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Separation. Divorce. Child Custody and Access. Child Support. Spousal Support. Division of Property and Assets.

Why It’s Important to Hire an Experienced Lawyer for Your Divorce

The more complicated your divorce is, the more likely you need guidance from an experienced family law lawyer. For example, if you and your spouse were married abroad, have a child with a disability, live with a child from a spouse’s previous relationship, or either spouse is self-employed, there are special legal concerns that only a trained lawyer may be able to spot. Here are 10 reasons why it is important to hire an experienced lawyer for your divorce case.

To Avoid Missing Deadlines

There are strict timing rules that dictate when you must serve and file various court documents and/or evidence. For example, if your spouse served you a divorce application, you have 30 days to respond if you live within Canada/USA and 60 days if you live outside of Canada/USA. If you miss this deadline, the case may proceed without you, or the courts can award costs against you for delaying the proceeding. A lawyer will monitor these important deadlines for you.

To Tell You What Evidence You Need to Collect

If you are seeking custody of your children, you will need to convince the courts that you have been an active parent in your children’s life. If you are seeking spousal support and believe that your spouse is hiding income so that he or she has to pay less support, you will need to show evidence that confirms your suspicion. Experienced lawyers can tell you what is considered “good evidence” based on their experience with other cases, lawyers, and judges. Do not waste your time and energy digging up information that is irrelevant and possibly even harmful to your case.

To Explain the Legislation (Statutory Law)

If you are getting separated or divorced in Ontario, there are at least three different legislative acts that may govern your case: the Divorce Act (federal), the Family Law Act (provincial), and the Children’s Law Reform Act (provincial). There may also be real estate, tax, trust law, criminal, or business considerations that require knowledge of other pieces of federal and/or provincial legislation. An experienced lawyer can help you understand the law and how it applies to your specific facts.

To Provide Relevant Case Law (Jurisprudence)

Ontario is a common law jurisdiction. That means judges are bound to follow earlier judges’ decisions if the facts of those cases are similar to your case. Case law helps interpret statutory law. An experienced lawyer will be able to find relevant case law quickly and cost-effectively. Even if you do not go to court, case law can affect your negotiation position considerably.

To Articulate Your Arguments to the Decision-Maker

Hire an experienced lawyer to help you write persuasive, meaningful arguments and leave out content that is immaterial to the case. Many self-represented parties include information in their submissions to the court that is harmful to their own case as they do not appreciate what a Judge is looking for. While Judges are sympathetic to parties’ emotional pains that stem from a divorce, they can only base their determinations on evidence that is legally relevant.

To Provide Insight on What Your Needs and Responsibilities May Be In The Future

When you first separate you may be tempted to quickly and quietly resolve our case, at any cost. However, it is a lawyer’s obligation to explain to you the long-term consequences of your decisions. If you do not get proper legal advice, you may discover a serious problem in the future that you had not anticipated.

To Refer You to Other Experts

You may be required to sell your home, sell your shares in a business, write a new will, or hire a professional assessor to help you determine the best living arrangements for your children. An experienced lawyer can help determine whether you need an expert opinion and provide you with referrals.

To Provide Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Options

In Ontario, a trial is a last resort for separating couples. Experienced lawyers can help you negotiate a separation agreement with your spouse outside of court, saving you time and money. Mediation, arbitration, collaborative law, or mediation-arbitration are other alternatives to court. An experienced lawyer can recommend the process that works best for you.

To Reduce Stress

You’re already going through enough stress without also having to learn an entire body of law. Focus on your mental health, your children, and your work/education. Your lawyer will still need you to gather information and make all the major decisions in your case, but you can leave the procedural and technical issues up to the lawyer.

To Tell You When to Settle

There comes a time in most cases where spouses must compromise in order to reach a final resolution. This is very hard to do for most people, especially when their relationship with their former spouse has completely soured. An experienced lawyer will give you an honest opinion as to whether a settlement offer is bad, fair, or excellent. He or she can also help you draft reasonable settlement offers and help you resolve your case fairly.