At Baratz Law we understand that every family law dispute is unique and affects not just those directly involved in the case but the entire family. Our careful and detailed approach begins with a free consultation so that we can clearly understand your situation and answer all of your questions. With more than 13 years of experience of practicing family law, we have represented hundreds of family law clients who have faced and went through personal and emotional family issues such as separation, divorce, access, support and custody battles. Nothing is more emotional and serious than the custody and/or access (visitation) of one’s children. Spouses who have relied financially upon another spouse throughout their marriage or who have primary residency of a child may have the right to financial support. Child support is almost always ordered to a parent who has primary residence of a child and is based upon the Child Support Guidelines. Custodial rights of children can be a hotly contested matter and Mr. Baratz has successfully assisted many parents to obtain custody of their children. Baratz Law has also represented parents who find themselves entangled with various Children’s Aid Societies across Southern Ontario. We have been able to negotiate or litigate the return of children out of foster care to their parents or other family members. Child protection is one of the most if not the most profound area of law in Ontario – where children can be removed from their biological family and be placed for adoption.
When a married couple has been separated and apart for 1 year either side can apply for a divorce. This process can be started earlier than the 1 year waiting period, but a divorce cannot be granted until the parties have been separated for at least 1 year. Couples who separate can arrange their affairs with the creation of either a temporary or final separation agreement. This is ideal as separation agreements save money, stress and time (the consequences of litigation). They can be filed with a court of law in Ontario.
When parties do not have any children, support or property issues, or, if those matters have already been dealt with pursuant to a separation agreement, then an uncontested divorce can be pursued. Regardless of whether children are involved or not, divorce is one of the messiest and most emotional areas of law and it is highly recommended to consult with counsel should you find yourself in a marital breakdown heading towards divorce.
Custody ultimately has to do with decision making abilities over your child. For example, the parent who has custody over their child is the one who has the power and authority to make important decisions about the child, such as medical, educational and religious instruction. The child may not necessarily be residing full time with the custodial parent. Parents who have joint-custody make decisions together. With joint custody, parents make the important decisions together/jointly regarding the welfare of the child – they share it. For joint custody to work, parents have to be able to communicate with each other and to co-operate with each other even though they are not living together and no longer in a relationship. Please note that there can be many variations of custody and joint-custody as well, depending on what the parties agree on. For example, there could be a clause in an agreement that provides for joint decision making over a child but in the case of a disagreement, one parent has the final say; however, if the opposing party is not happy s/he has the option to bring the matter before a mediator or a family court within a certain time frame.
If you do not have custody of your children, you have a right to spend time with them (subject to any concerns raised against you). Typically, an access parent sees the child overnight every other weekend and one evening a week during the week. It is also typical for the access parent to have telephone access and other important holidays (i.e., Father’s day, birthdays, holidays, etc.). An access parent also typically has access to the child 2-3 weeks during the summer. Access parents also have the right to receive information about the child’s health, education and general situation. In cases where a court believes that there are safety concerns regarding a parent’s access, supervised access may be ordered. In such a case, a parent will visit with their child at an access centre under full or partial supervision. In such cases, the hope is for the parent to do well and “prove themselves” during access visits (which are documented in most cases) and for the access to eventually become unsupervised. Other forms of supervision can be in the community with a 3rd party supervisor that everyone agrees to.
The Access parent usually has to pay the parent with custody money to help cover the costs of taking care of the children. This payment is called child support.
The amount of child support to be paid in Ontario is set out under the Child Support Guidelines and is based on the income of the person who does not have primary residence of the children. In rare cases, a court can award less than the guideline amount where paying the amount would cause undue hardship to the payer. The person paying support must provide yearly updated financial information to the support recipient. All or part of expenses for extra-curricular activities, also known as “special expenses” may also have to paid in addition to child support. Child support usually is payable until the child reaches 18 years of age. Should the child continue to post-secondary education, the payer could continue to be responsible to pay support well into the child’s 20s. If a child has a disability, support could be payable indefinitely.
Spousal support on the other hand is more discretionary in that there is no “fixed” amount per month. The duration of support also is more discretionary. Case law in the area of spousal support varies. This makes predictions in terms of how much support a payer must pay much more difficult to make. There are spousal support guidelines, (readily available on the internet) but these offer more of a benchmark than a fixed rule and also vary in terms of the suggested amount payable. When trying to determine what the appropriate amount of spousal support should be, some of the following factors are considered: the length of the marriage, the age and health of the parties, available employment opportunities, the effect that the marriage had on employment opportunities, the family’s standard of living during the marriage and the need for a recipient of support to stay home to take care of young children or adults with disabilities. This is not an exhaustive list. As each case is unique it is always best to consult with a family law lawyer to try to determine what the appropriate monthly support amount is.
The Child, Youth and Family Services Act (CYFSA) is an Ontario Legislation that governs how child protection is regulated in the Province. There are numerous Children’s Aid Society’s across the province, representing different regions and cultures. For example, there is a Peel Children’s Aid Society, a Toronto Children’s Aid Society, a Halton Children’s Aid Society and a Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto or a Jewish Child and Family Services Agency or a Native Child and Family Services agency. Depending on where one lives and what your cultural or religious background is, will depend which agency and courthouse one would fall under should they find themselves entangled in such a case. Children’s Aid Society cases otherwise known as CAS cases or Child Protection are notoriously difficult cases. All the CAS agencies have the power to apprehend children and not have to justify the apprehension with a court of law for up to 5 days after the apprehension. The safety and wellbeing of children is at stake and children are deemed to be the most vulnerable people in our society. As a result, many legal powers are afforded to CAS cases. For example, hearsay evidence otherwise inadmissible in a criminal trial, is admissible (with certain exceptions) in a CAS case. Past history of a parent is out on the table, on full display. Medical records can also become relevant and admissible. CAS cases are usually zero sum cases whereby either the parent(s) will be able to demonstrate within a certain time frame that they are capable of parenting or if not have an alternative plan for the children (i.e., Kin or other family members) or the children can be ordered to be in extended society care (formerly called Crown Wardship) for the purpose of adoption. The stakes in these cases are extremely high. Should the CAS want to talk to you or be at your doorstep, contact Mr. Baratz or another experienced family lawyer immediately to discuss your matter. These cases can be very time sensitive and decisions need to be made as soon as possible. The decisions and actions a parent takes early on in their CAS case can seriously impact the case in either direction.