Family law lawyers – Access disputes

Family Law Lawyers – Access

First off, family law lawyers come in different shapes and sizes, and the content in this blog is my personal viewpoint.  It is general observations that I have made.  I have had family law as one of my practice areas for ten years and use this as the basis for my perspective.  As a family law lawyer I have helped resolve a significant number of access disputes between parents.  Here are a few guidelines for those of you looking for information on how to resolve access disputes.

First off, relax – Access will change

Time sharing with the children is often at the forefront of many parents minds.  The trust in their relationship with their partner has broken down and they are acting defensively with respect to protecting their relationship with the child.   The two parents will often have a different idea about what time sharing schedule will work best, and will try to denigrate the other parent in the hope of getting what they feel will work best.  It is just so easy for parents to use “the best interest of the child” to criticize the other parent and try to prop themselves up in doing so.  Stereotypically I have seen mothers offer too little access and try to minimize the time that the children spend with their father.  Conversely I have seen fathers try for unrealistic access schedules that just don’t make sense in an effort to put themselves on “equal footing” with the mother, who is often, during the tender years, the child’s primary parent.

It is important to recognize that like your child’s development, access is always changing.  It is fluid.  It requires flexibility and understanding between the two parents.  In my experience the clients with the best success post-separation take a more relaxed approach to time sharing.  The mother’s offer generous and liberal access and don’t try to control the father’s time with the child.  They refrain from criticism and recognize that none of us are perfect parents.  The fathers will respect the mother’s input and be willing to try out different time sharing schedules.  Quality access (typically weekends) is better than quantity.  There is no point engaging in conflict to determine who brushes the children’s teeth on Tuesday nights.  The conflict causes more damage than the pros/cons of any routine.

In short – there are pros and cons with every access scenario and it is important not to get married to any position.  Furthermore the time sharing will change with the age of the child, their scheduled activities, and the parents’ own schedules.  So try something on, knowing that if it doesn’t work it will change shortly anyways.

Arizona access guidelines 

In the state of Arizona there are mandatory access guidelines for parents – standardized access arrangements to help reduce family conflict over access.  The link for the guidelines is here.   Take a look – they may be able to provide some guidance on what the professionals feel are the best time sharing structures for separated families.   Every family has a different set of circumstances, and the access schedule should reflect those circumstances.  If your proposal is way off what you see here, though, you may wish to consult a family lawyer and get an opinion.

Child support and access are not legally related.  Now get real.

The courts will not reduce a father’s access for failing to provide child support.  The relationship between a child and his/her father is too important for that.  Similarly you can’t buy additional time with your child – time sharing isn’t correlated to your income.

There are a couple of issues that I have seen over the years between child support and access.  The first and most common, is that the mother makes the argument that the only reason the father wants a 60%/40% time sharing arrangement is to move from a full table support regime to a shared custody regime where the parents pay a set-off amount.  This argument cuts both ways of coarse – father will allege that the mother is denying him access for financial reasons.

There are two things that I think are important to note here.  Firstly, full table child support amounts to about 10% of income.  It is not a lot of money.  Children cost a lot of money and the last time I looked single mothers were amongst the poorest people in the country.  Separated fathers seem to typically downplay the costs and imagine that the child support recipients are spending their hard earned money on themselves and not the children.  Father’s that do a good job of supporting the mother and the children will have a less stressed out mother to deal with in terms of access issues, and that is good thing.  Spend the money on child support.  It’s worth it.

The other pattern that I see from the mother’s side is that they feel that the child’s father is living la vida loca and makes a ton of money.  He’s not.  I have also seen mothers that throw up a million roadblocks in terms of access and time sharing and then wonder why the children’s father isn’t enthusiastic to cut that cheque at the end of the month.  Mother’s need to be supportive of the father’s relationship with the child, in all cases.

Again, legally speaking, child support and access aren’t related.  But in my experience they totally are.  Separated parents that are successful trust each other to pay the right amount of child support and offer flexibility and generous access time routinely.

Resentment

Resentment is a real relationship killer.  I see it in family clients every day.  They are full of resentment – “I am unhappy and it’s x’s fault.”  There are a million variations on that theme.  The parties feel used and being taken advantage of.  Their accomplishments go completely unrecognized.  They are defensive and under constant criticism.  They also provide constant criticism and are hugely judgmental.   I find that there is a real victim mentality – the notion that they have been wronged and an accompanying powerlessness to do anything about it.

Getting Help

I have handled access disputes in the past with some success, but realistically it’s better to have a less expensive and more specialized option in place.  Family law lawyers will deal with access disputes as part of the intial separation, but aren’t a good choice to deal with ongoing conflict with respect to access solely.  I recommend using a Parenting Co-ordinator to help smooth out ongoing disputes.  Recently a few of my recommended practitioners have formed a consulting group in Ottawa.  If you are struggling with conflict on an ongoing basis then give them a call.  Life is too short to carry that kind of emotional turmoil around with you all the time.

Here is their website:

www.familyconsultantsottawa.ca

These women have worked with families for decades helping them cope with family conflict.  They have tools and coping strategies to help parents develop the necessary skills to build a working relationship for the good of their children.  Children need parents that can get along and work together, even on a very basic level.  If parents fight children basically feel that it’s their fault, or that they are worth less than children whose parents get along.  Not a great feeling for a child to have, and if you don’t resolve your difficulties with your spouse you could find yourself having to deal with child-related issues in the future.

Summary

Access disputes take some time and experimentation to get right.  Both parents should be flexible in their approach and the regime should be reviewed and if necessary changed often.  Although child support and access are not legally related, they are often tied to each other in disputes.  Parents need to support each other both financially and in terms of the parent’s relationship with the child in order to be successful in a post-separation setting.  There are professionals that are available in order to assist parents in resolving their disputes over time sharing arrangements.

Brace yourselves for interest rate increases

As a real estate lawyer I have been following the interest rates closely.  I have three mortgages that are due to renew and I’ve been hoping to take advantage of continuously low interest rates in 2015.  I regularly follow the news related to interest rates and try to stay in tune with what’s going on.  I am no mortgage broker, but I am an interested party and would like to share my interest rate predictions for 2015.

I think we will get three more quarters before the interest rates go up in fall of 2015.  Typically the government will give a few warnings before the interest rates goes up.  When the interest rates do go up I would expect the following things to happen:

Housing prices will stagnate or drop

The condo market is already in the dumps and we’re seeing housing inventory stay on the market for longer.  There will eventually be a downturn in housing so prepare yourselves now.  Don’t get into a position where you have to sell, or it could cost you some big bucks.  The buyers won’t be out there when the interest rates go up.

More bankruptcies

A lot of people are going pay check to pay check right now and just making payments on the debt that they have.  When interest rates go up on lines of credit and variable mortgages people won’t be able to keep up.  The accompanying financial stress will have an impact on health and decision making and lead to disability and financial ruin.  Forced sale of homes, foreclosures and bankruptcies will increase and again build up inventory of housing on the market.  There will be a decline in net worth and less investment as a result.

Cost of living 

The good news is that gas prices should stay low for a few years and help ease the hit.  I think that the lower gas prices are actually what is driving the Bank of Canada’s decision to increase interest rates.  The lower cost of fuel will help Canadians to better absorb the increase in debt payments.

Brace yourselves

If you are in a variable mortgage, pay it down.  If you have lines of credit roll them into a fixed interest rate mortgage in the next couple of months and don’t hold any credit that relies on the prime rate.  Start a saving plan – cash will be king shortly and the name of the game is to reduce spending and weather the storm.  The reduction in consumer spending will negatively impact our overall economy and it’s time to pay the piper for years of excessive spending and increased debt levels.  Canadians won’t have Alberta’s oil revenues to help provide stability any more – it’s time that we cut everything back and just live with what we’ve got for the next few years.  Those that make it through will have some built up equity and savings and a market full of opportunity waiting for them.  Those that don’t – well it’s time to start fresh and take some chances.

Good luck in 2015 everyone!

 

 

Compliance Issues in buying a triplex

I recently acted for a client purchasing a triplex.  At least they thought they were buying a triplex.  The listing described the property’s current use as “a non-conforming triplex.”  I ordered a Report on Compliance from the City of Ottawa which revealed that the property’s current use could not be verified.  The report noted:

“A three-unit dwelling is a listed permitted use in the R4F[480] zone of By-law 2008-250 however there are no building permit records establishing a three-unit dwelling use at this location.  Our building permit records indicate a duplex dwelling with roomers at this location.”

Is this a significant issue?  Yes.  It appears as though at some point in the 80’s one of the previous owners converted this old garage into a bedroom for rent.   Essentially what the purchasers were buying is a duplex with an illegal unit. This becomes an issue because the lender – in this case CIBC – had completed their appraisal based on the property being a triplex.  The appraisal was based on other triplexes which increased it’s appraised value.  If only two of the units are legal the property is technically a duplex and this would affect the market value of the investment.

The other issue is that the City of Ottawa could intervene at some point (ie. a tree falls on the garage) and require the owners to bring the garage up to code.  In that case you have to get a new survey, hire an architect, get plans drawn, get a new building permits – tens of thousands of dollars.  While it is unlikely that the city would intervene, this is a risk that the purchasers didn’t bargain for when they negotiated an agreement of purchase and sale.

If you would like further information about this article’s subject please contact Delaney’s Law Firm at (613) 233-7000.

Business development for young lawyers

I am not an old lawyer.  But I’m getting there.  And I don’t do everything that I will talk about in this post, but I should.  It’s easy advice to give and hard advice to follow.

My background as lawyer

I am a 2004 call and opened Delaney’s Law Firm in 2006.  I am now ten years in practice.  My practice areas include real estate, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, debt collection, estate administration amongst various other things.  I am a true general practitioner and my practice areas tend to cross over each other.

Where do I find my clients?

I moved to Ottawa in 2005 and left my network behind.  When I arrived here I didn’t know anyone and had to find a way to develop business for myself.  I am willing to share this information with you in the hope that you won’t repeat the same mistakes I have.

Step 1:      Build a database

Networking, handing out business cards, public speaking, blogging, whatever – these are all great in terms of developing business.  The biggest one, though, is database management.  It can be as simple as a spreadsheet or as complex as cloud based multi platform software.  I would start with a spreadsheet and then go from there.  If you want the full monty I recommend Daylite by Marketcircle.

Essentially your database is your modern day rolodex.  It’s the foundation of your whole system.  What you should do is track when you contacted them, what was exchanged, and follow up every three or four months.  It’s no use finding someone who refers you clients only to have them forget about you after a year.  You have to maintain the relationship – cards, lunches, swag, whatever.  You won’t remember to do that when you have 1,000 contacts.  Spreadsheets and software will help you run the system and keep you at the top of mind for your contacts.

Business is about those relationships.  It may be that you reach out to someone and they tell you they want to buy a car.  You refer them to your friend the car salesmen.  You follow up with him and let him know they’re coming.  They get a deal done and both are happy for your assistance.  You are at the top of their mind for a short period of time and if someone asks them for a lawyer’s name it will be yours that comes up.

The more you can add to the database the better.  A picture is helpful, birthday (send a card), home address (Christmas card) etc.  It has to be somewhat automated because networking always comes after file work and signing new clients.

Step 2:     Add value and create “Win-wins” 

Wayne Gretzky once said “You have to take care of what takes care of you.”

Nothing could be more true about your referral sources.  The Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit lawyers from paying referral fees to non-lawyers.  That does not mean, however, that you can’t add value to the referral source’s business.  Send them clients.  Refer them to competent professionals.  Help them build their business.  Nobody wants a one-way street, and it’s much better over the long haul to have two people working together than one relying on the other.

Step 3:      Social networking 

So you have your database setup and your ready to start building your network based on mutual co-operation.  You’ve got your Twitter account and have 24 followers hanging off your pearls of wisdom that you like to throw out every once in awhile.  “Live each and every day to it’s fullest.”  You’re good, right?

Wrong.

Social networking is about being social.  Follow, favourite and connect.  Add them in the database.  But then meet for coffee, share notes and follow up with a lunch a few months later.  Send a Starbucks gift card at Christmas and touch base in the spring.  Retweet their tweets, add their link to your site, and get them thinking about you.  It’s just not enough to be on social networking platforms – you have to leverage them.  If you have an event – take lots of pictures, video, anything.  Create a fabric and put yourself out there.  Don’t be shy, people will like you.  It’s far more interesting than the bland content that most law firms go with.  I haven’t quite mastered it yet, but look to Jamie Casino for mentorship:

Step 4:    Blogging

Google loves bloggers.  Blogs get listed in directories and create links to your site which ups your Search Engine ranking.  It creates content that will also show up on specific searches  “think Family Law Rule 15 motion.”  It introduces people to your personality and style and puts you out there as an expert.  You should do about 1-2 per month, and is a great way for students to add value right out of the gate.

Step 5:   Revamp your system , set targets, monitor performance

Every year you should revisit your system and tweak it.  Add to it.  Take some things away.  Make it fun and enjoyable, while productive.  Set goals for yourself and revisit those targets and evaluate.  Track how many clients you brought it from various sources and try to get a sense of where your success is coming from.  It’s a great compliment to billing, and gives you leverage in terms of negotiations in your firm.  “Sure I only docketed 30 hours, but I brought in 5 clients that have what – $10k in potential billables?”  Open a file (we use the term “Penske”) and docket the amount of time that you spend on business development.  Also useful information.

 

6 Things You Should Know Before You Buy a Condo

Purchasing a condominium is not the same as purchasing a house on its own lot. The following list sets out six important things to understand when you are thinking about buying a condo.

1) The Concept of a Condominium

The basic concept behind condominiums is that you purchase sole ownership of a “unit” in a project, together with joint ownership of all common elements of the project with other unit owners. The project is typically a high-rise building or a row of townhouses.

As a unit owner, you become a voting member of the condominium corporation. The condominium corporation elects a board of directors, which makes important decisions about the operation and management of the project.

Owners of condo units have different rights and responsibilities than owners of traditional houses. Condo purchasers must be aware that the use and enjoyment of a condo is restricted by a number of factors that do not exist when purchasing a traditional home on its own lot. However, condo owners are usually spared the routine maintenance problems that come with home ownership.

2) Restrictions on Use

The use and enjoyment of a condo is limited by three kinds of documents: the Declaration; the corporate by-laws; and the rules made by the directors. It is important to review these documents so that you know exactly what you are buying and how your use of the property may be restricted. Ask your lawyer if you have any questions or concerns.

Declaration – This is the document that creates the condominium corporation. It contains descriptions of all of the units in the condo. It also sets out the ownership of the common elements and the obligation of owners to pay common expenses. The declaration may restrict how the units and common elements can be used. A common restriction is to limit the use of the units to residential use.

By-Laws – These are the rules for running the corporation. They set out things like the number of directors, how many directors are required to constitute a quorum, how notice of meetings is given, and so on. It is important to be aware of how the condo corporation is structured, since you will be buying into it.

Rules – The board of directors can pass reasonable rules about the use of the common elements and the units. Owners must comply with these rules. Purchasers should be aware of any rules in existence at the time of purchase. A new rule is effective 30 days after notice is given to each owner. Within this 30-day time period, owners can demand a meeting to reconsider the rule. This requires the support of at least 15% of the owners.

3) Common Elements & Common Expenses

 The common elements of a condo are all of the parts that do not form part of the units. For example: the lobby of a high-rise building; hallways; stairways; elevators; a parking lot; etc. A common element can be designated for the exclusive use of an owner. For example, parking spots in a garage may be assigned to particular units. Backyards and balconies are often considered common elements, but are typically reserved for the exclusive use of the adjacent unit owners.

Common expenses are monthly contributions made by unit owners towards the maintenance and repair of the common elements. The costs of operating the condo development are borne by the condominium corporation. To do this, they collect money from the unit owners each month. Common expenses cover costs for the common elements such as cleaning, gardening, snow removal, management fees, and legal and accounting fees. If an owner fails to make a payment for common expenses, the corporation has an automatic lien against the owner’s unit.

4) Insurance

The corporation must insure the replacement costs of the units and common elements. Unit owners are responsible for insuring any improvements made to their units, as well as the contents of their units.

Therefore, owners do not have to carry fire insurance for the entire unit, because this will be covered by the corporation’s insurance. However, the corporation’s insurance will not cover the unit owner’s contents, or any improvements made by the owner. Most fires will damage items classified as improvements or contents such as wallpaper, rugs, paintings, furniture, etc.

5) Repairs

There is a distinction between regular maintenance and repairing damage.

Maintenance – Generally, the corporation is responsible for maintenance of the common elements and the unit owners are responsible for maintaining their own units. However, this can be altered in the declaration to make the owners responsible for maintaining common elements to which they have exclusive use, e.g. a balcony.

Repairing Damage – When damage occurs, the corporation is responsible for repairing the common elements and the units. However, they are not responsible for repairing any improvements made by the owner to the unit. Owners are responsible for damage they do to the common elements.

6) Reserve Fund

Every condo corporation must maintain a reserve fund. This ensures the corporation will have enough money to cover repair and replacement costs. Reserve fund studies are conducted every three years to determine how much money the corporation should have in the reserve fund.

Owners must contribute to the reserve fund once per year. An owner’s contribution is at least 10% of their annual common expenses, or an amount recommended by the reserve fund study (whichever is greater).

If you are buying or selling a condo and need to find a real estate lawyer to close your transaction, consider Delaney’s Law Firm. We have ten years of experience behind us, competitive rates, and will provide you with the level of service required to ensure the transaction is as stress-free as possible.

Real Estate Closings

Some common things that you should know about real estate closings :

1.   Appointment

With most real estate closings you won’t actually meet with your real estate lawyer until all of the documents are prepared and ready for execution.  This usually occurs a few days prior to the actual closing date, but can be as late as the morning of closing.  At the real estate closing appointment the lawyer will review the various documents associated with your real estate closing with you.  Most of the documents are boiler plate – meaning that they are standard with every transaction.  The execution of these documents typically takes about an hour.

2.  Day of closing

On the day of closing your real estate lawyer will send cheques/keys and executed documents over to the other real estate lawyer’s office.  When both parties have everything that they need one of the lawyers will register the deed and any associated mortgage on title through the province’s electronic land registry system.  Once the deed and mortgage are registered the lawyers can release the keys and cheques to the parties and the real estate deal is officially closed.

3.  Delays

Delays aren’t great but they do happen.  There are a lot of moving parts in a real estate transaction and they don’t always line up.  Lenders and banks won’t always get documents or instructions in on time, conditions in the agreement may not yet be fulfilled, et cetera et cetera.  If there is a delay in the closing the lawyers will typically agree to extend the terms of the deal by way of a letter.  There may be additional costs associated with the delay depending on how long it will take to get it done.

When issues arise the lawyers will always try to work around them to ensure that a deal closes as scheduled.  There are typically fairly severe consequences to one/both parties if a deal cannot close.

If you have bought/sold your home and need to find a real estate lawyer to close your transaction, consider Delaney’s Law Firm.  We have ten years of experience behind us, have competitive rates, and will provide you with the level of service required to make your move as stress free as possible.

If you would like to get started please complete the contact form below and our office will contact you.

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Ottawa Real estate closings

Real estate closings

Ottawa real estate closings are a big part of the success of Delaney’s Law Firm.  Bryan Delaney has closed thousands of real estate transactions over the years and is experienced.  Closing a real estate deal is typically very straight forward, however every once in awhile issues can crop up that make the closing more difficult.  Only experience and expertise can help smooth out these issues and ensure that the deal closes as promptly as possible.

The majority of the work done to close a real estate transaction is done by a law clerk.  The law clerk responsible for real estate at Delaney’s Law Firm is Rosana Yaworski.  Here is a short video about Rosana!

Rosana works extremely hard to ensure that your real estate closing goes smoothly.  She will keep you informed at every stage and will work with you and your lender.

Real estate lawyer’s role

The lawyer’s role in a residential real estate closing is to act as the middle man between the buyers and the sellers, their lenders, and the agent.  The lawyers take a firm agreement of purchase and sale and deliver it to closing – where the parties end up with either money or keys.

If you are looking for a lawyer to handle your Ottawa real estate closing or if you would like to learn more about the process give Rosana a call at (613) 233-7000 or complete an intake form below.

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Family Law Lawyers

Family law lawyers in Ottawa range between $150 and $600 per hour depending on their years of experience and which firm they are with.  Most family lawyers are in the $150 to $300 range.  While family lawyers are expensive most people going through a family law crises continue to use them because of the importance of the issues being contested.

The first thing a family law lawyer will do is get a handle on the facts of the case.  A certain level of disclosure (statements/documents) is required.  The amount of disclosure will depend on how complex the case is.  Typically family law issues fall under the following headings.

  1. Custody
  2. Access
  3. Child Support
  4. Spousal Support
  5. Division of Property

Custody and access are parenting issues that arise when the parents can’t agree upon the best interests of the child.  Family lawyers will use mediation or alternative dispute resolution processes to have the parties reach an agreement.  It is common for family law litigants to believe that a settlement is impossible, however most (~95%) of family law cases settle prior to going to trial.

Family law lawyers can be highly effective in custody/access disputes because they provide the parties with objective, reasonable advise.  They are often familiar with similar decisions and have a network of service providers (child psychologists, social workers, accountants) to assist the family in getting through the conflict.  Family law lawyers will typically reduce the level of conflict during a divorce and expedite a settlement.

If you need a family law lawyer please complete the intake form below to schedule a consultation.

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Legal Services – Bryan Delaney

Legal Services provided by Bryan Delaney include:

Administrative Law
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Social Program
Business Law
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Incorporations
Independent Legal Advice
Sports Law
Civil Law
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Co-op Housing
Estate Litigation
Motor Vehicle Accidents
Personal Injury
Property Damage
Residential Landlord and Tenant (Landlord)
Residential Landlord and Tenant (Tenant)
Slander / Libel
Small Claims Court
Wrongful Dismissal
Estate Law
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Elder Law
Estate Administration and Distribution
Estate Litigation
Estate Planning
Independent Legal Advice
Living Wills
Power of Attorney
Representation Agreements
Trusts
Wills
Family Law
Adoption
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Annulments
Bankruptcy and Insolvency
Child / Spousal Support
Child Custody / Access
Child Protection Proceedings
Collaborative Family Law
Committeeship (Mental Incompetency)
Division of Property / Assets
Domestic Contract
Family Court of Appeal
Independent Legal Advice
International Divorce
Paternity
Restraining Orders
Separation / Divorce
Uncontested Divorce
Variation Orders
Labour and Employment Law
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Arbitration – Interests and Rights
Employment Contracts
Employment Equity
Employment Insurance (EI)
Employment Standards
Human Rights / Discrimination
Individual Employee Representations
Management Representation
Occupational Health and Safety
Pensions
Professional Discipline Hearings
Sexual Harassment / Discrimination
Sports Law
Union Certification / Decertification
Unionized Personnel
Work Permits / Visas
Wrongful Dismissal
WSIB / WCB / WSB
Real Estate Law
Condominium Contract
Independent Legal Advice
Mortgage Agreements
Residential Real Estate
Rural Real Estate

Affidavits, Notarizations and Statutory Declarations

 

Delaney’s Law Firm provides legal services from Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  There is almost always a lawyer in the office that is available for notarizations.  The costs of the notarizations vary, but a simple notarization is $34.99.

The firm has staff that can help you to prepare affidavits and statutory declarations.  The law clerks in the office are able to commission those documents on site.  If you need to scan, email or fax the documents there is no additional charge.

The firm’s real estate lawyer is able to witness or provide independent legal advice on real estate closings, contracts, separation agreements, or any other written instrument.

It is easier for the staff if you call ahead to schedule the appointment.  The phone number is (613) 233-7000, or email info@ottawalawyer.com.