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I am not a fan of going to the dentist or the doctor for regular check-ups. It isn’t a fun way to spend a few hours. But I do it because I have learned, over the years, that it is important to act preventatively and proactively to protect my health. And also, I have learned that last root canal – which was expensive and painful – could have been avoided if I had been a bit more proactive.

Why don’t we see a visit to our family law lawyer in the same way? Yes – dealing with family law issues on separation can be expensive and painful. But there are often many ways to avoid or minimize these issues if you get a little bit of good advice early on, and regularly check in to update that advice based on your evolving circumstances.

What do I mean? Here are a few examples, under the Ontario Family Law Act, where good, timely, family law advice can save you a lot of money and pain:

  • Wouldn’t it have been nice to know that you should have kept evidence of your assets on the date of marriage before so much time has passed that this evidence is no longer available;
  • Wouldn’t it have been nice to know that you should have legally documented your agreement about ownership of the house before transferring half ownership to your partner, so that you could qualify for financing;
  • Wouldn’t it have been nice to understand the spousal support consequences before you told your partner that if they didn‘t like their job, they could quit;
  • Wouldn’t it have been nice to know how inheritances are dealt with before you use yours to pay off the mortgage on the matrimonial home and lose what would otherwise have been excluded from property sharing, especially when your partner uses their inheritance to invest in an RRSP, and gets to keep their exclusion;
  • And, before you give 50% of the shares in your new corporation to your partner, you probably should ask a family law lawyer about the legal consequences of doing so.

Family law is a complex area, where small factors can have a huge, and unexpected, impact on outcomes. Many non-lawyers think they understand how family law works – but this is rarely the case when we get down to these small factors. Many people end up being very surprised at the time of separation, and often not in a pleasant way.

So – my best advice is that you have regular family law check-ups with your favourite family law lawyer. It will be cheaper and less painful in the long run.

This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2021 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.

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