As the clock struck midnight on a new year, I reflected on that year that was and the hope that a new year always seems to bring. It sparked an idea for a blog, but given the moment, I waited until now to expand on that sparkling thought – I’m sure my wife would not have been too happy with me, running to a computer at the stroke of midnight to write this blog, instead of the usual festivities that accompany watching the Times Square ball drop!
When people think of New Year’s Eve/Day, they often think of making resolutions for the coming 12 months, and people generally make the same old promises to themselves, such as exercising more, eating less/better, saving more/spending less, etc. As it anecdotally takes about 2 to 3 months for most people to abandon these yearly resolutions, I thought of the legal equivalent of the typical promises we make to ourselves, but ones that we can keep in 2022. These include taking stock of our lives, making sure everything is running smoothly and, where needed, improving our current situation.
This blog will deal with some of the legal resolutions you can make in 2022 to make sure it is a great year for you, and that your legal affairs have been considered and are in proper order. My list is by no means comprehensive, but I will highlight some of the promises that you can make and keep, without buying a gym membership that you will not use or buying exercise equipment that will serve as your valet for some of your clothes (until you actually put them away).
So, let’s not delay, and let’s start this legal check-up!!
As you know, my primary area of practice is in family law, so let me address some legal resolutions you can make for a better year for your family law issues:
- If you are in a relationship that is not beneficial to you (whether physically, emotionally, mentally, financially), maybe it is time to consider ending it. If you do not do so now, you may be extending the legal consequences that you did not consider. This includes:
- Will I have an unplanned child with someone who I do not want to be connected within 2023, or for the rest of the child’s life, or for the rest of my own life?
- Will I be seen as having acted as a parent to someone else’s child or children, and that someone is not someone who I want to be connected within 2023, or for the rest of my life?
- Will I be responsible for child or spousal support in 2023 (and beyond) that I am not currently responsible for;
- Will I be responsible for sharing or selling some of my property with my current partner, including my home, the equity in my home, my pension, and other assets, that I would rather not have to be ordered to share or sell
- If any of these scenarios do not appeal to you, maybe it is time to leave. But do not do just talk to a lawyer about the legal issues, talk to other professionals, such as a counselor, therapist, or an accountant about the other impacts on you when leaving a partner
- If you have separated, what is the status of your matter? Is it moving towards an amicable ending, or is it stalled in endless negotiations or in pointless court appearances? Are the lawyers ending up with more money in this than the two of you? If this sounds familiar, talk to your lawyer about your concerns, and try and get a firm answer about how much longer it will take, or how much more it will cost you. Also ask about other options to address the dispute, such as mediation, arbitration, or a collaborative resolution.
- If you have already resolved your dispute, is it time to revisit the order or the agreement? Have there been any changes necessary to revisit the current arrangement, such as the entry (or exit) of a new romantic/life partner, the relocation of the parties, or the financial prosperity/setback of one of the parties? When looking at your current situation, ask yourself, do I need to change any of the following:
- custody (now called decision-making responsibility) – should it still be sole, joint or shared, or have the circumstances changed to warrant a different arrangement?
- access (now called parenting time) – should there be a tweak to the times, an expansion of the times, a reduction of the times, or in some circumstances, a cancellation of the other side’s access/parenting time?
- support (child, spousal, or both) – has someone lost a job, got a much better paying job, incurred expenses for the child/children that were not contemplated before (such as dental braces, college or university expenses, competitive sports, etc.), does the child/children still live with or visit the other party as much as the order/agreement proves for? does the current support order reflect the reality of the current situation? do I need to increase it, decrease, or end it?
- FRO (family responsibility office) – have I kept them up-to-date and let them know about changes about the parties’ income, their employment, the child’s/children’s living arrangements? do they know where I live, if they have to serve me, they serve my last known address per MTO records, and I don’t want to get pulled over by a police officer years later and find out that I have been driving with a suspended license, due to FRO taking it away from me without my knowledge
- extended health benefits – do I have proof that these benefits are still in good standing or have there been changes I am unaware of?
- life insurance – do I have proof that the other party has maintained his/her life insurance in still in good standing, or have there been changes I am unaware of?
Child Protection/CAS/FAC Matters
My secondary area of practice is in child protection law. Although the issues are different than in domestic family law, let us check in on what you can do to ensure that the child protection agency is not in your life, or if they are, how to get them out as soon as possible:
- Once again, if you are in a relationship that is not beneficial to you and your child/children (whether your partner is physically, emotionally, mentally, and/or financially abusive ), maybe it is time to consider ending it. If you do not do so now, you may be risking the CAS agency coming into your life and taking one of the following actions:
- making you enter into a voluntary care agreement with them, where you have to account for what you are doing, who you are with, where you live, etc.
- letting the children stay with you, but having them keep an eye on you
- taking your children and placing them in the care of family/friends, all the while limiting your parenting time with them
- taking your children and placing them in the care of foster family, all the while limiting your parenting time with them
- taking your children and placing them in the care of the CAS for the purposes of adoption
- If you are already involved with the child welfare agency, are you doing everything you can to address the concerns the society has raised, such as:
- addiction issues
- getting or completing mental health services
- getting/maintaining a job or sustainable income (OW, ODSP, CPP, etc.)
- getting/maintaining a safe home
- completing your criminal law matters
- completing your family law matters
- Has your lawyer or your CAS worker helped you get them done? Ask questions, demand services!
- If you have already resolved the CAS matter:
- Are you doing everything referenced above to keep them out of your life again?
- If the children are in society care, are you seeing them? Are you addressing what needs to be done to get them back?
- If the children are being put up for adoption, are you seeking an order to preserve some contact with them?
Wills and POAs
My final area of practice is in drafting wills and powers of attorney for property and personal care (POAs). This area is a little more clear-cut for you to do a legal check-up:
- If you have not done your will and POA, what are you waiting for??
- Did you know that if you die without a will, the government (through the Succession Law Reform Act, or the SLRA), has done a “bare-bones” will for you, which set out what will happen to your property (all of your hard-earned money, assets, etc.), to whom it will go, and how much will go to them? Is that what you want?
- By deciding to save a little money and deciding not to do your will or your POAs, your family will spend a lot more of your money (sometimes, it is all of it) to fight over:
- who will manage your legal affairs while you are alive, but not of sound mind?
- who will sell, buy, lease or otherwise deal with all of your property while you are alive, but not of sound mind?
- who decides where you will live while you are alive, but not of sound mind?
- what care facility you will be put in while you are alive, but not of sound mind?
- what healthcare will you get while you are alive, but not of sound mind?
- will you be kept alive and left in a diminished quality of life?
- will you have “the plug pulled” when you wanted to live longer?
- who gets to decide your legal affairs after you are gone?
- have I given instructions on my organs – do I want to donate them?
- have I given instructions on my remains – do I want to be buried or cremated?
- have I left money to go to who I want, e.g. spouse, children, grandchildren?
- have I left money for charitable causes that are dear to me?
- when does my family get what I want them to have?
- who does not get what assets, and why don’t they get it?
- have I made sure I pay as little taxes as possible?
- If you have done your will and POA, is it time to revisit the will and POAs? My general advice to clients is to consider re-doing (but not necessarily actually re-doing) your will and/or POAs if:
- one or more persons named in the will/POAs gets married
- one or more persons named in the will/POAs gets separated/divorced
- one or more persons named in the will/POAs has a child
- one or more persons named in the will/POAs dies
- there is a significant change in value in one of more of your major assets
- there is a change in ownership in one of more of your major assets
- every five years from the date of the will/POAs
As you can now see, there is a lot to consider when seeking a legal check-up. It is not always fun or exciting, but it is prudent to consider these issues and to make the necessary arrangements to address them as needed. Your lawyer is not the only person you will need to contact, but it is usually a good starting point. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes more than a lawyer to take care of your affairs. Social workers, doctors, counselors, accountants, tax planners, etc. are just some of the people who make up your team of professionals who are ready, willing, and able to care for your legal needs. But only you can make the commitment to do it.
Remember, every case is unique, just like you are. If you are facing real legal problems, you need the right legal solutions. Please contact Runco Law at 289-799-3080 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.