Family Law Services

The experience of divorce and separation is tense and difficult both from a legal perspective and personally. Our experienced divorce and separation lawyers are there to steer you in getting the right decisions for yourself and family, and your present & future, while helping alleviate your stress.

At Origin Law Group, we take the time to explain how the law applies to your situation. Origin Law Group has research staff and is big enough to handle all your family law issues in an inclusive manner. At the same time, the firm is small enough to give you the individual attention and care you require during this
difficult time. Whether it is a highly challenged matter with issues of security for the children and vast amounts of assets that are claimed, or it is a simple uncontested matter where the two of you get along well and just need the paperwork to get done, it is important to have the right lawyer at your side.

Our goal is to assist you in protecting what matters most to you: Your family and your interests. If we can do this through an uncontested, amicable divorce and your spouse’s lawyer, then we can help with the ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) process. However, this is not always possible for every divorce and
separation situation. If not, then we are willing to litigate your case to help resolve outstanding issues on your behalf.

Some people see divorce as a devastating affliction, others see it as the opportunity for a new beginning. Whatever your approach, it is best to hire lawyers whom you can count on to advise you, guide you and represent you through this process. We understand every divorce and separation has its own complications and circumstances. We want to discuss these in detail and how the law applies, while exploring options to help you make the right decisions.

In family law, “custody” refers to a parent or guardian’s legal responsibility to make decisions for a child related to health, education and religion. In comparison, “access” refers to the time spent with the child.

When a couple decides to separate or divorce, one of the very important issues to be decided is each person’s custody and access rights with regard to their child(ren). Custody and access arrangements will have a huge impact on your child(ren)’s well-being. Also such decisions may influence spousal support, child support and the division of property. For these reasons, it is helpful to receive legal advice about custody and access plans early in the process of separation, in order to ensure that you not only understand but also protect your legal rights.

At Origin Law Group, we provide effective legal representation during custody and access disputes, designed to your individual needs. We follow to empower clients to make sound decisions regarding custody and access, while also assertively litigating on their behalf when necessary. Our lawyers strive to provide exceptional legal counsel as well as a positive customer service experience for our clients. It is our job to put you at ease and ensure your rights are protected while navigating through the family court system that can often be daunting.

The Difference Between Custody and Access
Most custodial and access procedures are made between the parents themselves with the assistance of professionals. If parents are not able to agree on custody and access, either on their own or with the assistance of lawyers or mediators, then the courts will do it for them. In deciding custody and access disputes, the courts will consider the child’s “best interests”.

Some common factors considered by family law courts to determine what is in a child’s best interests include:
●wishes of the child (if old enough to capably express a reasonable preference);
●mental and physical health of the parents;
●religion and/or cultural considerations;
●need for continuation of stable home environment;
●age and sex of the child;
●adjustment to school and community

Planning for the care of children is a key goal of most parents choosing to end their spousal relationship. Negotiating an acceptable arrangement regarding parenting time, time with a child and authority over key decisions in a child’s life is of utmost concern to many parents when they seek a lawyer. The child
custody lawyers at Origin Law Group help parents to understand their options and responsibilities, and represent their clients in achieving an arrangement that meets their interests and their child’s.

Understanding Custody and Access
Custody and access is an often confusing and emotionally stressful aspect of divorce or separation. As a starting point, the terminology requires definition. Custody does not refer to where a child resides; rather, it describes who has decision-making authority with regard to the child. Custody means a parent
has the legal right to make major decisions for and regarding their child. These decisions include those about education, non-emergency medical care, religion, and recreational activities.

Most commonly, one of or both of a child’s parent will ask to have custody. However, in certain cases, another person could ask for, and get, custody. This could include a step-parent, a grandparent, a relative, or another person with a connection to the child. Grandparents, specifically, have recently been recognized in the Ontario legislation as being parties that can apply for custody of a child. Several other provinces and territories have given similar legislative recognition to grandparents. Call our Associates to find out more.
There are different kinds of custody arrangements which determine who gets to make these decisions. The most common types are sole custody and joint custody.

Lets be clear on term “joint custody”. It does not refer to equal time spent at each parent’s house. It refers to joint decision-making. It is also possible for one parent to have sole custody — which means sole decision-making authority — while the child splits his or her time between each parent’s house.
Custody and access arrangements, therefore, are flexible and can vary widely from family to family. In recent years, many professionals in the field, including lawyers and judges, are moving away from the traditional labels of custody and access and using terms such as “decision making” and “children’s
residency schedule” or “parenting time.”

In certain cases, parents can agree to which custody plan will work best for them. In this case, it’s important to get a written agreement which describes custody as well as other aspects of parenting, like access. In those cases where parents cannot agree, the child’s best interests will need to be considered. This means that, the decision that’s made has to be child-focused and considerate of what is best for the child. Parents can try consultations with lawyers, mediation or another collaborative process, or court to come to this decision.

It’s important to also acknowledge that custody arrangements can change. A child’s needs do not always remain stationary as they age. These change over time and these kinds of changes may mean that the existing arrangement might need to be reassessed and revised. Again, this is something that the parents will have to work through, while keeping the child’s interests at the forefront of their minds.

Unlike child support, the extent of spousal support (often referred to as alimony), can be difficult to measure. Even Though the Department of Justice in Canada has established the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines, these guidelines do not have the force of law and, as a substitute, present flexible ranges rather than a set amount of spousal support. It is also crucial for any spousal support agreement to address matters such as: duration and form of payment, re-marriage and unemployment. For these reasons, it is critical to receive legal advice about spousal support early in the process of separation, in order to ensure that you understand and protect your rights.

Lawyers at Origin Law Group strongly believe in empowering our clients through education. We thoroughly review spousal support entitlements with our clients, in order to ensure they are able to make educated and informed decisions. All of our lawyers emphasize good lawyer-client communication
and treating the client with the highest respect. We advocate for the best possible spousal support arrangements for our clients and are not reluctant to get tough when necessary.

Entitlement to Spousal Support
The courts will consider a number of factors when deciding if an individual is entitled to spousal support, such as:
●the financial means and needs of both spouses;
●the length of the marriage or common-law relationship;
●the roles of each spouse during their marriage or common-law relationship;
●the effect of those roles and the breakdown of the relationship on both spouses’ current financial positions;
●the care of the children;
●the goal of encouraging a spouse who receives support to be self-sufficient in a reasonable period of time; and
●any orders, agreements or arrangements already made about spousal support.
If necessary, we will also assertively litigate on your behalf in order to ensure the best possible outcome of your case.

Married spouses who choose to end their marriage are legally entitled to a division of the property that they have accumulated jointly during the marriage. This process is known as the equalization of net family property. How property is divided

In B.C., the rules about the division of family property apply to both married couples and unmarried couples who have been living together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years.
There are two categories of property:
●Family property
●Excluded property
When spouses separate, all family property is shared equally, unless the couple has an agreement that says something else. Family property is everything that you or your spouse owned separately or together on the date you separate. It does not matter whose name the family property is in.

Family property includes:
●The family home
●Bank accounts
●Insurance policies
●An interest in a business
●The amount of any increase in the value of excluded property since the relationship started
●Some things are not considered family property. They are excluded from the rule that the property must be divided equally.

Excluded property includes:
●Property one spouse owned before the relationship started
●Gifts and inheritances given to one spouse during the relationship
●Some kinds of damage awards, insurance proceeds and trust property
●But if the value of excluded property increased during the relationship, that increase in value is considered family property and is divided equally.

For example, suppose you owned a house worth $300, 000 when your spouse moved in. Together, you paid the mortgage, did renovations and the housing market went up. As a result, when you separated, the value of the house had increased to $500,000. You would keep the original $300,000 and you and
your spouse would share the extra $200,000 of the increased equity. If a couple wishes to divide their property or debt differently, they can make an agreement.

Most of the time, excluded property cannot be divided at all. But in very limited cases, such as long interdependent relationships or where family property is located outside B.C. and cannot be easily divided, excluded property could be divided to make sure each spouse gets a fair outcome.

When property can be divided unequally
A court will divide family property or debt unequally only if it would be “significantly unfair” to divide it equally. This means that a court will not order an unequal division in most cases. The court can look at a number of factors when deciding whether to divide property or debt unequally.
As well, a couple can divide their property or debt unequally by making an agreement. Families are become increasingly mobile. More and more couples will have spent time outside British Columbia during their relationship, and have property outside B.C.
When a legal issue crosses borders, it is difficult to know where a claim for property division can or should be made (jurisdiction) and which province, state or country’s law governs the resolution of the dispute (choice of law).
The Family Law Act provides for rules in these cases. However, because these issues are complicated, we recommend that you get legal advice before you make any final decisions about these issues.

What is a Marriage Contract? What is the difference between prenup and postnup?

A marriage contract is a voluntary agreement between two parties who are planning to marry or are already married, which sets out how certain matters will be dealt with should the marriage break down. Both types of marriage contracts ‘prenup’ and ‘postnup’ can be entered into, and are legally enforceable, for both same-sex marriages and opposite-sex marriages. Unmarried individuals have the option of drawing up a similar agreement, often referred to as a cohabitation agreement.
This type of agreement is most frequently entered into prior to the marriage (referred to as a prenuptial agreement or ‘prenup’) and is a good idea for couples who want to define, in advance, what will happen to each partner’s assets and finances in the result of a divorce. A similar contract can also be entered into after a couple has been married (increasingly referred to as a postnuptial agreement or ‘postnup’). These types of contracts can be a bit more convoluted as there is
little clout after the marriage has taken place and there are already shared assets to consider, but they are feasible so long as the couple can agree to terms.

What is Included in Marriage Contract?
Typically, a marriage contract is drawn up by a family law lawyer in advance of a marriage, and outlines an agreement on matters such as:
●property brought into the marriage;
●division of property upon separation;
●asset distribution in case of death; and
●spousal support.

What Cannot be Entered in a Marriage Contract?
Child custody and access terms: Child custody and access is determined by provisions within the Family Law Act and must be addressed around the best interests for the child. Attempts to work around the rules and procedures via a marriage contract will not be enforceable in court. Rights to the matrimonial home: Under the Family Law Act, both parties to a marriage have an equal right to live in the matrimonial home, and this cannot be altered with an agreement to the reverse via a marriage contract. Both parties will retain equal rights to remain in the home until a separation agreement signed by both parties or court order for exclusive possession is obtained.

Enforcing a Marriage Contract
A domestic contract filed with the court will generally be enforced as written unless challenged by one of the parties, in which case the court will review the contents and determine if any of the factors in the section above apply. Further, if any of the terms contained in the agreement are found to violate the law,
such as with respect to child custody or the matrimonial home, those terms will likely be excised from the agreement. If none of the above applies, it is likely that the agreement will be enforced with the same veracity as a court order. Given this, it is extremely important to have any domestic contract thoroughly reviewed by an experienced family law lawyer before signing, in order to ensure your interests are fully protected.

The two most widespread alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes, outside lawyer-lawyer negotiation, are mediation and arbitration.

Mediation involves the involvement of a third party professional who acts as a facilitator for the parties to help them achieve their own agreement. Arbitration is a method of resolving disputes, where an arbitrator, instead of a judge, makes the final decision.

Mediation is usually carried out without lawyers. Qualified and experienced mediator meets with both the parties so a solution can be worked out in a quite informal setting. The importance is on cooperation and achieving desirable solutions that will work for the complete family.

Mediation is:
Other advantages:
●parties make the decisions
●less expensive & faster than court
●offers greater satisfaction
●improves compliance
●reduces family conflict
●preserves family emotional and financial resources

“About 40% of marriages in Canada end in divorce, while unmarried relationships are increasing. The cost to a family of a contested divorce averages about $20,000 and can be substantially higher. Many people start with a lawyer but can’t continue to pay them and end up conducting their own cases. In some family courts, 60-70% of litigants are self-represented.

Children subjected to parental conflict are at higher risk of loss of effective parenting, disrupted crucial
parental attachments, altered neurochemistry, and reduced intellectual development. The younger the child, the more severe and lasting the negative effects can be.

A mediator can help you deal with your matter sensitively and creatively, and save you an enormous amount of time and money. More importantly, any solutions will come from you. Court-imposed arrangements are never as good as what you come up with on your own, particularly when it comes to
custody and access.

Mediation is also much faster than the court system. You can always find a mediator who will be available relatively soon.

Family Law Arbitration
Arbitration, a sort of private court system, is not always necessarily cheaper than going to regular court. The proceedings are less casual than mediation, with lawyers and evidence being treated in a formal way, especially if complex issues of property are involved. However, it can be much faster and you generally have more control over the process.

Arbitrators play a private judge-like role. A family law arbitrator will make binding decisions to resolve family law issues out of court. Arbitration is not a collaborative process. If you decide to settle your family law issues through arbitration, you are asking another person to make the decisions for you, after
hearing both sides.
Sometimes arbitrators will use a combination of arbitration and collaborative processes, like negotiation or mediation. You can decide how you want your arbitration setup. Everyone must agree in writing to the rules that will apply before the arbitration proceeds. Any decision made by a family law arbitrator must be consistent with the Family Law Act. You cannot opt out of the law.Because of the decision-making role of an arbitrator, family law arbitrators must meet
high training and practice standards.

Starting Jan. 1, 2014 all family law arbitrators must meet Family Law Act minimum training and practice standards. They must be a lawyer, psychologist or social worker, have at least 10 years experience in a family-related field and take specified training in arbitration, family law, decision-making, skills
development, and family violence. Some arbitrators belong to organizations which already have similar standards. Before hiring an arbitrator, it is a good idea to ask about their qualifications. Only an arbitrator who is a lawyer may conduct arbitrations on all family law issues, including child-related issues, property and spousal support.An arbitrator who is a psychologist or a social worker may only arbitrate child-related issues and straightforward child support.


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