Family Law

G. Acosta Law works closely with families going through separation, cohabitation agreements, property division, child support, and look out for yours and your children’s best interest while enduring this difficult time.

Family Law Practice Areas

Separation

Property Division

Cohabitation Agreements

Child Support

Divorce Application

Spousal Support

Decision Responsibility

Adoptions

Parenting Time

Travel Consents

Separation

Under the law, when a couple lives separate and apart even though they are still legally married, they are deemed to be separated.  You can, however, remain living in the same home but still be considered living separate and apart. The date on which a couple separates will play a vital role in resolving issues such as child support, spousal support and property division. It is typical that you will have many questions about the legal process of separation and filing for divorce. Our firm will ensure that you are fully informed as to your rights and entitlements during this overwhelming and stressful time so that you can feel confident and at ease moving forward.

Cohabitation Agreements

A cohabitation agreement is between two people living together, unmarried, while in a romantic and/or sexual relationship. Many individuals are choosing to cohabitate with their partner rather than get married.  Since unmarried couples are not treated the same way as married couples are under the law, if you choose to cohabitate with your partner, it is important that you are informed as to your rights and entitlements upon cohabitation. Our firm will ensure that you are fully informed and ensure that a properly drafted cohabitation agreement is prepared that protects your interests.

Divorce Application

Divorce is the formal end to a marriage. It is the legal process that a married couple must go through to end their marriage.  The Application for Divorce will set out the reasons for getting a divorce and it will also address issues such as child support, spousal support, property division and parenting arrangements. If there are children of the marriage, a court will only grant a divorce if adequate and reasonable child support arrangements have been made for the children. Everyone’s divorce process looks different so it is important that you immediately contact a lawyer to get informed as to the appropriate steps preceding your divorce. Our firm will ensure that these steps and processes are taken to ensure that you obtain a divorce order.

Decision-Making Responsibility

Formerly Known As Custody

Decision-making responsibility is not about which parent the children live with – where the children reside is called residency. Decision making responsibility is about who will make important decisions about the care and well-being of the child. A parent who has sole  decision-making responsibility can make important decisions about a child’s care, education, health care, and religion. If the parents share decision-making responsibility, both parents must agree on important decisions. 

Sometimes, it is not practical to have shared decision making if one parent is abusive or if the parties do not communicate well. In these circumstances, seeking sole decision making responsibility or having one parent make the final decision after meaningful consultation with the other parent may be in the best interest of the child.  

Our firm will assess your matter and help you determine what is the optimal arrangement in your circumstance, always keeping in mind the law’s main tenor of what is in the child’s best interest.

Parenting Time

Formerly Known As Access

Parenting Time, formerly known as access, is about who the child spends his/her time with when parents separate and subsequently divorce. Every parent has the right to visit or be visited by their child, so it is important to devise a parenting schedule that will give each parent the opportunity to spend meaningful time with their child, including holidays and special occasions. While in some cases, it may be a 60/40 split (or less) in other cases, it may be a shared parenting arrangement with each parent having equal parenting time with the children.

There are circumstances where it is not ideal for a parent to have parenting time with a child or parenting time must be supervised by a third party if there are safety concerns. In these circumstances, you may need a court order to stop or curtail the other parent’s parenting time.

Our firm will assess your matter and help you determine what is the best parenting schedule in your circumstance, keeping in mind what is in the child’s best interest.

Property Division/Equalization

Upon the breakdown of a marriage, the law is structured in a way to ensure that each party leaves the marriage on an equal footing; that both parties are entitled to equally share in the accumulation of wealth during the marriage. To determine the division in finances, each party must complete a Financial Statement setting out all assets and liabilities. This exercise will provide the party’s Net Family Property (NFP) value. Once both parties have disclosed their NFP, an equalization payment is determined. This means the party with the higher NFP value will make a payment to the spouse with the lower NFP in order to balance their finances.

Sometimes parties take it upon themselves to decide on how to divide their assets. While this may work in some circumstances, in others, it may result in one party leaving the marriage with substantially less. There are also other situations where you may have a party that has recklessly depleted the family assets. In this circumstance, that party’s conduct may disentitle them from receiving an equal division of net family property.

If you are in a common law relationship, the law about the division of property is very different. Upon separation, common law couple’s are not entitled to an equalization payment and your rights and entitlements may be rooted in other claims such as a constructive trust. If assets and liabilities are jointly owned then each party leaves the relationship with their ownership interest.

The division of property is complex and is very dependent on the nature of your relationship (married vs. common law). Whether you are living common law or married, our firm will ensure that you receive the best legal advice to secure your financial future.

Child Support

Parents must pay child support for their children because it is the right of the child. Even if a parent does not see or live with their child, they must still pay child support to the parent with whom the child primarily resides, since that is the parent incurring all the costs for the child. There are many factors to consider when determining the amount of child support payable such as the parent’s income, the parenting schedule (is it a shared parenting arrangement?) and whether the children are dependants.

In addition to child support, under Section 7 of the Child Support Guidelines, both parents must contribute to the child’s special and extraordinary expenses in proportion to their respective incomes. These expenses are those that are reasonable and necessary for the child such as daycare costs, tutoring, health related expenses (therapy, counselling, glasses, orthodontics), extra curricular activities, if extraordinary, and post secondary education. Determining each parties’ share of these expenses will require that each party disclose their income.

Our firm can ensure that the appropriate amount of child support is paid or received and that each parent contributes to the child’s special and extraordinary expenses in proportion to their income.

Spousal Support

Spousal support is the money paid from one spouse to help meet the financial needs of the other spouse. One spouse may ask the other to pay them spousal support to help alleviate financial difficulty upon the breakdown of the marriage, to assist in becoming financially self-sufficient, or to compensate one spouse for being financially disadvantaged during the relationship. For example, if one spouse was the homemaker and took care of the children while the other spouse worked and advanced their career, the homemaker spouse may be entitled to this type of support.

Our firm can assist you in determining whether you have a claim for spousal support. If you are entitled to spousal support, we can ensure that you receive what is fair and reasonable under your circumstances.

Adoptions

Adoption is the legal process that gives children a permanent relationship with a family when their birth families are unable to care for them or if a step parent wants to acknowledge their partner’s child as their own. Adopting a child can be an exciting, stressful, emotional and overwhelming time so it is important that you contact a lawyer for advice and guidance. Our  firm can assist in all aspects of adoptions in Ontario.

Travel Consents

A travel consent allows minors to travel without their parents or legal guardians being present. Even though travel consents are not mandatory, it certainly simplifies travel should an immigration officer or border agent request documentation or information about the travelling child. Our firm can prepare a detailed travel consent to give the travelling parent or legal guardian peace of mind as they travel.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I contact a lawyer about a separation agreement?

When a marriage ends, there are several issues that must be resolved before the parties can completely part ways. Separations can be complicated, particularly if you and your former partner have accumulated significant assets and/or if the separation is fuelled with emotion and hostility. Therefore, it is a good idea to retain a family lawyer to not only act as a buffer between you and your spouse in the event of a hostile separation but to also help you navigate the process of separating from your spouse and informing you as to your rights and entitlements.

While parties can draft separation agreements themselves, there is a laundry list of things to consider. Who will the children live with primarily, how often will they see the other parent? What about holidays and vacations? What happens to the matrimonial home, and how will all of the shared finances be divided? Will one person owe the other support, and how much will that amount to and for how long? Even if you draft your own separation agreement, both you and your ex-spouse must seek independent legal advice from a Family Lawyer to ensure that the agreement is fair and that you are well informed before signing off on it. Otherwise, there is a real risk of the Separation Agreement being set aside by a court if one of the spouses challenges it.

That said, it is often much easier to involve a lawyer from the initial drafting stages because they can assess what needs to go into the agreement and consider all of the things that you may be forgetting. Once you have a signed separation agreement, it can be enforced by the court upon filing it so you want to make sure that it is done right.

What are My Rights and Entitlements for Child Support?

All parents in Ontario are legally required to financially care for their children, and parents who are separated or divorced are still responsible for financially supporting their children. When the children live most of the time with one parent, the other parent will be required to pay child support to cover expenses related to food, shelter, clothing and school supplies.

The amount of child support a parent must pay is in accordance with the Child Support Guidelines that set out the amount of child support based on the payor’s yearly before tax income, the number of children and the Province/Territory where the children reside.

The parent who is the payor does not have to be a biological parent – adoptive parents or even step-parents who have treated the child as a member of their family and have financially supported the child/children may be responsible for paying child support.

If a paying parent is not making their monthly child support payment, the Family Responsibility Office (“FRO”) may become involved. Once involved, the FRO will deduct the monthly amount from the payor’s income. If payments are missed, the FRO has various enforcement procedures that they can exercise to obtain the monthly child support payment which includes garnishing wages, suspending a support payor’s driver’s licence or putting a lien against your property.

What are my Rights and Entitlements for Spousal Support?

If you and your former spouse had substantially different earnings throughout your marriage, or if you did not work during the marriage while your spouse advanced their career, you may be entitled to spousal support. Spousal support is an acknowledgement that marriage is a financial partnership, and so one party should not be significantly disadvantaged by the change in the household income upon a divorce.

Spousal support is not an automatic right. First, you must demonstrate an entitlement to receive spousal support either on compensatory or needs-based grounds, topics we will explore in another FAQ. Once you have shown that you are entitled to spousal support, the question becomes what monthly amount is appropriate and for how long you should receive it. In determining the quantum and duration of spousal support, there are various factors that the court will consider such as the length of the marriage, your age at the time of separation, and your ability to become self-sufficient. There is no table amount as in the case of child support. Rather, while spousal support is based on income, it is calculated in accordance with the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines that provide ranges of monthly spousal support from low to high. If the parties cannot agree to a monthly amount within the range, then a court will make that decision at trial.

The ultimate goal of spousal support though is not meant to be a windfall but is intended to help the spouse receiving support to get back on their feet. This may include their former partner paying for education or retraining to make this happen. Likewise, if a paying spouse’s income changes significantly, they will likely apply through the court or amend their separation agreement to have their support amount varied since it no longer accurately reflects their income.

What is the Property Division Process?

When a couple’s marriage breaks down, the parties’ must deal with the division of their assets. This means that the value of any property that was acquired during the marriage and that you still have when you separate must be divided equally between you and your spouse. However, any property that you brought into the marriage, remains your property but you must account for any increase in the value of the property during the marriage. Inheritances and gifts received during the marriage is not considered an asset to the party that received it so long as they did not commingle the inheritance or gift with their spouse. Once an inheritance or gift is commingled with the other spouse, the exclusion is lost, and the value of the asset is to be divided upon separation.

There are specific rules as to how property is calculated and then divided between the parties. The law is structured in a way to ensure that each party leaves the marriage on an equal footing; that both parties are entitled to equally share in the accumulation of wealth during the marriage. To determine the division in property, each party must complete a Financial Statement setting out all assets and liabilities. This exercise will provide the party’s Net Family Property (NFP) value. Once both parties have disclosed their NFP, an equalization payment is determined. This means the party with the higher NFP value will make a payment to the spouse with the lower NFP in order to equalize their assets.

Sometimes parties take it upon themselves to decide on how to divide their assets. While this may work in some circumstances, in others, it may result in one party leaving the marriage with substantially less than what they are entitled to. There are also other situations where you may have a party that has recklessly depleted the family assets. In this latter circumstance, that party’s conduct may disentitle them from receiving an equal division of net family property.

If you are in a common law relationship, the law about the division of property is very different. Upon separation, common law couples are not entitled to an equalization payment and your rights and entitlements may be rooted in other claims such as a constructive trust. If assets and liabilities are jointly owned, then each party leaves the relationship with their ownership interest.

The division of property is complex and is very dependent on the nature of your relationship (married vs. common law). Whether you are living common law or married, our firm will ensure that you receive the best legal advice to secure your financial future.

How Can a Lawyer Help Me with Custody?

Parents often still use the word ‘custody’ as it’s used in TV shows and movies – to describe who has the ultimate parenting rights of their child. The truth is that in Ontario what we think of as ‘custody’ comes in two parts, and the terms recently changed. Parenting time is time spent with the child and was previously called ‘access’. Decision-making responsibility is what used to be called ‘custody,’ and refers to the right of a parent to make decisions about their child’s well-being. 

Family disputes are contentious, and parties can get especially aggressive when children are involved. Even if the law states that you are entitled to parenting time and decision-making responsibility, your former spouse and their lawyer may be fighting that access at every turn. Without the right representation, your former spouse may use all their time and energy to make it difficult for you to see or spend time with your child or children.

A family law lawyer like Geraldine Acosta knows your rights.  She has no problem going toe to toe with your former spouse’s lawyer and has no hesitation about going to court to assert your rights. Parents in family law often report feeling lost and helpless in the process. Geraldine Acosta can help make sure that doesn’t happen.

What Does the Court Look for in Child Custody Cases?

When children are involved, the primary standard that courts use to assess any situation is called the ‘best interests of the child.’ It does not matter if one parent really wants primary parenting time, or really wants to curtail their former partner’s parenting time out of spite – it is the child’s best interests that take priority. Typically, the court will defer to both parents being involved in the child’s upbringing and that both parents have the right to spend time with their child/children unless the circumstances of the case make it so that co-parenting and/or parenting time is not practical. 

The Best Interests of the Child is a legal test set out federally in the Divorce Act and the Children’s Law Reform Act. It takes into consideration a long list of circumstances, including the child’s age and their development, the history of the child’s care, each parent’s ability to care for the child moving forward, and in some cases the child’s views and preferences. While animosity in the parents’ relationship may not restrict access, the court will look at the ability of the parents to cooperate when it comes to the child’s needs and will take into account any violence or imbalance of power between the parties if it affects the ability of the parties to co-parent the child.

Overall, what is in the child’s best interest will always prevail and that is what the court will always consider when determining parenting time and decision-making responsibility. 

Contact Us

We're located in Aurora, but help families all across Ontario. Please reach out, and let us know how we can help you. 

Address

16 Industrial Parkway South, 
Suite 419
Aurora Ontario
L4G 0R4