Ending a marriage is often a difficult decision for couples, regardless of the amount of time spent together. Matters can become overwhelming when children are involved. The Family Law lawyers at Solimano Law can help reduce the stress that comes when dealing with separation and divorce.
We can help you navigate the legal issues related to divorce, such as spousal and child support, child access and custody, division of property, allocation of debt, and divorce resolutions.
Understanding Contested Divorce
Generally, there are four main issues that arise in a divorce action. A final order for divorce is only granted by the Supreme Court when the parties are able to come to an agreement and resolve the following:
- Property division (assets and debts)
- Spousal support
- Child support and custody
- Obtaining a final order for divorce
If you and your spouse are unable to resolve these issues by way of an agreement, through mediation, or on your own, you may need to proceed in court to present your position to a judge.
Components of a Contested Divorce
The following are often the source of disagreements in a divorce:
1. Valuation Dates
Valuation dates are relied on when dividing assets and allocating debt. It is important that the dates on which your relationship commenced and ended are accurate as they can have significant implications on division of property.
2. Family Property
Some assets may be excluded from the division of property. It is important to understand what these are. Generally, these are the assets that a spouse had before the relationship commenced, such as inheritance, and gifts from third parties. Personal injury settlements may also be excluded.
3. Asset Valuations
The value of a person’s business, real estate, art, collectibles, and vehicles can sometimes be difficult to determine. It is generally recommended that a professional valuation expert be hired to determine the current value of such assets, especially when you and your spouse are unable agree on the value of such items. In most circumstances, the cost for valuation can be shared equally between the two parties.
4. Hidden Assets
It is important to have full disclosure of all personal finances when going through a divorce. There are times when an individual will try to hide certain assets, especially assets kept overseas.
Family Law cases cannot be successfully resolved unless all parties are honest about their income and assets.
Parties cannot fairly litigate or negotiate without having the complete picture and full understanding of one another’s assets and liabilities. Without full financial disclosure, it is difficult to have productive discussions regarding property division and support issues.
In situations where a party has hidden assets, a Family Law judge will sometimes make an adverse inference against the party responsible or may order disclosure and exchange of financial documents.
5. Imputed Income
At times, a self-employed person may manipulate their personal income to make it appear as if they are earning significantly less money than what is reality. This can make the determination of income for the purpose of child or spousal support more complicated.
Additionally, there are times when a person may choose to not work despite having considerable earning capacity and capabilities. In these instances, depending on the level of education and training of the specific person, the Court has discretion to impute income onto them.
Resolving Contested Divorces in Vancouver
If you and your spouse have decided to divorce, you will need to commence proceedings by filing a Notice of Family Claim in BC Supreme Court. This applies whether you have reached a resolution out of court, or are proceeding by consent.
Dispute resolution can be started by filing the Notice of Family Claim with the Supreme Court. This form inquires about the background information of the parties and their relationship/marriage, and it allows you to identify which Family Law claims are applicable to your circumstances.
You will need to fill out the schedules that apply to your particular case. For instance, you would be completing schedules 2, 3 and 4 if you or your spouse own property, there are children in the relationship, and if you or your spouse require support for you and the children.
The form needs to be served on your spouse once filed and they will be required to respond to your claim within 30 days of service. It is possible that they might file counterclaims as well.
Following a Notice of Family Claim and Response to Family Claim, both parties are required to prepare and file financial statements. This allows the parties, their lawyers, and the judge to gain the necessary knowledge regarding the assets and expenses of both parties to make informed and fair decisions in court hearings.
Thereafter, a Judicial Case Conference will be held which is attended by both spouses with their respective lawyers and a sitting judge. This is carried out in an informal setting with the goal of reaching a quicker resolution.
Trial in Contested Divorces
If the above steps do not end in you and your spouse being able to arrive at a resolution, the case will have to go to trial. You and your spouse will need to prove the value of property, debt, income, and child rearing capabilities in a divorce court. Trials can be traumatic, intensive, costly, and lengthy.
While the average divorce trial does not require more than 5 to 25 business days, it is important to understand that courts usually do not provide successive dates. You may need to wait weeks or even months between two consecutive court dates. Clearing out a divorce disagreement through trial can be much more difficult than you would imagine it to be. Divorce trials can also be expensive, and both parties could lose thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Unfortunately there are times when couples cannot find any other option of resolving their dispute than by going to trial. This can be when spouses are consumed by vengeance, refuse to communicate on neutral grounds, or are unreasonable in their demands. In this case, you need a lawyer that is ready and willing to fight for you within your divorce trial.
We Offer Solutions Based on Your Unique Circumstances
At Solimano Law, we understand that each family is different with unique needs. Our Family Law lawyers in Vancouver can help you reach resolution or advocate for you in court.
If you have any questions or would like to speak with one of our lawyers, contact us today!