Toronto / GTA’s Premier Family & Divorce Lawyers

Breakups can be tough, but so are we.

Navigating a breakup can be an emotional rollercoaster that is often accompanied by complex legal issues such as support, custody and property/asset division.

At Kamalie Law, our dedicated team of experienced lawyers are committed to providing clients with comprehensive, tailor-made solutions. Our approach is simple: we make every effort to settle cases early on in order to save time, costs and energy. Where an early resolution is not possible, we aggressively pursue our clients’ interest in the courtroom.

Practice Areas

Our firm is well-versed in family law disputes. We handle all types of issues, including:

Spousal support involves one spouse financially assisting the other after the dissolution of a marriage or common-law relationship. There are several objectives of spousal support. One of these objectives is to compensate a spouse who relinquished career opportunities or made other monetary sacrifices for the sake of the relationship. Another objective is to is to address economic disparities that may arise after the relationship ends and to assist the recipient spouse in maintaining a standard of living comparable to what they enjoyed during the marriage.  

Married spouses and common-law spouses who have cohabited continuously for at least three years or are in a relationship of some permanence (if they have a child together) may be entitled to spousal support. The obligation to pay spousal support typically stems from a contract between the parties (i.e. a Marriage Contract or a Separation Agreement) or from a court order pursuant to Ontario legislation. 

Where there is no contract between the parties for the provision of spousal support following a breakup, a court generally determines entitlement to spousal support by considering several factors, such as: whether a genuine financial need exists; the financial means of the spouses; whether the couple had children; how long the spouses were together; the parties’ roles during their relationship; and the likelihood of the recipient-spouse becoming economically self-sufficient in the future. 

Spousal support is generally calculated by referring to the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG). The SSAG provide a framework for estimating the amount and duration of spousal support. Although the SSAG is not mandatory to follow, the guide acts as a reference for courts and lawyers who are negotiating spousal support resolutions. There are several factors that the SSAG takes into account, including the spouse’s ages, the duration of their relationship and their respective finances. The financial payment may be provided on a periodic ongoing basis or as a lump sum payment. 

Establishing entitlement to and then determining the amount and duration of spousal support are matters that are highly dependant on the facts of each particular case and therefore requires a thorough investigation into the parties and their relationship. It is imperative that spouses obtain the advice of experienced lawyers in assisting them with pursuing and defending claims for spousal support.

Child Support is a legal obligation in family law that requires a parent to financially contribute to the well-being of their children, both during and after the parents’ separation or divorce. In Ontario, Child Support is governed by the federal Divorce Act for married couples. If the couple is unmarried (common-law) and separate, Child Support is governed by the Family Law Act

The main objective of Child Support is to provide for the child’s needs, such as basic life necessities, education, and extracurricular activities. Child Support is payable regardless of whether the child’s parents were married or were common-law partners. There are also circumstances in which a non-biological parent may be required to pay Child Support following a breakup. 

When determining whether a parent ought to pay Child Support as well as the amount and duration, a court may consider several factors, such as: where the child lives; the child’s age and heath; the child’s education fees; whether the child is involved in extracurricular activities; how many children Child Support is being sought for; the financial impact of Child Support on the paying parent; and the paying parent’s income, debts, and assets. 

A parent responsible for paying Child Support is required to make full and fair financial disclosure so that the court has sufficient information to order the terms under which Child Support is payable. If the parent refuses to do so, a lawsuit may be commenced against them compelling them to make financial disclosure. The obligation to make financial disclosure does not end after a Child Support order has been made. Upon  written  request, a parent may be required to make  ongoing  financial  disclosure  annually  after the granting of a Child Support order.

The period of time for which a parent may be responsible for paying Child Support depends on whether the parents were married and subject to the Divorce Act or unmarried (common-law) and subject to the Family Law Act. Generally, the responsibility to pay Child Support ends when a child reaches the age of majority (18 years of age) or earlier if the child gets married or have voluntarily become independent. There are exceptions to these general rules. For instance, Child Support may be payable to a child beyond the age of 18 if the child is disabled, ill, or attends post-secondary school – in other words, if the child remains dependent.   

The Federal  and  Provincial  Child  Support  Guidelines are used as a tool to prescribe quantum of Child Support based on several factors such as the number of children and the payor’s income.  The amount determined to be paid for Child Support is typically to be paid on a periodic and ongoing basis.

Child Custody and Access are significant areas of family law that pertain to the living arrangements and visitation rights of parents and their children after a separation or divorce. It is quite common for disputes to arise between parents regarding who should have custody over the children, whether custody should be shared, and what Access rights that the parent without custody has to the children. For both Child Custody and Access, the court’s overarching objective is to do what is in the best interests of the child, and not necessarily the parents. 

Child Custody: 

    • having custody of a child is not only about having legal authority over them, but is also about being responsible for the child’s care and making important decisions pertaining to education, health and religion. 
    • Determining the most appropriate custody arrangement for a child depends on several factors, such as: the child’s preference; the history of caregiving; the child’s education plan; parental conduct; the child’s financial needs, the child’s religious upbringing, the parents’ respective understanding of the child’s needs; and the general goal of keeping siblings together.
    • A court may order sole custody to one parent or a joint custody arrangement (which does not necessarily mean equal parenting or residence) if it deems that doing so would be in the child’s best interests. In general, parents also typically need to agree to a joint custody arrangement before a court would consider granting one. 

Access:

    • Having access to a child is about time that the non-custodial parent is entitled to spend with the child as well as the parent’s right to make inquiries and to be informed regarding the child’s health, education, and welfare. Entitlement to Access, frequency of Access and the duration of Access is determined by several factors including: whether the parents agree to a timetable and arrangement amongst themselves; the child’s preference; whether the parents get along; the parent’s ability to care for and providing a safe and supportive environment for the child; the parent’s physical and mental health; where the parent lives; any history of parental abuse or misconduct; and cultural considerations.
    • If granted, Access may come in different forms. For instance, a non-custodial parent may be granted a regular and periodic access (i.e. on weekends or on specific days of the week), flexible access on a schedule that meet’s the child’s needs and works for the parents, or supervised access where the court has concerns regarding the child’s safety or the non-custodial parent’s mental or physical health.

The areas of Child Custody and Access are nuanced and complex areas of family law. It is therefore prudent to obtain legal advice from a lawyer when dealing with such issues either in the context of litigation or otherwise.

Trust claims play a significant role in family law, and more particularly in the context of property division upon a separation and divorce. The two main types of trust claims are known as Resulting Trusts and Constructive Trusts. 

These claims are important legal doctrines that are typically advanced when one party believes there has been unjust enrichment or an unfair distribution of property, and legal ownership of that property does not accurately reflect their contributions. 

A common scenario where a trust claim may be advanced is where one partner is a stay-at-home parent who raises the children and takes care of the home, while the other partner earns and income and has their assets registered solely in his or her name. Upon a separation and divorce, the non-working spouse may have a trust claim over certain property acquired during the marriage based on the argument that his or her contribution to the marriage enabled the acquisition of the property in question. 

Constructive Trust: this type of trust is imposed by courts to ensure that property or assets are held in trust by a partner for the benefit of the non-owner spouse. In order to establish an entitlement to a Constructive Trust, a party must show that:

  • The owner-spouse has been ‘unjustly enriched’ by demonstrating: (1) an enrichment to the owner-spouse; (2) a corresponding deprivation to the non-owner spouse (which often requires showing a connection between the non-owner spouse’s to the property that a Constructive Trust is claimed over); and (3) the absence of a juristic reason for the enrichment. Whether or not these elements are met depends largely on the specific facts of each case; and
  • Show that an award of monetary damages to the non-owner spouse would be an inadequate remedy. 

Resulting Trusts: this type of trust most commonly arises when an individual holds legal title to a property, but it is presumed that they hold it in trust for the benefit of the other party due to their (often financial) contributions. A court must find that the legal owner never intended to own the property and it was clear between the parties that the property, or a portion of it, was being held in trust for the contributing party. However, the party who holds the property in his or her name may counter an argument for a Resulting Trust by proving that the property was given to him or her as a gift. 

The law of trusts in Ontario is complex and highly fact dependent. It is important to obtain the advice of experienced lawyers in advancing or defending trusts claims in the family law context. 

An injunction is a court order typically obtained on an urgent basis requiring an individual or entity to do something, or to refrain from doing something. Injunctions are legal tools employed to safeguard the rights of those involved in family law disputes. Injunctions are sought when immediate and preventive steps are required to uphold the status quo or to prevent harm to either partner and/or their children. The following are some common situations where injunctions may be sought in the family law context:

Freezing orders: a freezing order may be obtained by one spouse to prevent the other from dissipating or disposing of assets. This ensures that the financial status quo is maintained during legal proceedings or until the family law dispute is resolved.

CPLs: a certificate of pending litigation (also known as a CPL) is a document that may be registered on title to a property and indicates to the public (including potential buyers, transferees and mortgagees) to indicate that there are ongoing legal proceedings regarding that property. In the context of family law, a CPL is often used by one spouse in the midst of a dispute over property division and to protect his or her interest in the property. CPLs are an important tool to safeguard a spouse’s interest in a matrimonial home, particularly when the spouse seeking the CPL is not a registered owner of the home. 

Cautions: a Caution is a document that is very similar to a CPL with the main differences being that it can be registered before legal proceedings are commenced and that it can only temporarily stay on title to the property. A Caution may be deleted by the land registrar 60 days after it is registered, which only makes it a temporary solution. Ultimately, a CPL is required to safeguard one’s interest in a property on a more long-term basis.

When a married couple separates and divorces, the division of their assets is governed by Ontario’s Family Law Act. The current legal framework aims to distribute assets as fairly as possible – there is no universal method that is applied to each case. Notably, these regulations apply mostly to legally married couples, with different rules applicable to unmarried partners.

The main considerations pertaining to property division are as follows:

  • Equalization of Net Family Property: this principle aims to ensure that each partner shares in the accumulation of wealth during the marriage, so that one party is not left with an unfair disadvantage. During the process of an equalization, each spouse’s property value is determined by taking their assets (which may include gifts, inheritances, pre-marital property, benefits, vehicles, houses, etc.) and subtracting their debts. 
  • Valuation Date: each spouse’s property value is determined up to what is called the ‘valuation date’, which is generally the date on which the spouses separated and there was no reasonable chance that they would resume cohabitation. There are several factors to be considered when determining the valuation date, including the absence of intimate relations, whether physical separation transpired, and in what way the spouses continued to interact – if at all. 
  • Assets at the Date of Marriage: the net assets that each spouse brought into the marriage is calculated. The value of a matrimonial home is typically not included if it was owned at the time of marriage.
  • Equalization Payment: after completing the above two calculations, each spouse’s lower net family property is subtracted from the higher one, with the difference being divided in half. The resulting figure is generally the amount of the equalization payment that would be paid by the spouse with the higher net family property value. 

What seems like a simple way to calculate property and asset division in family law may ultimately prove to be complex. Disputes often arise between the parties as to whether each party has openly disclosed their assets and liabilities, whether certain items should be considered assets (i.e. a future pension benefit, life insurance, etc.), and what valuation date should be chosen.  It is imperative to obtain the advice of a family law lawyer when dealing with property and asset division to ensure that spouse are fairly compensated as part of an equalization and that the paying spouse is not paying any more than what he or she ought to pay.

In Ontario, the rights of individuals who are married differ to the rights of those who live together but are not married. For instance, married spouses: have a shared right to their matrimonial home regardless of who is the registered owner of the property; have a right to share in the value of property acquired during the marriage (which is known as an equalization in net family property); and may also be entitled to receive spousal support payments from the other spouse for a specific period of time following their breakup.  

In contrast, people who live together but are not married (also known as a common-law couple) have automatic legal rights and safeguards in place compared to married couples: they do not have a right to an equalization of property upon a breakup; they are more limited in their rights to spousal support; and property rights generally must be asserted through trust claims.

Instead of leaving the determination of their legal rights and obligations entirely to the law, many couples enter into Prenuptial (Marriage) Agreements or Cohabitation Agreements to set out each person’s legal rights and obligations. These agreements often deal with matters including spousal support, ownership or property, and division of property in the event of a breakup. 

Raising the topic of a Prenuptial (Marriage) Agreement or a Cohabitation Agreement with your partner may seem awkward. However, it is a pivotal step that one can take to protect themselves financially and emotionally in the event of a future breakup. It is important to retain a family law lawyer to help draft a legal and all-encompassing Prenuptial (Marriage) Agreement or a Cohabitation Agreement that you can safely rely on in the event of a breakup. At Kamalie Law, our team of lawyers is able to assist you with drafting such agreements as well as reviewing and challenging the legality of any existing agreement.

In Ontario, a Separation Agreement is a valuable tool for spouses who wish to part ways on agreed-upon terms instead of spending the time, energy and money fighting one another in court. 

If drafted correctly, a Separation Agreement is a legally binding contract between spouses that sets out each spouse’s entitlements (including current and future entitlements), rights and obligations. Typical components of a Separation Agreement include: the division of assets and debts; terms regarding spousal support; child custody and access (with a view to the best interests of the children); and entitlement to insurance and benefits. 

It is important to obtain legal advice before entering into a Separation Agreement in order to understand exactly what rights and responsibilities you agree to in signing such an agreement as well as clarification on any entitlements that you may be waiving. It is also important to ensure that a Separation Agreement covers all relevant areas between the parties in order to avoid any future lawsuits for matters that were not included in the agreement.   

If a party fails to abide by the terms of a Separation Agreement that they agreed to, the other party may enforce the agreement themselves or with the assistance of a lawyer. 

On the other hand, a party may wish to challenge the validity of a Separation Agreement down the road, at which point the involvement of lawyers would be crucial in determining the legal validity of the Separation Agreement.

Collaborative Family Law (CFL) refers to a process for resolving family law disputes, including disagreements pertaining to divorce, separation, spousal support, the division of property, and other family law matters. CFL is only a viable option if both parties agree to participate in good faith. 

Unlike litigation, CFL is a more cooperative and non-adversarial approach whereby the parties, their lawyers, and often third-party specialists (i.e. financial specialists, parenting coaches, experienced mediators, etc.) work together to form solutions to the parties’ unresolved disputes. CFL is meant to encourage collaboration, open communication, transparency and a constructive approach to problem-solving without the threat of litigation. 

The objective of CFL is to allow couples to reach a mutually acceptable agreement, hopefully regarding all issues between them, without expending the costs, time, and energy of litigating their disputes in court. It is also a way to empower the parties to craft their own solutions instead of leaving disputes to be determined by a judge, who may very well make a decision that both parties may not like. 

CFL may be a viable option for couples who do not want their disputes to become public, for cultural or other reasons, and recognize the significance of maintaining a positive relationship with the other spouse – particularly if children are involved. This can help preserve or create a basis for effective co-parenting and future interactions between the parties.

If the parties agree to resolving their disputes through CFL, the terms are incorporated into a final and binding agreement (i.e. a Separation Agreement). 

If you wish to go through the CFL process to resolve any family law dispute, it is important to retain a lawyer to represent your interests and to ensure that the overarching objectives of cooperation, transparency, and participation in good faith are maintained throughout the process.

Unfortunately, many people are impacted by Domestic Violence and Abuse in the family context, which may have a lasting negative impact on relationships and victims themselves. Domestic Violence and Abuse may take place in a single incident or as part of a pattern of ongoing harmful behaviour and may take many forms, including: physical abuse; mental abuse; cultural abuse; financial abuse; and threats. 

There are many steps that victims of Domestic Violence and Abuse may take to protect themselves. The Government of Ontario recommends:

    • Calling 911 and advising of the incident(s);
    • Making noise to encourage neighbors; 
    • Teaching children to call police; 
    • Leaving the house; 
    • Making a safety plan; 
    • Contacting support services; 
    • When preparing to leave:
      • Open a bank account in your name and save money;
      • Plan emergency exits; 
      • Hide extra clothes and belongings required to live away from the home; and
      • Take essential paperwork including passports and birth certificates.

Aside from self-help actions that individuals can take, the law in Ontario also provides victims with legal recourse in response to Domestic Violence and Abuse. These include:

    • Having a court consider the misconduct when making orders (or varying existing ones) pertaining to parenting (i.e. Custody and Access). Many times, courts order supervised access to children as part of a response to Domestic Violence and Abuse, keeping the best interests of the child in mind; 
    • Obtaining restraining orders. Such orders may require the spouse to either stay away from the other spouse entirely or to stay away from certain areas (i.e. the victim’s workplace, the children’s school, the home in which the children and victim live, etc.). The failure to abide by a retraining order can lead to an arrest and criminal charges;  
    • Obtaining exclusive possession of the matrimonial home, particularly where children are involved. A court will consider whether granting such an order is fair in the circumstances, but it places great emphasis on the best interests of the children in its analysis; and
    • Beginning a civil lawsuit. In Ontario, victims of Domestic Violence and Abuse are entitled to sue the perpetrator spouse and to claim monetary damages, among other things, for battery, assault, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

When dealing with Domestic Violence and Abuse, it is important to contact a lawyer who can provide you with the necessary support systems and legal options to help cope.

Frequently asked questions

Collaborative Family Law (CFL) refers to a process for resolving family law disputes, including disagreements pertaining to divorce, separation, spousal support, the division of property, and other family law matters. CFL is only a viable option if both parties agree to participate in good faith. 

Unlike litigation, CFL is a more cooperative and non-adversarial approach whereby the parties, their lawyers, and often third-party specialists (i.e. financial specialists, parenting coaches, experienced mediators, etc.) work together to form solutions to the parties’ unresolved disputes. CFL is meant to encourage collaboration, open communication, transparency and a constructive approach to problem-solving without the threat of litigation.

There are two general ways assets are divided upon a breakdown of a relationship. 

The first is by way of an agreement between the parties such as a Separation Agreement. Here, the parties divide their assets in a mutually-agreeable manner and do not leave the decision up to a court. In doing so, parties have a say in the process and save time and legal fees. 

The second is through the litigation process and pursuant to applicable legislation:

    • Married Couples
      • The general principle of equally dividing assets that have been acquired (or that have increased in value) during a marriage is set out in the Family Law Act and is applicable to married couples only. A specific formula is used to determine how these assets are to be divided, but the general rule is that the spouse whose value has increased more during the marriage will pay half the difference to the other spouse (although there are several exceptions to this general rule). In determining the net property of each spouse, the value of their assets is reduced by the amount of their dates as generally as of the date of separation. 
    • Common-Law Couples
      • Common-Law spouses are not afforded the same property rights as married spouses. As such, each partner in a common-law relationship can only claim the assets they brought into the relationship or gained during its course. In order to protect against the disadvantages that may arise from this, it may be prudent for common-law couples to enter into Cohabitation Agreements. In addition, common-law couples may claim a constructive trust over assets that they have contributed to such that it would be unjust for the other partner to retain the full value of it. For instance, if both partners contributed equally to the payments and/or maintenance of a home, it may be unjust for only the registered owner to retain its value.

It is prudent to hire a lawyer as soon as reasonably possible if you have already separated or divorced or are contemplating doing so. Retaining a lawyer earlier in the process has several benefits, including: allowing you to be informed of your rights and legal obligations; providing you with your options going forward depending on the circumstances of your case; giving you an outline of the litigation or resolution process for family law matters; providing you with an estimate for legal fees; providing you with options if you are a victim of domestic violence or abuse; and answering any questions you may have regarding family law matters. 

Further, if your partner has already hired a lawyer then it would be important to hire a lawyer of your own to mitigate any disadvantage or unequal footing in the litigation or resolution process. Lawyers can also be crucial in the Collaborative Family Law process and provide the parties with a degree of separation, which is important in enabling early settlements and avoiding lengthy lawsuits.

In family law, a trust claim is a legal assertion advanced by a party who claims that their partner (or ex-partner) is holding certain assets or property in trust for them. There are several scenarios in which trust claims are advanced, but generally all such claims are made because the party seeking a trust believes that a trust is necessary for a fair division of assets. In cases where a trust claim is legitimate, there is a risk that one spouse would otherwise receive an unfair advantage to assets that another spouse has contributed to and yet has not received the benefit of.   

A common scenario where a trust claim may be advanced is where one partner is a stay-at-home parent who raises the children and takes care of the home, while the other partner earns and income and has their assets registered solely in his or her name. Upon a separation and divorce, the non-working spouse may have a trust claim over certain property acquired during the marriage based on the argument that his or her contribution to the marriage enabled the acquisition of the property in question. 

Trust claims play a significant role in family law, and more particularly in the context of property division upon a separation and divorce. The two main types of trust claims are known as Resulting Trusts and Constructive Trusts.

Trust claims are commonly advanced by common-law partners, who are not afforded the same rights to the division of property and assets as compared to married couples.

If there is a real estate dispute over a property, a certificate of pending litigation (“CPL”) can protect a party’s interests in the property until the dispute is resolved. In short, a CPL is a notice that is registered on the title of a property that informs the public that the interest to the property is subject to a lawsuit. A CPL is critical in some cases as it can stop a party from selling or encumbering a property until the dispute is resolved. For example, if a seller and a prospective buyer are in a dispute over a property, and the buyer is concerned that the seller might try to sell it out from under them, the CPL may be the way to go.

In some cases, it may be necessary to obtain a CPL on an ex parte basis (meaning without notice to the other side). This is especially true when a CPL is required on an urgent basis. 

Given that the materials required to obtain a CPL can take some time to prepare, in the interim, a party may consider registering a Caution on the property, which has the same practical effect as a CPL. However, unlike a CPL, a Caution is only a temporary solution, as it will expire after 60 days. 

OUR STORY

First and foremost, we at Kamalie Law are advocates and problem solvers who utilize the law as a mechanism to deliver exceptional client services. Our boutique-style law firm allows us to take a modern, personalized, and hands-on approach to client representation. Our practice is solely dedicated to civil/commercial and family disputes.

Prior to founding Kamalie Law, I worked at some of the largest and most prominent firms in Canada. I regularly commenced and defended lawsuits on behalf of individuals and businesses of all sizes in a broad range of matters. Our firm was founded on the belief that individuals and small businesses should have access to the same caliber of legal representation as multi-national corporations.

Regardless of the nature of the dispute, our mandate is to fearlessly advocate on behalf of our clients. Our lawyers are equally persuasive in the boardroom as they are in the courtroom. Specifically, we will always consider the possibility of a resolution early on. In fact, most of our cases are resolved without going to trial, achieving timely and cost-effective results. However, if an early resolution is not possible, our lawyers will not hesitate to go the distance.

Prior to founding Kamalie Law, I worked at some of the largest and most prominent firms in Canada. I regularly commenced and defended lawsuits on behalf of individuals and businesses of all sizes in a broad range of matters. Our firm was founded on the belief that individuals and small businesses should have access to the same caliber of legal representation as multi-national corporations.

Regardless of the nature of the dispute, our mandate is to fearlessly advocate on behalf of our clients. Our lawyers are equally persuasive in the boardroom as they are in the courtroom. Specifically, we will always consider the possibility of a resolution early on. In fact, most of our cases are resolved without going to trial, achieving timely and cost-effective results. However, if an early resolution is not possible, our lawyers will not hesitate to go the distance.

Our firm is committed to its clients. We provide practical, zealous, and transparent legal representation. There are no hidden fees, and the importance of your matter will not be lost on us. We understand that lawsuits can be intimidating and foreign to many, which is why we take the time to demystify the law and explain each step of the legal process.

We look forward to connecting with you and showing you how Kamalie Law can serve your needs.


Shayan Kamalie
Founder

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[email protected]

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