How to prepare to meet with a Family Law lawyer in Niagara

The process of separation is emotionally charged and often feels overwhelming for families. In the course of negotiating a separation agreement, you may need to deal with a number of legal issues including parenting arrangements, spousal and child support claims, insurance provisions and property division.

Once you have chosen the lawyer you will work with, how do you prepare for your first meeting with your Niagara family law lawyer? What should you bring to your appointment, what information should you be prepared to provide and what questions should you ask?

Compile important information about your situation

In order to compile your case and provide legal advice, your family lawyer will need to know specific details about your situation.

Income and Expenses

It will assist your lawyer to know your income and the income of your spouse over the past three years and to provide information about your monthly expenses and financial needs.

Assets and Debts

You should be ready to discuss the assets and debts that you have and that you share with your spouse. These assets may include real estate, personal property (contents of your home, vehicles etc.), bank accounts and retirement funds. You should also prepare a list of your liabilities such as mortgages, lines of credit, loans and credit cards.

Marital and Family History

It will help your family lawyer if you have prepared a summary of your marital and family history. The summary would cover information about you, your spouse, your marriage or common law relationship, you children, your employment and the employment of your spouse, and the education and work experience of both of you during the relationship.

Be Prepared to Discuss

What arrangements should be made for your children?

  • who will your children live with, what time will they spend with each parent, how will important decisions be made for the children, who pays child support and what support should be paid?

What are my needs?

  • what are my financial needs, do I want to stay in the family home, what assets do I want to retain, what debts will I be responsible for?

What will be the biggest issues that you and your spouse must sort out?

Does my spouse have a lawyer, will my spouse be prepared to negotiate a separation agreement or do we have to go to court?

Questions to ask your Niagara Family Lawyer

What is the best process for me and what is the estimate time this will take? What is the difference between a separation agreement and a court order? What resource are available to help me through my case? Are there things I can do to protect myself and to assist with my case? What are the likely costs of my case and will my spouse pay any of my legal costs?

The Family Law lawyers at Lancaster Chown & Welch in Niagara can assist you with their extensive experience and effective representation.

Change of Name Act – and Changing a Child’s Name

Hardly any parent can imagine when their child is born that they may get involved in a heated custody dispute over their new precious gift.  As a result, parents often do not pay much mind to the child’s last name and often simply follow the tradition of using the father’s last name or perhaps a hyphenated last name.  As circumstances change, a parent may want to change their child’s last name, or even first name, for a number of reasons.

Change of Name Act

Section 5 of the Change of Name Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. C.7 (the “Act” ) which deals with changing a child’s name was most recently amended in 2010

by including amendments made to the Children’s Law Reform Act.

 The Act provides that a person with lawful custody of,

  1. a) a child whose birth was registered in Ontario and who is ordinarily resident there; or
  2. b) a child who has been ordinarily resident in Ontario for at least one year immediately before the application is made,

may apply to the Registrar General to change the child’s forename or surname or both, unless a court order or separation agreement prohibits the change.

 The application to change a child’s name requires the written consent of,

  1. a) any other person with lawful custody of the child;
  2. b) any person whose consent is necessary in accordance with a court order or separation agreement;
  3. c) the child, if the child is twelve years of age or older.

The person applying to change the child’s name must give notice of the application to every person who is lawfully entitled to access to the child.  In this regard access parents that do not have legal custody of the child have very limited rights under the legislation.  Unless a court order or custody agreement states that the custodial parent is prohibited from changing a child’s name, the parent without legal custody of the child does not need to provide consent for the name change.  The access parent without custody is only required to be provided notice of the proposed name changed.  The access parent’s only real recourse once being notified of the proposed name change is to negotiate a change to any current custody agreement or to apply to court to prevent the name change by arguing for a change in custody and or arguing that the proposed name change is not in the best interests of the child.

As in any case involving children, the court determines an application for a name change in accordance with the best interests of the child.  One common factual scenario arising more often is where a parent has joint custody of a child and would like to change the name of the child to be hyphenated.  In that case the parent seeking the name change has the onus to prove that the name change is in the best interests of the child.

Factors to Changing a Name

Some common factors that the court will consider for the best interest of the child test are: the age of the child; the length of time that the custodial parent has had sole custody of the child; whether there was a continuing close relationship between the child and the access parent; whether there were any siblings of the child and, if there were, the last name used by the siblings; the motivation behind the name change such as whether a parent was trying to change the last name of the child to that of that parent’s new spouse to reduce ties with the biological parent.

At times parents will oppose a name change by arguing that the name change would confuse the child because their last name would then be different from that of a parent and as a result, their half siblings.  This type of argument is a difficult one to make successfully as the courts have recognized the common place of blended families and mother’s keeping their maiden names after marriage which has resulted in many children not sharing the same last names as both of their parents and step siblings.

If you are involved in court proceedings or negotiating a custody agreement involving your child and you would like the child’s name to remain unchanged, then be sure to include a term prohibiting a name change in your court order or custody agreement.  Otherwise, your child’s name may be changed with little legal recourse.