What is family law?
Family law is a broad area of law dealing primarily with issues that arise when spouses separate. The spouses may be married or common-law. These issues typically involve such matters as:
- Parenting (Custody and Access) of Children;
- Child Support;
- Spousal or Partner Support;
- Division of Property and Debts;
Family law also includes other issues such as:
- Cohabitation & Prenuptial Agreements;
- Adoption of children and adults;
- Guardianship of children;
- Applications for access to children by grandparents;
- Division of private pensions;
- Restraining orders in domestic situations;
- Orders for exclusive possession of a home or other property.
How do family lawyers help?
There are various legal options available for spouses who have separated (or are about to separate). The appropriate options depend on the circumstances and the parties involved. A separation agreement might be negotiated through the lawyers for each side, by the parties directly, through Collaborative Law or through some form of private mediation.
If issues can’t be resolved through an agreement, they may need to be resolved through the Courts or through arbitration (a form of private mediation).
Do you need a family lawyer?
A lawyer can discuss the implications of your decision, should you decide to separate from your spouse.
If you have already separated from your spouse or from the parent of your child(ren), you should consult a family lawyer. S/he can help you fully understand your rights and obligations, as a result of the marriage or relationship.
If you are considering marriage or cohabitation, a family lawyer can provide you with advice regarding a prenuptial or cohabitation agreement.
Other professional help
Your lawyer can refer you to marriage, personal or family counseling to assist you in either reconciling with your spouse or in assisting you and you children through the separation process.
What to look for in a family lawyer
You should feel comfortable with and trust your lawyer. Look for a lawyer who is experienced in family law, separation, divorce, custody and other aspects of your situation. For example, some spouses co-own businesses and will require a lawyer or firm with experience in these matters. Other qualities such as competence, compatibility and availability are important.
Information you should have
If you and/or your spouse decide to separate, or if you wish to have a prenuptial or cohabitation agreement, you will need to retain a lawyer. Your lawyer will likely ask you for:
- Your ideas for a proposed parenting plan, if applicable;
- Income information for both you and your spouse, including tax returns and paystubs;
- A list of individual and joint assets and liabilities, with supporting documentation;
- A list of your monthly expenses (if spousal support is an issue).
Gathering information early can reduce the time and expense involved in your lawyer having to obtain this information. In addition, gathering information early can also speed up the process of resolving your matter, whether by agreement or through the Courts.