Ottawa Family Law Practice Group

What our expertise provides is a better experience for you. An experience that not only yields results, but also helps you through a difficult time in your life.The members of our Family Law Practice Group offer a complete range of services to meet your Family Law needs. Whether it be to assist in the negotiation and finalization of a Cohabitation Agreement or Marriage Contract, or to provide legal assistance through the often difficult post-separation period, our Family Law Group members appreciate the need for empathy, cost-effectiveness and timeliness to be adopted in meeting our clients’ interests.

Our lawyers encourage alternative dispute resolution techniques, offering services as mediators, arbitrators and collaborative lawyers. We also can serve as your legal counsel in those processes, as well as through solicitor-assisted negotiations.

Our legal team appears on a regular basis in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice (Family Court) and as appellate counsel in the Divisional Court and Court of Appeal for Ontario. Whether your issues are financial, child-focused or property-related, our extensive experience will allow you to understand the law, learn about your process options and allow you to achieve results.

Our Ottawa area Family Law Group practices in the following areas:

  • Mediations
  • Collaborative Practice
  • Custody and Access
  • Support
  • Property Issues
  • Divorce
  • Marriage Contracts
  • Cohabitation Contracts
  • Separation Agreements
  • Arbitration


Please see the video below to learn more about collaborative law:

Lawyers Practicing in Family Law

Matt Brown
Nadilyn Mangaliag Calasanz
James Jeffcott
Stephanie Luskey
Mimi Marrello
Jamie Marie Mookerjea
Chris Rutherford


Do I have to go to Court to resolve my family law issue?

It depends. There are many process options available to parties who are seeking ways to resolve family law disputes. Broadly speaking they include:

  • Informal Negotiation;
  • Mediation;
  • Collaborative Practice;
  • Cooperative Negotiation; and
  • Arbitration

There are variations on these processes and there can be some interchange between processes. To provide some context, the following are brief descriptions of the processes.

Informal Negotiations (e.g. the kitchen table agreement) take place between parties themselves. Sometimes the parties will solicit the assistance of friends, families, faith leaders and others to assist or advise. The advantages of this process are that it is informal and there is typically no cost to the parties. The disadvantages are that there is no legal advice and possibly a lack of information about the issues that need to be resolved and the possible outcomes and implications of the choices that are made.

Mediation is a formal negotiation process. A mediator, who acts as a neutral, third party facilitator, assists the parties to identify issues, gather information and negotiate outcomes. The mediator does not decide the issues and does not provide advice to the parties. Some mediators will draft the terms of an agreement. Some mediations take place with lawyers present, some do not. Independent Legal Advice is provided by the lawyers for each of the parties.

Collaborative Practice is a formal, interest based negotiation process. The parties and the professionals involved sign a contract which sets out how the process works and which includes a commitment not to go to Court. Instead the lawyers and, typically other professional neutrals, assist the parties to come to agreement on the issues between the parties. The lawyers provide real time legal advice and also assist in negotiating outcomes for the benefit of the parties and their families. Family Relations professionals assist with emotional aspects and with parenting issues. Financial professionals assist parties to gather financial information, help parties understand the financial implications and prepare calculations and financial projections.

Cooperative Negotiation is a formal negotiation process in which the parties and their lawyers work together to try to find solutions to the issues faced by parties and their families. There is nothing preventing any of the participants from going to Court if the process does not result in a desired resolution. The lawyers provide real time legal advice and also assist in the negotiation of the issues.

Arbitration can be compared to “private court”. If the parties are unable to negotiate some or all of the issues between them, they may appoint a decision-maker (the Arbitrator) to make decisions for them. The decision-maker is usually someone with special expertise in addressing the issues in dispute. It can be quicker and more flexible than the Court process. The parties agree that they will abide by the decision of the Arbitrator (the Award) and sometimes the decision is filed with the Court so that it can be enforced like a Court order. There are special rules if one wants to arbitrate a family law dispute in Ontario however.

The members of LMRs Family Law Group can give you more information about these and other process options and we can provide services in anyone of the processes. Please speak to any of them for more information.

What is the difference between Custody and Access?

Custody is the right to make important decisions regarding a child relating to their care and upbringing. This includes decisions concerning a child’s school and educational programs, religion, the child’s residence, the child’s legal name, health care decisions, and other activities such as sports and music. A misconception about custody is that it refers to the amount of time a child spends with each parent. This is not the case as it is possible for one parent to have custody over a child, but the child will spend equal time living with both parents, or the child may live primarily with one parent, and both parents may share custody.

Access is the right to spend time with the child. However, a person with access rights to a child has the right to be given information concerning the child’s health, education, and well-being from the custodial parent and third-parties, such as doctor’s, the child’s school, etc. Access to a child does not involve the right to make important decisions relating to the care or upbringing of a child.

If you have questions about custody and access or any other parenting issues ask anyone of the members of LMR’s Family Law Group and they will assist you.

Can spousal support payments be terminated when the support recipient remarries?

It depends. Spousal Support is a complicated area of Family Law. There are numerous factors which have to considered when determining if support is payable, in what amount and for what period of time. Ontario’s Family Law Act (which applies to support between unmarried spouses) sets out numerous factors to be considered, including:

  1. the current assets and means of the parties;
  2. the future assets and means that the parties are likely to have;
  3. a person’s capacity to contribute to his or her own support;
  4. a person’s capacity to provide support to the other;
  5. the ages and physical and mental health of the parties;
  6. the needs of the person seeking support, having regard to the accustomed standard of living enjoyed while the parties resided together;
  7. a person’s ability to provide for his or her own support and the length of time and cost involved to enable the person to do so;
  8. any legal obligation of the person to provide support for another person;
  9. whether care for a child in the home is required;
  10. the contribution by the a party to the realization of the other party’s career potential;
  11. the length of time the parties cohabited;
  12. the effect on the spouse’s earning capacity of the responsibilities assumed during cohabitation;
  13. whether the spouse has responsibility to care for an adult child for reasons of education, illness, disability or other cause;
  14. any housekeeping, child care or other domestic service performed by a spouse for the family;
  15. the effect on the spouse’s earnings and career development of the responsibility of caring for a child; and
  16. any other legal right of the person seeking support, other than out of public money.

The Divorce Act, which is the federal legislation, which deals with support for married spouses has similar factors which are to be considered.

So, remarriage (or cohabitation with a new partner) after separation is only one of numerous factors to be considered. Other factors may have more significance and a greater impact on any decision addressing support. The financial circumstances of the new partner will also have some bearing on whether it would be appropriate to or to decide whether support should be paid to a person.

The LMR Family Law Group can assist you to navigate this complicated area of family law. Please contact anyone in the Group for information about this or any other issue.

What is my date of Separation?

What is my date of Separation? Evidentiary Sources to Consider

At some point in an initial consultation with a family law lawyer, the discussion will turn to the date of separation.

The date of separation is relevant to many family law issues, spousal support, property division and divorce to name the main ones.

Perhaps not surprisingly the date of separation is not always self-evident, and like many things in family law is open to disagreement between the parties.

That disagreement between the parties has spilled over to the courts. David Frankel and Yunjae Kim in their recent paper Separation Date Principles and Assessment Guide published in Canadian Family Law Quarterly have helpfully reviewed this caselaw and produced an excellent summary of the jurisprudence, the evidence considered and a separation date assessment guide. This paper is an excellent resource for any one seeking to grapple with the question: What is the date of separation?

For the purposes of this blog post, however, I want to highlight what evidence that a court may consider in determining competing dates. This may be helpful to keep in mind in weighing whether or how one may prove a date of separation:

• Letters to government entities, e.g. CRA
• Letter from Family Law lawyer
• Separation agreement
• Residential tenancy agreement, e.g. one spouse only as a tenant
• Emails between spouses
• Calendars / daytimers
• Photos / pictures
• Social media
• Anniversary presents
• Valentine’s Day e.g. plans, activities, gifts and whether a pattern changed or continued
• Birthday cards, e.g. between spouses
• Gifts
• Invitations – e.g. on behalf of both parties for a child’s first communion
• Obituary Notice – e.g. are the parties referred to as spouses?
• Text messages
• Phone calls / records
• Debit/credit card transactions
• Loan applications
• Evidence from the person in the affair
• Marriage counsellor
• Mediator
• Children’s Aid Society case worker
• Realtor
• Family doctor
• Support worker
• Lawyer preparing wills
• Friends / family
• Neighbours
• Adult children

While not all of the above sources may be relevant to your particular situation, the list prepared by Frankel and Kim provides a comprehensive starting point to consider.

As a bonus in their article, caselaw is cited as an example of each of the above sources. Certainly the article is a worthwhile read and reference guide to keep on hand.

Having trouble making headway as to what is your date oof separation? The Family Law lawyers at LMR would be happy to assist.

School Location

September marks the return to the back in school routine. For many families it is not just the return to school but a bigger question looms: which school will the child attend? For families that are separating, the choice of school can cause conflict, with each parent wanting the child to attend the school in their respective area. Sometimes parents turn to litigation which allows the to court to decide the school issue. But how does the court make such a decision? What are the factors the judge considers when faced with two well meaning, caring parents, both wanting the best for their child and both stating their choice of school is the best?

One of the leading cases, Charron v Hollahan, 2020 ONSC 4423 (CanLII) is from Ottawa.  In Charron, Justice Audet confirms and summarizes the factors used by previous courts, that she previously listed and discussed in Thomas v. Osika 2018 ONSC 3769 (CanLII).

In Charron, there is concise list of factors the court is to consider which emphasis the best interest of the child. The court stresses that each case is fact driven and the factors are considered in light of the unique child and case before the court. Each case must be decided on what is in the best interest of that unique child. Therefore, the court does not look at the interests of the parents. For example, just because a school is a five minute walk from one parent’s home does not ensure that will be the school the child attends. The parents’ needs, and convenience play no role in the court’s consideration of what is in the child’s best interests.

The court will consider the plan for each parent regarding the child’s education. The court will seek to understand if each parent considered the child’s unique needs, circumstances and the child’s attributes/abilities in their education plan. Which school best addresses that child’s unique situation? In that regard, the court will not give weight to the rankings of a particular school in the EQAO testing or the Fraser Institute rankings, because these reports are general and not specific enough to address the best interest of the child before the court.

The court will also consider each parent’s capacity to carry out this education plan. Can the parent assist the child with homework? Can the parent participate in the child’s education? Will a particular school promote and maintain a child’s cultural and linguistic heritage?

The court will also look to decisions the parents made prior to the separation or at the time of separation with respect to schooling and will consider where the child was born and raised. For example, did the parents buy their home in a predominantly French speaking area with the intention of placing the child in French Immersion?

The court understands that stability is paramount for children regarding their education. Therefore, to order a change of school the court must consider if the reason for change is valid. The Judge will consider if and how this change of school will impact the child’s learning. The court must ensure the change is in the child’s best interest and outweighs any negative impact to the child.

The best option for separating parents is to work together on issues such as school location. However, if that is not possible our Family Law lawyers at Low Murchison Radnoff can help by providing mediation services, collaborative law services and if needed litigation services. We also take Legal Aid certificates. If you would like to speak to one of our lawyers, please call 613.236.9442.