I now have 25 years experience as a litigator in Family Law in Ottawa. Many of my cases involve spousal abuse, both physical, emotional and economic. This often means emergency court action for restraining orders and possession of the home, and later on for child and spousal support. It also means replacing the emotional, and economic power balance so that the matter can settle later on.
Over the years I have learned that most cases do not actually go to trial. Most cases settle well before trial, with most of the rest settling on the eve of trial during the pressure of a last chance Settlement Conference. My goal for my clients is to put them in a position so that they can settle fairly (and advantageously) without having to go through the financial and emotional stresses of trial, and if the matter does go to trial, to obtain that result as efficiently as possible. The ultimate goal is to obtain a decision that my client can live with, without having to go through a future of motions to change and further trials.
Custody Negotiation & Litigation
The most important issues with respect to custody, are those with respect to decision making powers, often described as sole or joint custody, who gets to make what decisions and how much consultation or cooperation is required between the parties before a decision can be made. Decision making powers become especially important where there are issues of control or abuse and where one party cannot communicate or cooperate in raising the children.
Access Negotiation & Litigation
Sole and joint custody (decision making rights) are often confused with access rights. Access is the right to spend time with the children, not the right to make decisions about them. Access is also important where there are issues of control or abuse, and especially where there are problems which may require the supervision of access, such as violence to or around the child, drug or alcohol abuse, or psychiatric issues. Evidence of violence and abuse is often difficult to obtain and requires working closely with counsel to obtain and preserve the evidence. It can also involve working with the police and CAS and other agencies.
Mobility & Travel Issues
Mobility issues usually involve the right to move with the children, either within Canada or to another country. Mobility and access become especially important when a parent plans to travel out of the country with the children and there is a possibility that they will not return with them. This situation requires action in court to prevent the parent leaving with the children and/or to put in place assurances that they will return with the children. Travel issues also arise when one parent refuses to let the other parent travel on vacation with the children.
Child & Spousal Support
Child support is calculated according to the Child Support Guidelines (see link below) of the province of the payor parent. Spousal support is often guided by the Spousal Support Guidelines. The Spousal Support Guidelines are guidelines only, and give a range of payments and duration, but are often followed by the courts. One of the most contentious issues is the calculation of income for a support payor who has undisclosed income from self-employment or tips.
After custody and access, property issues are one of the most emotionally and financially difficult issues for parties to resolve. In Ontario the parties are required to equalize their net family properties. This means sharing the increase in value over the term of the marriage (from the date of marriage to the date of separation). Professional valuations of property, such as homes, pensions and business interests can help resolve many of these financial issues. Valuation of debts can also be contentious, especially debts are claimed to close family members.
Motions, Case & Settlement Conferences, Trial & Other Court Appearances
Cases usually begin with an Application or Motion to Change a previous order or agreement. The first step in any case is the Case Conference, held before a Master, who will make orders with respect to disclosure required for any motions or trial. As the eventual trial will be over a year away, parties often need to bring motions for interim orders (until trial) to obtain support and access, Before a trial the court will hold at least one Settlement Conference, where a judge will attempt to help the parties settle the case. If the parties are unable to settle the case, it will be set on a trial list, usually of two weeks duration, and the case will be called to trial during that two week period.
Office of the Children's Lawyer
Often the court will ask the Office of the Children;s Lawyer to appoint an independent social worker (paid for by the province) to do an investigation of the family situation, and report back to court. This report usually aids the parties in their settlement discussions.
Negotiations Towards Settlement
As almost all cases settle before trial, it is important to consider negotiations throughout any litigation. In cases involving abuse it is important to ensure that the abuse victim is truly ready to negotiate and that the power imbalance is restored before meaningful negotiations take place.
Children's Aid Representation
CAS cases present special challenges and difficulties and require special experience and dedication.
Preparation of Minutes of Settlement
Preparation of Minutes of Settlement may seem simple, but it is important that they reflect both the words and the intent of the negotiated settlement.
Appellate Cases (Divisional Court of Appeal and Court of Appeal)
Judges do make mistakes. Unfortunately, those mistakes are costly to the people involved in their cases. There are two courts of Appeal from Superior Court Family Branch, one in Toronto (the Ontario Court of Appeal) and the other sitting throughout Ontario (the Divisional Court of Appeal). Each has different jurisdiction and rules. Appealing any case is complicated and expensive.
I accept some Legal Aid cases and am on the Legal Aid Domestic Violence Panel.
Mr. Robie Loomer was recommended to me because of his proven rate of success in dealing with difficult cases. Mr. Loomer undertook my divorce case, and won it despite other lawyers’ belief that it was a lost case. During the case, I learned of, and benefited from his multiple strengths: his thorough research, his dedication to his client, his strong ethic, and his knowledge of legal matters.
I strongly recommend Mr. Robie Loomer, as he is a gifted and passionate lawyer.