central focus of each step of your case.

In cases where it is appropriate and/or necessary, there are ways to go about hearing the children’s views and opinions. This can be done in one of several ways:

  • If your case is in court, a Judge may request the involvement of the Office of the Children’s Lawyer (OCL), a government agency who will assign a lawyer and/or social worker to meet with the parents, the children, and selected third-parties and put forward recommendations with respect to the children.
  • If your case is not in court, or if the OCL declines to become involved, and it is not clear what the children want, where it is age appropriate both parties may agree to privately retain an expert to meet with your child(ren) and any other necessary parties, to provide a report known as a “voice of the child” report.

No, you don’t have to go to court. As much as possible, we prefer to keep cases out of court and explore alternative methods to settle your matter. It is said that more than 99% of family law cases in Ontario settle before going to trial. Rather than negotiating in the hallways of the courthouses, it is much better to stay out of court all together. A settlement meeting in our office with the other party and their lawyer is really the ideal way to get to a resolution.

Yes! There are a number of wonderful alternatives to court:

  • Negotiation – Both parties and their lawyers engage in discussions and meetings in an effort to reach a resolution. More information about the negotiation process can be found on here on our website
  • Collaborative – Both parties and their collaborative lawyers engage in a series of meetings, often with a neutral third party, and work through all of the issues arising from the separation. Further information about the collaborative process can be found on our website
  • Mediation/Arbitration – Both parties hire an agreed-upon third party, generally an experienced family lawyer, to act as a neutral third party and assist the parties through the process. During mediation, the third party will assist the parties and their lawyers in reaching an agreed-upon resolution. If mediation is unsuccessful, then the neutral third party will act in a judicial capacity and make a final and binding decision, which is akin to a judge at a trial. Additional information about mediation/arbitration is available on our website

Common Law Families

  • What is a “common-law” couple?
  • Does the law treat common-law couples differently than married couples?

A common-law couple are two people who are in a committed relationship that live together but are not married. Although CRA requires couples to file as “common-law” after living together for one year, the Family Court considers a cohabiting couple to be “common-law” after three years of cohabitation or sooner if they have a natural or adoptive child together.

Yes and no. In terms of custody/access, child support, and spousal support, the law treats common-law couples the same as married couples. Where the law differs significantly is with respect to property claims. Common-law couples are not automatically entitled to division of property, and there a special set of laws that apply to property claims made by common-law couples.

Custody / Access

  • What is the difference between custody and access?

Custody deals with the decision-making for the child(ren), although it is often incorrectly interpreted to mean the child(ren)’s primary residence. Access refers to the time that parents spend with the child(ren). The term access is being used less and less, and more often you will see it being referred to as Primary Residence/Secondary Residence, or Shared Parenting (which all relate to the amount of time the child(ren) live with a parent.

Other Issues

  • Can I remove my former spouse from my policies?
  • Do I need a new Will and Powers of Attorney?
  • Can I divide CPP?
  • My spouse and I have separated. What does this mean for our taxes?

It is best to speak to a lawyer before making any major changes to your health benefits, and beneficiaries. You may be required to maintain your former spouse as a beneficiary for a life insurance policy to secure support. There may also be issues if you remove your former spouse from your health benefits without notice. These sudden changes can cause additional difficulties in your case. It is always best to consult with a lawyer before making any major changes.

Absolutely! Unless you want to leave everything to your former spouse upon your death, you definitely need to make a new Will. Separation and divorce do not void your existing Will and Powers or Attorney. You should speak with a lawyer who is experienced with Wills and Estates to prepare new documents. Keep in mind that as a result of your separation or divorce, you may be required to make certain provisions in your Will, so it is best to speak to a family lawyer as well as an estates lawyer.

Yes, upon separation or divorce, either you or your former spouse can apply for a division of CPP that were accumulated during the length of the relationship. For more information, please visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/publicpensions/cpp/cpp-split-credits.html

For tax-related advice, it is best to speak with an accountant. The Government of Canada also has some helpful information on their website:

https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/individuals/topics/about-your-tax-return/tax-return/completing-a-tax-return/personal-address-information/marital-status.html