Canada: Three Things I Wish My Family Clients Knew Before Sitting Down With Me

Lawyers Charge More than Therapist

When I first sit down with someone going through a separation, especially when the cause of the breakdown in the relationship was due to infidelity, I advise them to discuss the emotional difficulties and reasons of their separation with a therapist.

A therapist, unlike a lawyer or a friend, has the skills, tools and training to help someone navigate the emotional consequences of separation. Therapy sessions might even be covered under some health plans. Also, therapists often do not charge several hundred dollars an hour (unlike your lawyer), to listen about how your ex was sleeping with your best friend, and how you found out and how devastated you are.

While a lot of people are under the misconception that a judge is going to care that your ex was sleeping with your best friend behind your back – either to bolster a claim for spousal support or to shield themselves from such a claim. A judge cannot either under the Divorce Act (federal legislation) or The Family Maintenance Act (provincial legislation) take into consideration any misconduct of a spouse or common-law partner in regard to the relationship. 1

Let the Little Things Go

Fight for the big things, let the little things go.

I have had clients come to me with extensive lists of items that have next to no actual or sentimental value: Fridge/freezer contents, refrigerator magnets, a moldy mattress in a leaky backyard storage shed, Halloween decorations from Dollarama, baby clothes in storage (child has outgrown), wood pallets (were obtained for free), and the other spouse's clothes (why?!).

Judges are not amused when parties fight over little things. In fact, the new Comparative Family Property Statement (Manitoba Queen's Bench Form 70D.5) required by the court, doesn't even have a heading for vehicles. A court doesn't want to deal with trivial things, they want to deal with the big-ticket items and you should too.

If it is not worth getting a professional opinion as to its value, then it isn't worth fighting over. Maybe it feels like the other side "wins" keeping the old toaster, but maybe you can "win" by not paying your lawyer to fight over it and end up with a nicer newer toaster that won't have the emotional baggage connected to it.

Get the Documents to the Lawyer Yourself

Gathering the financial documents required by the court in a separation is a lot of leg can save yourself money if you do it yourself and get it to your lawyer's office the first time that they ask for it.

Start ordering your financial records that are in your name alone or in joint names (chequing, savings, loans, registered savings plans, TFSA's, etc.) in hard copy, direct from the source of that information (like the bank). It is especially important to obtain these financial documents for the month in which you separated, and depending on the length of the relationship maybe for the month that you started your relationship as well.

Don't rely on or expect that you will have electronic access to your bank accounts. Your spouse may vindictively change the passwords, close accounts on you, or block you in some way.

Find copies of your tax returns, notices of assessments, T4's, and the last three paystubs from all recent employers. If you don't know where your taxes are, order them directly from Canada Revenue Agency and get copies of your paystubs from your employers.

Order pension division statements by contacting your plan administrator directly. These documents can sometimes take months to receive.

If you are married, the spouse who files the Petition for Divorce must also file an original marriage certificate. If you don't already have one, it will have to be ordered from Vital Statistics, which can take 4-6 weeks. The court will keep the original marriage certificate and will not return it to you.

Most, if not all of the above listed documents are required by the court or the lawyer to advise you properly.

It is important that you obtain the documents that your lawyer asks for quickly. It will save you money as your lawyer won't have to "follow up" with you as to where the documents are, or have to get them on your behalf.

I hope these practical and cost-effective tips will be of assistance to you.


1 The Family Maintenance Act, CCSM c. F20, s. 4(2) Conduct - "The obligation under subsection (1) [spousal support] exists without regard to the conduct of either spouse or common-law partner, and in determining whether to make an order under this Act for support and maintenance of a spouse or common-law partner, a court shall not consider the conduct of the spouses or the common-law partners in respect of the marriage or common-law relationship"; The Divorce Act, RSC 1985, c. 3 (2nd Supp.) s. 15.2(5) Spousal misconduct - "In making an order under subsection (1) or an interim order under subsection (2) [spousal support], the court shall not take into consideration any misconduct of a spouse in relation to the marriage."

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions