Abuse – Cruel treatment of others, and also grounds for divorce.
Access – Parenting access can also be called visitation, which is the parent's right to spend time with their child.
Adultery – Consensual sexual relations between someone who is married and someone else they are not married to, also another ground for divorce.
Antagonistic System – The legal system is frequently referred to as antagonistic as the parties actively oppose one another.
Affidavit – A written document that is sworn under oath.
Affidavit of Documents – A written document sworn under oath where a person swears that the list of documents is all they have in their possession related to the case.
Alternative Dispute Resolution – Alternative methods to resolving disputes out of court, such as mediation.
Answer – A document responding to an Application, to which you have 30 days to respond.
Annulment – A claim that your marriage is void for specific reasons, such as the marriage was never consummated or one party was already married. This is a legal annulment, not to be confused with a religious annulment.
Appeal – When someone asks the court to reverse a previous court decision.
Application – A document that is filed to apply for a divorce or other family law remedy.
Appraisal – A process used to determine the value of items that you or your spouse own.
Arbitrator – A professional who makes a binding decision about a case in a mini-trial. Arbitration is quicker and less costly than court.
Bankruptcy – A proceeding where someone cannot pay back their debts and seeks relief. It does not affect child or spousal support payments, and you cannot claim bankruptcy on the arrears of child or spousal support.
Beneficiary – A person named to receive assets from an estate, a trust, an insurance policy, etc.
Business Valuator – A professional (may be an accountant) trained to conduct valuations on a business. A business valuation may be required if you or your spouse own a business.
Canada Pension Plan – Credits collected during the marriage term, divisible during a divorce, you may not contract out and deal with separately from other property.
Case Conference – Normally considered a first court appearance in a family law matter. A case conference is an excellent opportunity to narrow down the issues in your case and try to resolve some of the issues.
Case Law – Written or verbal decisions made by judges in previous court cases can be used as a precedent in current ongoing cases.
Child Support – Financial payments made by one parent to the other to help cover a child's living expenses.
Cohabitation – When two people live together but are not married. They are in a marriage-like relationship.
Cohabitation Agreement – An agreement between two parties who plan to live together that sets out how matters will be dealt with if the parties end the relationship or one or both parties dies.
Collaborative Process – A process wherein the parties and their lawyers agree that they will attempt to resolve their differences justly and equitably without turning to the courts.
Collusion – Collusion is an arrangement between two or more parties to act concurrently to achieve an illegal intent. For example, a husband and wife agree that they separated a year ago when they did not, and collusion is unlawful.
Common-Law Relationship – A couple who have lived together for at least three years but are not married.
Confidentiality – Information which must be kept private.
Consummate – To make a relationship, whether married or not, complete by having sexual relations with each other.
Contempt of Court – You are in contempt of court when you violate a court order. Contempt of court is a severe criminal and civil offence that may impose monetary fines and jail time as possible punishments.
Contested Divorce – When an agreement cannot be reached on some or all of the issues of a divorce.
Corollary Relief – Issues arising from the breakdown of a marriage other than the divorce itself, such as decision-making responsibility, child support, spousal support and the division of assets.
Cost of Living Adjustment – A cost of living adjustment is an increase in the number of payments that occur annually, such as in support payments. The adjustment is typically established on the Consumer Price Index for your city or province.
Costs – Costs are costs ordered by a judge once a motion or trial is decided to compensate the successful party for some or all of their legal fees.
Debts and Assets Incurred After Separation or Divorce – You will not be found liable for any debts your spouse incurred after the date of separation, and you will not need to share the value of any assets you acquire after separation with your spouse.
Decision-Making Responsibility – The right of one or both parents to make significant decisions about their child's upbringing (such as medical, educational and religious decisions); a court may grant decision-making responsibility to one parent (sole decision-making) or both parents (joint decision-making).
Defined Benefit Plan – A pension plan where the plan promises that you will collect a pre-determined monthly income for life upon your retirement.
Defined Contribution Plan – A pension plan in which your contributions to a retirement plan are understood (defined). The amount of money to be dispersed upon your retirement is unspecified and depends upon how the yearly contributions have been invested.
Dependant – A legal term for an individual who is owed support. You are legally bound to support your children, spouse, and parents.
Disbursements – Disbursements are out-of-pocket expenses such as court fees, couriers, faxes, photocopies, appraisals and valuations of assets, and process servers.
Discovery – A legal process for assembling information. The discovery process involves document requests and your spouse being questioned under oath.
Division of Property – A court commonly splits assets amassed during the marriage term equally. A judge can order an unequal division of property based on facts such as whether the marriage was of short duration or whether one spouse carelessly exhausted property.
Divorce – A legal dissolution of a marriage by a court, and a divorce is not necessary for common-law couples.
Divorce Order – A document signed by a judge stating that your divorce is final 31 days after the date the order was signed.
Domestic Violence – Abusive behaviours utilized by one person in a relationship towards the other to manipulate or harm them. Some common examples are hitting, shoving, slapping, punching, unwanted sexual activity, emotional and financial abuse.
Equalization Payment – A principle of law that states that upon divorcing, married spouses share equally in the increase in value of assets, including cars, stocks, pensions, household contents, etc., accumulated during their marriage. The spouse with greater net family property makes a payment to the spouse with the lower net family property.
Exclusive Possession – When a married couple separates, both parties have an equal right to remain in the matrimonial home. Exclusive possession is when the court has given you the freedom to stay in the house, and your spouse must move out of the house.
False Allegations – False allegations are untrue statements made by one person against another person.
Family Law Act – The Family Law Act is the law that governs property division for married couples in Ontario, and it also regulates the issues of child support, child custody, spousal support and other issues for unmarried couples.
Family Responsibility Office – The Family Responsibility Office, also called FRO, is a government office designed to ensure that people who must make child or spousal support payments meet their legal obligations. FRO has the legal power to collect these payments, usually through wage garnishment or revoking a person’s driver’s licence or passport if payment of child support or spousal support is not made.
Financial Statement – A financial statement is a document that summarizes your financial situation and is used as a basis for negotiating the resolution of the issues of division of property, child support and spousal support. A financial statement is a sworn statement, which means you certify that what you’ve put on it is true.
Garnishment – A process where for each paycheque you receive, your employer deducts a certain amount and sends it to FRO to cover your support payments.
Gifts – A voluntary property transfer from one person to another without anticipation of compensation. Gifts from third parties are not considered in the division of property on separation, provided the gift can be traced to an existing asset.
Support Guidelines – Child and spousal support is payable according to the Support Guidelines. Under the guidelines, the amount of child support you receive or pay depends on your income, the number of children you have, and where you live.
Household Contents – Household items owned by both parties, regardless of which spouse made the purchase.
Joint Assets – Assets, such as bank accounts, that both you and your spouse own.
Joint Debts – Debts shared between the parties, such as a credit card.
Judgment – The court’s final determination regarding your rights and obligations.
Lump Sum Spousal Support – A one-time final spousal support payment made in place of monthly payments. It is not tax deductible by the payor or taxed for the recipient.
Marriage Breakdown – Marriage breakdown is the only ground for divorce in Canada. Under the Divorce Act, there are three ways in which a marriage can breakdown: one year of separation, adultery, or physical or mental cruelty.
Marriage Contract – An agreement entered into by both parties who are married or going to get married. The marriage contract sets out what happens if the couple separates or in case of death.
Matrimonial Home – The home where the spouses lived just before the date of separation. Both spouses have an equal right to possession of the matrimonial home. When dividing property, you do not get any credit if you brought the matrimonial home into the marriage.
Mediation – An alternative dispute resolution process where a professionally trained mediator, an impartial third party skilled at getting individuals to reach an agreement, aids you and your spouse in arriving at a mutually agreeable solution to the issues arising from your separation.
Mental Cruelty – An action of cruelty or unkindness by one person towards another, such as threatening, intimidating or belittling them. Mental cruelty is one of the grounds for a divorce.
Minutes of Settlement – When a case is settled out of court, the settlement may be written in a document called minutes of settlement which details the agreement reached between you and your spouse.
Motion – A request to the court asking for a court order or judgment. It is usually done on an interim basis while waiting for trial.
Net Family Property – Your assets on the date of separation, minus your liabilities on the date of separation, minus your net worth on the date of marriage, and minus any inheritances and gifts from third parties received during your marriage that are traceable.
Notional Disposition Costs – There are often financial consequences to cashing in an asset. For example, if you cash in an RRSP, you must pay income tax on the proceeds. There may be a capital gains tax if you sell land other than your primary residence. In selling your home, there may be real estate fees. These financial consequences of cashing in an asset are notional disposition costs. In calculating the division of property on divorce, if you use the actual value of your assets, you will be exaggerating their value. To account for this, you must subtract any notional disposition costs from the value of the assets.
Notary Public – A notary public is an individual authorized to administer oaths and execute or certify documents.
Order – An order is a directive by the court that the parties must follow. Interim orders are temporary and may be issued while the facts of a case are being decided. A final order is a permanent order at the end of a trial. A judge’s orders based on the parties’ agreement on specific issues are called consent orders.
Parties – The people on either side of a divorce are called the parties to the proceeding.
Paternity – Paternity describes the relationship between a father and his child and can be resolved with a DNA test.
Prenuptial Agreement – An agreement between two people in a relationship that deals with what the consequences will be in the case of separation or if one of them dies. There are two types of prenuptial agreements; marriage contracts and cohabitation agreements.
Reconciliation – The process by which separated parties resume their marital relationship and cohabitation.
Retainer – A retainer is the money you pay to your lawyer or mediator for their services. The money is held in a trust account, and your lawyer or mediator cannot touch these funds until they send you an invoice when the amount you are billed is deducted from your retainer.
Separation – In Ontario, there is no such thing as a legal separation. Instead, a separation happens when one spouse forms an intent to live separate and apart and acts on this.
Separation Agreement – An agreement between two people intended to resolve all or most of the outstanding issues due to the breakdown of their relationship. The contract generally covers issues such as the division of assets, decision-making responsibility and access, child support and spousal support.
Settlement Conference – A court appearance where the parties and their lawyers attend to try to examine ways to settle. If your case does not settle, the judge will give their opinion on how they would decide the case at trial. The significance of this opinion is what may prompt a settlement.
Solicitor-Client Privilege – Communication with your lawyer is privileged. This confidentiality is protected by law and is known as solicitor-client privilege.
Spousal Support – A sum of money paid by one spouse to their former spouse after separation.
Statute – Laws that the federal or provincial government has passed. The governing law for divorce is the Divorce Act. For property division for common-law couples, provincial statutes govern their rights and obligations.
Subpoena – A legal document issued by the court that compels someone to give evidence as a witness. You must obey a subpoena; failure to do so may result in contempt of court, which can bring a fine and jail time.
Substituted Service – When a document must be served on someone, it is done in person. Sometimes, it is difficult or impossible to serve your spouse in person, such as your spouse evading service. When that happens, the court may authorize substituted service, signifying that the documents may be delivered in a way other than personally, such as by email. You need a court order to be able to serve the document other than personally.
Title of Proceedings – The official name of your court case. This is how it will appear in all your court documents (i.e. Jones vs Jones).
Trial – A formal hearing in a courtroom with a judge. The judge listens to both sides and makes a conclusive and binding judgment.
Uncontested Divorce – A legal action for a divorce only, as other matters, such as financial issues, have already been resolved, where neither party is disputing the divorce.
Valuation Date – Date of separation.
Visitation – Also called access, it is a right granted by the court that permits a parent or other relative to visit a child on a defined basis. Visitation is typically incorporated into a parenting plan or separation agreement.
Without Prejudice – Mediation and settlement discussions are typically done without prejudice, meaning that anything stated in mediation or in an attempt to settle your divorce can’t be used in court.
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