If you have been thinking seriously about filing for divorce, you know that your marriage has been in serious trouble for some time. Conversely, if your spouse has blindsided you by asking for a divorce when you thought your relationship was not in jeopardy, or that you were both equally committed to working through your marital problems, you may feel as though the ground is crumbling under your feet.
Our Toronto divorce lawyer, Paul Riley, knows how difficult ending a marriage can be. Many divorcing spouses are emotionally devastated and are subsequently ill-prepared to make decisions which will affect the rest of their lives. That is where an experienced family lawyer comes in to help you make wise decisions during your divorce.
According to §3.1 of the Divorce Act, applying for divorce in Toronto requires at least one spouse to reside in the province for 12 months at the time of application. The spouse must remain in Ontario for the duration of the divorce proceedings.
Divorcing requires legal grounds. If the couple demonstrates their marriage is broken by living separately for at least one year, the separation constitutes grounds for an uncontested or contested divorce. The couple need not maintain separate households; they could live apart under the same roof and be considered separated for divorce proceedings.
The other legal grounds for divorce are physical or emotional cruelty or adultery. If the spouse who allegedly committed the wrongdoing does not admit their fault, the spouse seeking the divorce must prove their grounds in a contested divorce. A Toronto divorce lawyer could help a spouse in a fault-based divorce compile and present proof supporting their position.
Divorcing spouses can generally pursue two types of divorce in Toronto. If you and your spouse agree on all outstanding marital issues, you can formalize the terms in a written marital settlement agreement and proceed with an uncontested divorce. If you pursue a fault-based divorce, or if you and your spouse cannot agree on one or more material issues, you will have a contested divorce.
An uncontested divorce typically saves time, reduces conflict between parties, and costs significantly less than a contested divorce. Parties can jointly seek an uncontested divorce—this procedure is called a joint divorce. Alternatively, one spouse could file an application for divorce, and if the other spouse does not answer with objections, the court will grant an uncontested divorce. The latter procedure is called a simple divorce.
Whether using the joint or simple divorce procedure, you and your spouse must agree on all issues relating to the dissolution of your marriage in a separation agreement. The separation agreement must set forth your decisions regarding property division and spousal support. If you have children, it must describe arrangements for custody and child support and include a detailed parenting plan.
If any marital issues are disputed, the divorce is considered contested. Contested divorces require a judge to decide all unresolved matters and tend to be more contentious, expensive, and take longer to conclude. Divorcing spouses might disagree on issues related to:
Toronto couples involved in contested divorces are often able to negotiate a resolution through their lawyers or mediation before a trial. If your divorce is amicable, Paul Riley could work swiftly to ensure an expeditious resolution. If your divorce is contentious, we will prepare you for litigation and trial. Regardless of how your case is going, a well-versed divorce lawyer in Toronto could help:
Among the most challenging issues you and your spouse will face during your divorce is the division of your assets. Any assets that you or your spouse acquired during your marriage would be considered part of the martial estate and subject to division upon divorce. Common examples of assets belonging to the marital estate include:
Otherwise, assets acquired before marriage or via inheritance or gift would be considered separate property and would not be subject to division in a divorce. However, any appreciation in the value of an asset acquired before marriage is marital property. Joint debts are marital property, but individual debts remain with the individual.
You and your spouse can rely on a previously agreed-upon marital contract to dictate which assets will be divided and which will remain under separate ownership. Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements allow spouses to plan ahead for a potential future divorce and give them more control over the outcome, as family law judges must defer to signed marital contracts that are fair to both spouses.
Courts do not force couples to split each marital asset equally but instead strive to ensure that you and your spouse leave the marriage in roughly equal financial positions. You will each calculate the difference between your net worth when you married and your net worth at the end of the marriage. The spouse with the biggest increase pays half the difference to the other spouse. This is called an equalization payment.
A matrimonial home is any residence the couple lived in as a family. Each party has equal rights to the marital home, even if only one spouse is on the deed, and even if one spouse owned the property and brought it into the marriage. Both spouses would have equal access to a matrimonial home even if one spouse inherited the home. A skilled Toronto divorce lawyer could advise you on protecting an interest in a marital home.
To commence a divorce, you must file an Application for Divorce along with a verified financial statement. The divorce application should contain your divorce claims, including the relief you are seeking from the court. You may then hire a process server to deliver the divorce paperwork to your spouse.
Upon receipt of the divorce paperwork, your spouse has 30 days to answer the divorce application. If they do not respond, a judge could grant your requests for relief without a contested hearing.
If your spouse does submit a response, the case proceeds to an informal conference overseen by a judge. The court will assist you in resolving your disputes, if possible. During this stage of the divorce proceeding, known as the discovery process, you and your spouse can also exchange financial and other information relevant to your divorce.
Toronto divorce lawyer Paul Riley works with a team of financial professionals – including forensic accountants, business and pension valuators, real estate and art appraisers, and economists – to assist divorcing spouses with complex financial situations. He could help you gather the information you need to effectively resolve your divorce.
If you and your spouse cannot settle your case, you must attend a divorce trial. It is highly advantageous to attend court with experienced legal representation. A well-versed divorce lawyer would be prepared to present evidence and financial information in a way that bolsters your interests. After considering all evidence, a judge will render a decision on all outstanding issues and grant a final divorce.
Although there are almost always issues to work through, divorce does not have to destroy your finances, your children’s lives, or your ability to trust and move on. Though it’s the end of your marriage, divorce can also be a fresh start, allowing you to move on freely to the next chapter in your life.
Once you have made the final decision to divorce, you want the process to run smoothly and quickly, giving you the opportunity to start over without needless and excessive delays. Paul Riley knows what role he needs to play in your case to move it forward as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Our Toronto divorce lawyer is committed to helping you successfully navigate the minefields of marriage dissolution by protecting you and your children and minimizing your legal and financial risks as you move on with your life. Call today to get started.
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