Having a lawyer represent you in your divorce or other matrimonial proceeding is helpful in many ways and for many reasons. Although it is not required, having a Toronto divorce lawyer will make the process much easier for you. Since property settlements can be very complicated, a lawyer can help you decide which of your belongings are marital property and which are excluded property, and advise you as to how the court will divide that property.
A Toronto divorce lawyer will also be able to assist you in drafting a separation agreement in order to document your arrangements with your spouse. A lawyer can also advise you if an unexpected problem comes up, for instance, if your spouse files for bankruptcy before you receive money due to you in a property settlement. A lawyer may be able to help you notify your spouse about the divorce if you are unable to do so. Additionally, a Toronto divorce lawyer can advise you on how much money, if any, you should pay or receive for spousal support or child support.
Getting a divorce requires that a significant number of forms be filled out, sent to your spouse and filed in the court. The time that this takes a lawyer is much less than it would take the average person. Some of these forms are also quite complicated so it is easier to have a Toronto divorce lawyer who can help explain everything to you and make sure forms are filled out correctly and completely.
How can I prepare for meeting with a lawyer?
Questions to ask
It may be a good idea to have a mental or written checklist of questions to ask the lawyer at a first meeting. You should bring paper and pencil or pen with which to take notes. Here is a list of questions that are useful when you hire a lawyer. Add to this list any questions that are specific to your circumstances.
1. Who will work on my case?
2. What is the educational training and experience of the lawyers who will be working on my case?
3. How many cases like mine has your firm handled in the past year?
4. How do you set your fees? What does the fee include? Is the actual divorce included in the fee?
5. What are your policies with regard to: payment of fees, returning phone calls, providing copies of all correspondence and other documents, keeping me informed about the progress of my case?
6. How long will I wait to get an appointment when I need to come in again? What hours are you available on the telephone and in the office?
7. Are my goals realistic? What problems can you foresee? How will we solve those problems?
8. How will you help me to accomplish my goals? How long will it all take?
9. How often do you go to court? Do you prefer litigating a case or settling the case?
Based on the answers to your questions, your observations about the lawyer’s style and how you feel after the interview, you should be able to tell if the lawyer you’ve met with is the right lawyer for you. Although initial interviews can be very intense, you should also experience some relief if you’ve met with a lawyer who will be good for you. If you notice that you are not feeling better after the meeting, perhaps you should continue your search. When you find the right mix of energy, dedication, wisdom and insight, you will recognize that you have found the Toronto divorce lawyer that is right for you.
What do I need to bring with me?
It will be helpful, though not essential, for you to gather certain documents in preparation for your first meeting with your Toronto divorce lawyer. This will allow the lawyer to give you more accurate answers to the questions you will have. Locate and copy your important documents, including:
1. Income tax returns
for the last three years, including attachments and schedules and any notices of assessment or reassessment
2. Your most recent pay stub, if employed; or the last 3 years of financial statements if you are self-employed
3. Corporate tax returns
4. Partnership tax returns
5. Bank statements for all bank accounts (business and personal), brokerage accounts, RRSPs, and other investments
6. Pension plan documentation
7. Life insurance documentation
8. Statements of credit cards and lines of credit for the month of separation
9. Mortgage statements
This is just a general list of documents. Your Toronto divorce lawyer will help you determine which of these documents is required in you specific case. These documents will be very helpful in determining just what your family’s assets are and, from there, calculating what should be paid and to whom for property division. In a child support or spousal support case, they will help to determine the amount of support you will pay or receive.
You should also make sure to have photo ID with you for your first meeting with your lawyer. New rules, known as the “know your client” provisions, require lawyers to keep a copy of the driver’s license, passport or birth certificate of their clients. According to the same rule, they must keep a record of their client’s name, address and occupation.