Family Property

How does a lawyer charge?

This is perhaps the most difficult and unwieldy area for both lawyer and client.

Lawyers in family law usually charge per hour. The fees can range from $150/hr for a newly admitted lawyer to $800/hr a lawyer with vast experience. Some lawyers charge flat (set) fees for Wills and uncontested divorces.

Lawyers usually ask for “a retainer” that is a deposit, similar to a security deposit. The size of the deposit depends on the nature of work to be done and on the lawyer’s hourly fee.

At the first meeting with the lawyer, he/she should set out the likely cost. With some lawyers, the first half hour of the first meeting is complimentary.

Because the lawyer charges for his time, the less time he has to spend on the file, the lower the cost will be. If the other side is cooperative, the less cost is incurred by both parties.

Also, the more the client does, for example: gathering all the requisite financial information, the less time the lawyer’s
attention is required. The lawyer’s fees must always be fair and reasonable.

How does the court deal with family property?

The property regime for married couples (not common law couples) is governed by the Family Law Act in Ontario. (There are no automatic rights to share property granted to non-married people, these are governed by trust principles.)

The basic premise is that the parties will “equalize” their net family properties. This means that one spouse will pay the other half the difference between their respective net family properties calculated as of the date of separation.

For example, if the husband had $100K in assets and $20K in debt, his net family property would be $80K (i.e. 100-20=80). If the wife had $90K in assets and $20K in debt, her net family property would be $70K (i.e. 90-20=70).

The husband in this scenario would have to pay the wife half of the difference of $80K-$70K = $10K divided by two = $5K.

The individual items of property would usually remain the property of the person in whose name it is registered. Property owned before the marriage remains the property of that person and its value at the date of marriage is deducted from his/her net family property.

Some property is excluded, such as gifts, or inheritances from third parties, that exist on the date of separation or property that can be traced to that gift. However, if the gift or inheritance was, or is now, a matrimonial home, it is not excluded.

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