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Separation and divorce can be a truly daunting experience filled with personal, financial, and legal uncertainty. Meeting with a lawyer soon after separation can help you to understand how relevant legal principles will interact with the circumstances of your family. Here are some tips to help you prepare to meet with your lawyer and what you can expect. 

What will I discuss with my lawyer?

Your lawyer will look to identify the applicable legal issues. The main topics that generally arise in a separation are 1) parenting (parenting time with the children and decision-making authority), 2) support (child and spousal/partner support), 3)property division, and 4) process.  Expect that your lawyer will ask questions to probe these broad topics.

1) Parenting: This topic can be broken down into decision-making and parenting time (formerly referred to as “custody” and “access”). Broadly, your lawyer will want to know the answers to questions such as:

2) Support: This topic can be broken down into child support and spousal support (with the latter being known in the United States as “alimony”). Your lawyer will ask you about:

  • the educational and employment background of both you and your spouse,
  • your respective incomes, and
  • your roles during the marriage in terms of working inside and outside of the home.

You can prepare to discuss this topic by having both parties’ income tax returns from the past year ready to give to your lawyer. This income information will help your lawyer calculate child and spousal support payments, as well as determine how any extraordinary, or “special”, expenses for the children should be paid.

Finally, be prepared to provide your lawyer details on the children’s expenses if they have special needs, childcare costs, extracurricular activities, etc.

3) Property Division: Your lawyer will ask questions to assess whether you have a claim to family property (formerly called “matrimonial property”), and what that claim may be.

Expect that your lawyer will ask about the current assets and debts of both parties. Your lawyer will also ask about any property that could be considered exempt from division, such as property from before the marriage, inheritance, gifts (from someone other than your spouse) to you alone, or certain amounts received from insurance or tort claims. Property claims can be complex, and your lawyer may not be able to provide you with a full assessment of the value of your claim without further financial disclosure. 

Additional information regarding the principles of property division can be found here:

4) Process: Your lawyer will talk to you about the different processes that are available, which include mediation, arbitration, the formalized court process, and other forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) available privately or through the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta.

The processes that are available to choose from are very case-specific and what is appropriate for your individual circumstances will depend on many factors including the urgency of the issues, the level of conflict present and the complexity of your case. 

What documents do I need to give my lawyer?

Financial disclosure refers to documents that you and your spouse are obligated to produce at the outset of a separation. These documents help the lawyer identify potential financial claims, calculate child and/or spousal support, and assess the overall division of family property. You and your spouse each have the right to see financial disclosure from each other.

The initial list of financial documents that will be required will include:

  • Income tax returns and notices of assessments for the past 3 years
  • Your last 3 months’ paystubs
  • Any other source of income, including income from employment insurance, pensions, disability payments or dividends, or student loans
  • Corporate financial statements
  • Your bank statements and credit card statements for the past 6 months
  • Any investments in your name, including RRSPs and pension plans

You are not required to have these documents ready to give to your lawyer at the initial meeting. However, gathering these documents and having them ready will give you a head start in the legal process and will help ensure that you receive the greatest benefit from your initial meeting. 

The team at SVR Family Lawyers is pleased to assist in all matters relating to your separation. To find out more about your rights and obligations, please contact the lawyers at SVR Family Lawyers

[Janet] thanks for letting me know of your retirement… I’m sad to see you go but hope for your rest and enjoyment for all you’ve done for my family and others… With all my thanks I want to express all my appreciation for all you’ve done for us and all the grief it was to deal with! You were the right fit.
A.W., Client
I write this review based on my experience when working with Stacey Lee as my legal representative. Simply put, Stacey is attentive (or vigilant if you prefer), knowledgeable, professional, fair, and personable. It was important for me to have someone that was responsive and competent. I never waited more than 24 hours for a reply and am very happy with the resulting agreement that was created, as it represented a solution that was best for all parties involved – which was important to me. Stacey likes to say I was the ideal client, but the reality is that she was the ideal representative, providing legal advice, while keeping me abreast of the big picture. Based on my experience with Stacey, I highly recommend her.
S.N., Client
From the moment we met, Janet had not only a business approach to my situation but also a level of compassion and friendliness. I’ve worked now with Janet for years and not one time did she fail to meet my expectations. I have always felt at ease just hearing her voice. If she didn’t have the answer immediately, she has always provided one promptly. She has been my Rock and Sounding Board. I’ve referred her to others. If anyone is in need of a GREAT family lawyer, Janet Russell in my view is the lady to contact.
N.M., Client
Stacey, Thank you once again for all your help with my file. I can’t express how much I appreciated you having my back yesterday and you do it so calmly. Your perspective and guidance helped me a lot – thank you. It felt like a whirlwind of numbers but you helped me keep perspective as we went along…Thank you again for helping us bring things to closure.
B.F., Client
Very satisfied with the services provided by the lawyers at SVR Lawyers! It was a long and convoluted divorce process, but Abram Averbach, Cindy Lee and their assistants have helped me to navigate through it and finalize it. I highly recommend them!
J.B., Client
Stacey Lee handled the sale of my business and separation from a spouse attending to both my corporate and family law matters. Stacey provided a calm and realistic voice when tensions and emotions were high. Stacey approached the resolution of my files with opposing counsel in a collaborative way, seeking to reduce court appearances and conflict between all parties involved. I would work with Stacey again and recommend her to anyone requiring assistance in family or corporate matters.
H.S., Client

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