Wealth Management and Divorce

It is no secret that divorce has significant financial implications. Proper wealth management during and after divorce can help ensure financial stability.

Understanding the Financial Impact of Divorce

Divorce not only affects personal lives but also has a profound impact on finances. Splitting assets, debts, and determining spousal or child support can be complex and contentious. The goal is to achieve an equitable distribution that respects both parties’ contributions and future needs.

Key Financial Considerations

  1. Asset Division: Understanding matrimonial property division is crucial.  Equalization is a consistent, one-size fits all financial calculation that applies to married spouses who are separating. It can involve complicated issues such as business valuations, marginal tax rates, and average tax rates. For example, pensions, RRSPs, and corporate assets may not be paid in one year due to their tax implication. This in turn can impact property division. There may be need for expert valuators for some assets. Additionally, experts may be needed to explore scenarios where assets are sold or transferred over a number of years, where butterfly transactions are entertained in the case of corporations. It is also important to prevent “double dipping” where assets and income overlap.
  2. Alimony and Child Support: Determining fair spousal support and child support involves evaluating each party’s income, lifestyle, and financial needs. These payments aim to ensure financial stability for the lower-earning spouse and the well-being of the children. Fairness to the paying spouse is also an important consideration.

Steps to Effective Wealth Management

  1. Financial Inventory: Begin with a thorough inventory of all assets, liabilities, income, and expenses. This provides a clear picture of the financial situation, aiding in fair division and future planning. Form 13.1, a standard court form, is routinely used in out-of-court and in-court negotiations at the start of this process.
  2. Valuation of Assets: Accurate valuation of assets, including real estate, investments, retirement accounts, and businesses, is essential.
  3. Tax Implications: Understanding the tax implications of asset division and spousal support payments is crucial. In complex cases, equalization payments are explored using multiple scenarios with payments taking place over various time frames, and where specific assets are liquidated to make the equalization payment. These scenarios additionally factor in the tax consequences. CPAs who specialize in divorce can offer strategies to minimize tax burden and maximize financial benefit.
  4. Investment Strategies: Post-divorce, individuals often need to reassess their investment strategies, being mindful that income generated from equalized assets can also count as income for spousal support. It is also important to be mindful of the legal precedents around “double dipping”.

Protecting Your Financial Future

Being proactive can protect your financial future during and after a divorce. Here are some essential tips:

  1. Update Legal Documents: Ensure all legal documents, including wills, trusts, and power of attorney, are updated to reflect new beneficiaries and guardianship preferences.
  2. Credit Management: Monitor your credit report and maintain good credit health. Close joint accounts and open individual ones to safeguard your financial independence.
  3. Insurance Review: Review and update insurance policies, including life, health, and property insurance. Ensure adequate coverage for your new circumstances.
  4. Emergency Fund: Establishing an emergency fund can provide a financial safety net during the transition period and beyond.

Divorce is undoubtedly challenging. However, with careful wealth management, you can navigate this period with financial confidence and stability.

Divorce and Separation During a Recession: Challenges and Solutions

The decision to divorce or separate is never easy, but when compounded by the economic uncertainties of a recession, the process can become even more daunting. Financial instability can magnify the emotional and logistical challenges of ending a marriage, making it crucial to approach the situation with careful planning and informed decision-making.

Understanding the Impact of a Recession on Divorce

Recessions are characterized by widespread financial instability, including job losses, decreased income, and declining asset values. These economic challenges can significantly influence various aspects of divorce or separation:

  1. Asset Division: During a recession, the value of shared assets such as homes, retirement accounts, and investments may decrease. This can complicate the equitable division of property, as the reduced asset values might not reflect the financial landscape at the time the assets were acquired.
  2. Income and Support Payments: Determining spousal and child support becomes more complex when incomes are unstable or reduced. Courts must consider current financial situations and potential future changes, which can lead to more variable support agreements.

In the case of job loss, the ability to pay support, and the need for support can increase. EI does not start making payments immediately and this creates uncertainty for the person who lost their job.

Increased Legal Costs: Legal fees can add up quickly, and during a recession, finding the resources to cover these expenses can be particularly stressful. It is important to seek cost-effective legal advice and explore alternative dispute resolution methods to manage these costs.

Strategies for Managing Divorce During a Recession

  1. Open Communication: Maintaining clear and honest communication with your spouse about your financial situation is essential. This transparency can help reduce misunderstandings and foster a more cooperative environment for negotiating settlements.
  2. Mediation and Collaborative Law: These alternative dispute resolution methods can be less costly and less adversarial than traditional litigation. Mediation and collaborative law emphasize cooperation and negotiation, which can help preserve relationships and financial resources.
  3. Financial Planning: Working with a financial advisor who specializes in divorce can be invaluable. They can help you understand the full financial implications of your decisions, accurately value assets, and create a realistic post-divorce budget.
  4. Adjusting Expectations: Given the economic conditions, you may need to adjust your expectations regarding financial settlements. Flexibility and a willingness to adapt to changing circumstances can lead to more practical and sustainable agreements.
  5. Lifestyle: When people move from a two income, single household to two incomes in two separate households, lifestyles and financial well-being often decline. It is often not possible to maintain your previous lifestyle and adjustments will need to be made.
  6. Child-Centric Approach: Ensuring the well-being of your children should be a top priority. Stability and routine are crucial for their emotional health, especially during times of economic uncertainty. Make decisions that prioritize their needs and provide a sense of security.

Legal Considerations

  1. Asset Valuation: Accurate valuation of assets is critical during a recession. Engaging professionals to provide current valuations and considering potential future market recoveries can help create fairer settlement agreements.
  2. Support Order Modifications: If your financial circumstances change significantly after the divorce, you may need to seek modifications to spousal or child support orders. Courts can adjust support based on substantial changes in income or financial status.
  3. Bankruptcy: Financial hardship during a recession can sometimes lead to bankruptcy. Understanding how bankruptcy intersects with divorce proceedings is important, as it can impact the division of assets and debts.

Divorce or separation is inherently challenging, and the added pressure of a recession can make the process even more complex. However, with careful planning, open communication, and the right legal support, you can navigate these difficult times effectively. Our firm is dedicated to providing compassionate and expert guidance to help you through this journey, ensuring that you and your family can move forward towards a more stable and hopeful future.

If you have any questions or need legal assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are here to help you every step of the way.

Budgeting Legal Services

Budgeting Legal Services: How to Pace Your Case Progression Based on Your Monthly Budget

When engaging legal services, many individuals find themselves concerned about costs. Legal cases can be complex, and the associated expenses can quickly escalate. However, with strategic planning, it is possible to manage costs effectively by pacing the progress of your case in alignment with your monthly budget.

  1. Understand the Billing Structure Legal fees can vary significantly depending on the type of legal services you require. Before you begin your case, ensure you understand your lawyer’s billing structure. This is typically outlined in your contract for legal services. Currently, many lawyers use a combination of fixed fee and hourly billing to provide greater predictability and objectivity to clients to help them better anticipate their fees.
  2. Establish a Budget Once you understand the billing structure, establish a realistic budget for your legal services. For an example, $2000 covers just under 6 hours of legal services at $300/hour after applying sales tax.
  3. Communicate with Your Lawyer Open communication with your lawyer about your budget is crucial. Share your budget constraints and ask for advice on how to pace your case. Your lawyer should be able to help you prioritize the most critical aspects of the case and plan a timeline that aligns with your budget.
  4. Prioritize Critical Actions Work with your lawyer to identify the most critical actions in your case. This may include filing documents within a certain timeframe, obtaining disclosure, or attending court hearings. By focusing on high-priority actions, you can avoid unnecessary expenses and maintain control over the pace of the case. Additionally, explore options for unbundled legal services where you handle parts of your case yourself with coaching from your lawyer. No one has an unlimited budget and unbundled legal services are an appealing option for many.
  5. Consider Phased Progression In some cases, it is possible to break the legal process into phases. This allows you to focus on one phase at a time, limiting costs and providing opportunities to reassess your budget.
  6. Use mediation, out of court negotiations, or handle negotiations yourself as appropriate. Mediation can be more cost-effective than traditional litigation. Handling negotiations yourself while obtaining advice from your lawyer can work well for many. Your lawyer can also advise if out of court negotiations or going to court immediately would be a better option for your budget and the specifics of your case.  Explore alternative dispute resolution options with your lawyer to see if they could help you stay within your budget while resolving your case efficiently.
  7. Review Monthly Invoices Regularly review regular monthly or bimonthly invoices to better understand how billing works so that you can conduct yourself accordingly. Ensure that your lawyer sends you invoices on a regular basis (1-2x per month) so that you can assess how your budget is being used. Be open to discussing you budget using the itemized invoice as a guideline .
  8. Plan for Unexpected Expenses Despite careful planning, unexpected expenses can arise during a legal case. Its wise to set aside a contingency fund to cover these costs. This will help you avoid financial stress if the case requires additional work or takes an unforeseen turn.
  9. Explore Payment Plans If you face a significant expense, ask your lawyer about payment plans or other financing options. Many lawyers are willing to work with clients to create manageable payment schedules.
  10. Maintain Flexibility Finally, remember that flexibility is key when budgeting for legal services. While it is important to pace your case based on your budget, you should also be prepared to adjust your timeline or budget if the situation demands it. This adaptability can make a notable difference in achieving a favorable outcome.

By following these tips, you can effectively budget for legal services and pace your case progression according to your monthly budget. Remember that open communication with your lawyer and careful planning are the cornerstones of successful budget management in legal matters.


Additional Reading:

  1. Unbundled Legal Services
  2. Flexible Payment Plans
  3. Pricing

Matrimonial Home: Possession After Separation


The dissolution of a marriage is a complex and emotionally charged process, and one of the key considerations for couples going through a divorce in Ontario is the right to remain in the matrimonial home. The province has specific laws and regulations that govern the division of property, including the family home. Understanding these rights is crucial for individuals navigating the often challenging terrain of divorce.


The Family Law Act:

In Ontario, the Family Law Act (FLA) is the primary legislation that governs the rights and responsibilities of spouses during a divorce. Under the FLA, the matrimonial home is granted a special status, and both spouses may have certain rights related to its possession and ownership.


Definition of Matrimonial Home:

The FLA defines the matrimonial home as any home that was at the time of separation, ordinarily occupied by the married person and his or her married spouse as their family residence.

This broad definition encompasses various types of properties, including houses, condominiums, and even vacation homes, provided they meet the criteria outlined in the legislation. There can also be more than one matrimonial home, for instance if the parties regularly used a cottage property and also their principal residence.


Possession of the Matrimonial Home:

During the divorce process, the right to possession of the matrimonial home can become a contentious issue. The FLA grants both married spouses an equal right to possession, regardless of legal ownership. This means that even if the home is solely in one spouse’s name, the other spouse still has the right to live there.

However, it’s important to note that this right to possession is not absolute and may be subject to court orders, especially in cases involving domestic violence or other exceptional circumstances. Courts have the discretion to issue exclusive possession orders, temporarily granting one spouse sole occupancy of the matrimonial home.

If the matrimonial home is leased under the Residential Tenancies Act, then similar protections would apply that are subject to landlord tenant law.

The right to possession is also complicated if the home is not owned or covered under the Residential Tenancies Act.

If you are residing with your in-laws, then the in-laws may be able to remove you from their home.

If the home you are residing in military housing and is not covered under the Residential Tenancies Act, then it will be subject to the rules and policies of military housing and it may be possible for the military spouse who is on the lease to remove the military or non-military spouse that is not on the lease.

If the property is a student rental, and not covered under the Residential Tenancies Act, for example, if one spouse is a graduate or medical student who lives in a home that is subsidized through their school and part of a school program, and the school’s housing policies apply, then it may be possible to evict the spouse who is not on the lease.

Possessing the matrimonial home after the date of separation can result in additional financial legal obligations such as occupational rent or contribution to home expenses in varying proportions depending on the living arrangements between spouses.


Equalization of Net Family Property:

When dividing assets during a divorce, the concept of equalization plays a significant role. Ontario’s family law system seeks to ensure that each spouse receives an equal share of the net family property accumulated during the marriage.

The matrimonial home is included in the calculation of net family property, and its value is taken into account when determining the equalization payment owed by one spouse to the other. This ensures a fair distribution of assets, even if one spouse continues to live in the home after the separation.

If the matrimonial home is jointly owned, the courts will typically consider its present day value rather than its value on the date of separation in completing an equalization calculation. However, if it is owned by one party only, they typically consider the date of separation value of the home that can be valued by a certified home appraiser.


Navigating the right to remain in the matrimonial home during a divorce in Ontario involves understanding the intricacies of the Family Law Act. Both spouses have rights related to the possession and equalization of the matrimonial home, and these rights can be complex and subject to various considerations.

Seeking legal advice from a family law professional is crucial to ensuring a fair and equitable resolution. An experienced lawyer can guide individuals through the legal processes, help protect their rights, and provide clarity on the specific circumstances of their case. Understanding the right to remain in the matrimonial home is a vital step toward achieving a just and amicable resolution during a challenging period of transition.


Additional Reading:

  1. Property Division
  2. Divorce With Children
  3. Divorce Without Children
  4. Contested Divorce

Best Interests of the Child: Age and Developmental Stages

Understanding the Best Interests of the Child

Courts employ a holistic approach, taking into account an array of factors to determine the most favorable outcome for the child. These factors typically encompass the child’s physical health, emotional stability, educational needs, their stage of development, and the capacity of each parent to provide a secure and nurturing environment. Of primary concern is the welfare of the child and safeguarding the physical, emotional, and psychological well-being of children amidst familial transitions. Considerations shift with the child’s age and developmental stage.

Age-Related Considerations

  1. Infants and Toddlers (0-2 years): Nurturing Bonds and Routine Building

Infancy is a period of rapid development where the foundation for future relationships is laid. The court’s focus often revolves around preserving the primary caregiver-child bond, which is usually with the biological mother. Courts consider factors such as breastfeeding, if applicable, and the importance of predictable routines for the child’s emotional security.

Furthermore, as infants are highly dependent on consistent care, the court may prioritize a stable living environment and assess each parent’s ability to meet the child’s basic needs. The recognition of the primary caregiver’s role, especially during these formative years, underscores the court’s commitment to fostering healthy attachment and emotional well-being.

  1. Early Childhood (3-6 years): Building Foundations for Learning and Social Interaction

Preschool-aged children are stepping into the realm of early childhood, marked by the beginnings of self-awareness and the development of social skills. Courts acknowledge the importance of stability and routine, ensuring that the child’s environment supports their burgeoning sense of identity and exploration.

Judicial decisions may center around factors such as which parent can provide a nurturing environment conducive to early learning experiences. The court may also consider the extent to which each parent can foster social interactions with peers, recognizing the role of these early relationships in shaping the child’s social and emotional development. It’s during this period of time that fathers typically begin to have overnight visits and depending on the case, equal parenting time.

  1. Middle Childhood (7-11 years): Educational and Social Considerations

As children enter the school years, their educational and extracurricular needs become more pronounced. The court may examine the proximity of parents to the child’s school, recognizing the importance of minimizing disruptions to the child’s education. Additionally, the court may assess each parent’s ability to facilitate homework, engage in school-related activities, and encourage the child’s participation in extracurricular pursuits.

Beyond educational considerations, middle childhood is a stage where the child’s social world expands. The court may look into each parent’s ability to support the child’s friendships, fostering a sense of belonging and social integration. The promotion of a balanced and supportive environment becomes paramount during this critical developmental phase. If a child is particularly interested in extracurriuclar activities and one parent is unwilling or unable to foster their participation, that could be a strong factor in the court’s decision in respect of that child. Once a child turns 7, they are typically seen as less physically vulnerable than younger children and safety concerns that may have applied to younger children tend to be less applicable. For example, consuming things like batteries isn’t a typically age-related concnern.

  1. Adolescence (12-18 years): Balancing Autonomy and Support

Adolescence marks a period of significant change as children transition into young adults. Courts recognize the increasing autonomy and decision-making capacity of adolescents, considering their preferences in custodial arrangements. While taking into account the child’s desires, the court must also ensure that the child’s best interests align with long-term stability, educational goals, and emotional support.

The court may involve older children in the decision-making process, acknowledging their evolving capacity to express their preferences. However, the court remains tasked with balancing the child’s autonomy with the need for a stable and nurturing environment, emphasizing the importance of continued guidance and support during the challenging adolescent years.

To determine a child’s views and preferences, a clinical practitioner such as a social worker or psychologist can conduct a voice of the child report. This is significantly less expensive and involved than a full parenting assessment.
Depending on the assessed maturity of a child, the court may consider the views and preferences of a child as young as 10. Rarely, children under 10 have been deemed mature enough to have their views and preferences taken into account.

Developmental Stage Considerations

  1. Physical Development: Prioritizing Health and Safety

The physical well-being of the child is a cornerstone consideration at every stage of development. Courts assess each parent’s ability to meet the child’s healthcare needs, ensuring access to regular medical check-ups, vaccinations, and prompt attention to any health concerns. The creation of a safe and secure living environment is paramount, with courts examining factors such as the safety of the neighborhood and the overall living conditions provided by each parent.

Furthermore, dietary considerations and the promotion of healthy lifestyle choices become increasingly relevant as the child grows. The court may explore how each parent supports the child’s physical development through nutritious meals, opportunities for physical activity, and access to healthcare resources. These concerns are more significant when a child is younger and more vulnerable.

  1. Emotional and Psychological Development: Nurturing a Secure Emotional Environment

Emotional and psychological well-being is a thread that runs through the fabric of the best interests of the child. Courts closely scrutinize the mental health of each parent, recognizing the pivotal role parents play in shaping the child’s emotional landscape. The ability of each parent to provide a stable and loving emotional environment is paramount, with the court considering factors such as the history of emotional support, consistency in discipline, and the presence of positive role models.

Additionally, in cases where there are concerns about a parent’s mental health, the court may order psychological evaluations to assess the parent’s capacity to meet the child’s emotional needs. This thorough examination ensures that the child is placed in an environment that fosters emotional resilience and stability. Typically, mental health issues that are being treated successfully by a physician with adherence and complaince to a treatment plan are not considered negatively by a court. The diagnosis of cluster B personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, are typically more impactful on the outcome of a parenting case and prejudicial to the parent with the diagnosis.

  1. Educational Development: Fostering a Supportive Learning Environment

Educational development becomes increasingly significant as the child progresses through different stages of schooling. Courts assess each parent’s commitment to facilitating the child’s academic success, looking at factors such as involvement in school activities, attendance at parent-teacher conferences, and the creation of a home environment conducive to learning.

In cases where a child has special educational needs, the court may consider each parent’s ability to provide the necessary support and resources. This could include arranging for additional educational services, coordinating with special education professionals, and creating an environment that accommodates the child’s unique learning requirements.

  1. Social Development: Encouraging Healthy Relationships

As children grow, their social worlds expand, encompassing relationships with peers, family members, and community members. Courts recognize the importance of fostering healthy social development and may consider each parent’s ability to support the child’s friendships and social interactions.

Moreover, the court may assess the quality of the parent-child relationship, ensuring that the child has opportunities for bonding and shared activities with each parent. This extends to the encouragement of positive relationships with extended family members, acknowledging the value of a broad support network in the child’s life.

Understanding that children are dynamic beings with evolving needs, family law adapts its principles to align with the age and developmental stage of each individual. The comprehensive examination of age-related and developmental considerations ensures that legal decisions are nuanced, responsive, and finely attuned to the unique requirements of each child involved in legal proceedings.

As we navigate the delicate balance between protecting the rights of parents and prioritizing the well-being of children, family law continues to evolve. The ongoing dialogue around the best interests of the child encourages a deeper understanding of the complexities inherent in family dynamics. By embracing a holistic approach that considers the age and developmental stage of each child, family law can fulfill its crucial role in nurturing the future generation – safeguarding their physical, emotional, and educational well-being.


Additional reading: