Separating couples face many challenges, and as a practicing Family Lawyer in Guelph for over twenty-five years, I do my best to gently guide people through what can be an emotional journey on the road to separation and/or divorce.

I understand a spouse's fragility, confusion, and need for knowledge. Therefore, during an initial consultation, my goal is to help the client find answers to their questions, understand the issues they will encounter, and set them on a path towards successful resolution of the issues.


The Consultation - How to prepare and what to expect?

The following are issues that are likely to be discussed during a consultation and a guideline as to how to come prepared for the discussion:

  1. 1.  Income and Support 

Income underpins child and spousal support, and can affect the sharing of child-related expenses. 

To eliminate reliance on your memory and ensure your consultation appointment is productive, you should collect copies of important income-related documents, such as Income Tax Returns, Notice of assessments, and recent pay statements for both you and your spouse, ideally from the past three years (if available).

As well, if you or your spouse owns a business, it is important to know if it is registered as a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or an incorporated entity.

Be prepared to discuss the employment status of you and your spouse and particulars as to each spouse's role in the household. For example, indicate if anyone had to take a step back from their career to care for the family.

  1. 2. Property and Equalization 

Property is generally most relevant in marriage breakdown. Property issues arising upon separation of common-law couples are not protected under legislation (the Family Law Act) and are dealt with differently. These issues can also be discussed during the consultation.

When a marriage dissolves, a right to "equalization” is triggered. What this means is that each spouse becomes entitled to one-half of the value of the property accumulated during the marriage, not one-half of the property itself, and net of any accumulated debts.

To achieve equalization, there needs to be an understanding of all the property in a marriage. Therefore, in advance of the consultation, create a list of all of the assets and debts for you and your partner (to the extent possible). 

Consider items like real estate (mortgages, valuations), vehicles, pensions, investments, bank accounts, life insurance, business interests, debts (e.g., credit cards, loans, lines of credit, etc.). Be sure to note caveats as well, such as whether any property obtained through the marriage was by way of either an inheritance or as a third-party gift. 

All this financial information will give your lawyer a general idea of the value of each party’s “net family property” used for equalization purposes. 

  1. 3. Children

Lastly, are there children born of the relationship? If so, the lawyer will likely spend time canvassing your current or potential parenting time and decision-making arrangements. 

Decision-making means "the responsibility for making important decisions about a child's well-being, including decisions about health, education, culture, religion, and significant extra-curricular activities."

Parenting time means "the time that children spend in the care of one of their parents, whether or not the child is physically with that parent (for example, it includes time when children are attending school)."

Another issue usually discussed is children's expenses, including extra-curricular activities, childcare, school-related fees, or uninsured medical and dental expenses.

Next Steps

Not all of the above-listed issues may be applicable to your case, or there may be additional issues. I listen to what the client is saying, and when I detect an issue, I ask more questions. 

It is also vital to discuss with your lawyer any emergent concerns that you feel may need to be dealt with quickly, such as a parent moving away with a child or a spouse disposing of large portions of joint property.

Throughout the information gathering stage of the consultation, the lawyer will give you an overview of the law on the relevant legal issues in your case.

Towards the end of the consultation, the lawyer will guide you as to possible avenues that might be pursued to resolve your dispute. Ending a relationship doesn't have to result in a courtroom battle. Instead, there are various other paths to a resolution, including negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and collaborative family law.

At the end of the appointment, if you are happy with the lawyer's strategy and rate, you may wish to discuss retaining the lawyer.

Divorce can be a daunting experience, but I have a reputation in Guelph for being a resolution-oriented lawyer. Potential clients can come out of a consultation with answers, knowledge, and assurances that a resolution is achievable. 

Contact L. Cheryl Stelzer Law at (519) 822-6089.

Disclaimer: The content of this article is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice or an opinion of any kind. 

Cheryl Stelzer Law - Serving Guelph for over 20 years!