Frequently Asked Questions

• What is the difference between sole custody and joint custody?

Custody relates to decision making not, as many believe, the schedule of time that the children spend with each parent. Sole custody typically describes a situation where one parent makes major decisions regarding the children hopefully after receiving input from the other parent. If the parents have joint custody they make major decisions together and neither has the right to make a major decision unilaterally.

• How much time should the children spend with me and with my former spouse?

A schedule of parenting time (often referred to as “access”) can be as flexible and creative as both parents wish. A guiding principle is to maximize the amount of time the children spend with each parent, but always keeping their best interests in mind. A schedule should take into account the children’s school, activities and social life. It is common to alternate weekends and share equally all school holidays. Midweek visits including overnight stays are also common. 

• How much child support will I get?

Child support is governed by either the Federal Child Support Guidelines if the parents are married or the Ontario Child Support Guidelines if the parents are not married. Typically, there is a basic amount payable in accordance with the payor’s income (section 3 of the guidelines). In addition, the support payor may be required to contribute toward the cost of certain expenses including daycare, post-secondary education, medical, and extraordinary extracurricular activities. These are often referred to as section 7 expenses or add-ons. See: Child Support Guidelines for Ontario

• If I owned a house before I got married, do I have to share it with my former spouse?

It depends on whether the house owned on the date of marriage is the same house you and your spouse were living in on the date of separation. If so, it is your matrimonial home and therefore subject to a special provision in the Family Law Act. That provision prevents you from excluding from property you must divide with your spouse (“family property”) the equity which existed in the home on the date of marriage. However, if you sold your home before the date of separation, you are entitled to exclude from family property the equity in that home which existed on the date of marriage.

• If I own a house and I get married should I sell that house?

If you have significant equity in this property on the date of marriage you should give serious consideration to selling it for the reasons stated above. Alternatively, if your spouse is willing, a prenuptial agreement can protect your equity in the house. 

• Do I have to share my inheritance w/ my spouse?

As long as you preserve the inheritance and keep it separate from marital property you are not obligated to share it with a former spouse. However, for any portion of the inheritance which is deposited into a joint account, used to pay down the mortgage on the matrimonial home or another jointly owned property such as a cottage, or otherwise mixed into family assets, the exclusion is lost.

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