Divorce And Tax Issues For Business Owners: What To Know

Divorce And Tax Issues For Business Owners: What To Know

Divorce And Tax Issues For Business Owners: What To Know

When legally dividing your assets during a separation or divorce, you and your partner may have significant tax implications. Tax implications are even higher if you own a business. At Verhaeghe Law – we have helped thousands of individuals with disputes resulting from divorces and have provided guidance on tax related matters through tax experts on how to minimize tax implications. Each legal situation is different so we recommend you hire an Alberta divorce lawyer to go over your options prior to commencing your separation/divorce process.

Tax implications of separation or divorce for a business owner

If you are a business owner and your business becomes a contentious point in the middle of a divorce – this can be or turn into a highly contentious issue for you. As such, many business owners take legal precautions to safeguard their business by having a prenuptial agreement in place before the marriage to safeguard their business. A well-drafted prenuptial agreement is one way to avoid complexities arising from a divorce and the tax implications associated with it.

As a business owner going through a divorce it is essential that you consult a tax expert in conjunction with a lawyer especially when division of assets are involved. Your lawyer may be able to suggest a tax expert or tax consultant. As with any other legal scenario, the tax implications are unique to your circumstances.

Business owners must be aware of three tax areas involving division assets during a divorce:

  1. Spousal rollover: This refers to the transfer of assets between non-arms-length parties deemed to occur at fair market value. This means regardless of the price the assets were sold for, you may be on the hook for capital gains tax based on the value. However, assets transferred between spouses and common law partners may be considered spousal rollover and may be transferred at cost. When a relationship breaks down and, in most cases,, you are eligible to transfer on a rollover basis provided the transfer results from a settlement. If this process is not followed the roll-over rule may not apply and you may be assessed a higher capital gains tax.
  2. Spousal attribution: Spousal attribution rules can make a transferor be held liable for the taxes tied to the income or gains from that property, when the transfer occurs as a gift. For example, if your spouse received C$200,000 in stocks as a gift from you, your spouse is legally entitled to keep the dividends, but the dividends can be taxed on your tax return. This spousal attribution ends only on the legal termination of your marriage or common law relationship. There are expanded attribution rules that may apply and you are advised to seek advice from a tax professional for your specific situation.
  3. Capital gains exemption: Canadians are entitled to a lifetime capital gains exemption limit and you can claim this exemption when a corporation buys your assets. However, if the proceeds of the transaction exceed the value of the capital of the shares in a non-arm’s length transaction, the excess can be deemed a dividend and not a capital gain. Depending on the facts of the case the interpretation of non-arm’s length and arm’s length can change and have significant tax implications for the partners. A strategy to divide the assets is essential for divorcing partners who have sizable business ownership or assets. Lack of a strategy can have unexpected tax implication for both partners.

Hire a Divorce Lawyer and Tax Consultant/Lawyer Together

One other way of managing a division of a business through a divorce is by splitting the assets of business into two corporations. One owned by each partner, avoiding income taxes altogether. This is called a butterfly transaction. There are two different methodologies for this transaction based on your personal situation and a divorce lawyer and tax consultant can assist you with this and give you legal and sound tax advice accordingly.

There may be many legal options available to you with respect to dividing your business or assets during a divorce or ending a common law relationship. This blog covers some of the many options available to divide a couple’s assets however there are many more legal options available to you if you are faced in this situation.

Our Alberta family lawyers at Verhaeghe Law Office our divorce lawyers have helped thousands of people across Alberta with their divorces. To better discuss how we can assist with your legal needs please contact our law firm today by calling 587-410-2500 and speak directly with one of our divorce lawyers.

Note: This blog offers general information for your convenience and does not constitute legal advice. Family law can be complex and you’re encouraged to seek legal advice to better understand your rights and responsibilities as well as the rights of your children.

Top 5 Reasons for Divorce in Alberta

Top Five Reasons for Divorce in Alberta

Top Five Reasons for Divorce in Alberta

According to 2016 Canadian census data, 40% of Albertans over the age of 15 are not married nor in common law unions and 8.3% are legally divorced or separated. When focusing on the long-term trend of married Canadians only, the data indicates almost 40% of Canadian marriages may end up in divorce. Attitudes towards divorce have reached record levels of acceptance and is not shunned upon societally as it used to be. More and more individuals are also getting prenuptial agreements in place – making the divorce and separation process as seamless as ever. At Verhaeghe Law – our Alberta divorce lawyers have seen many reasons for divorce and separation. Here are some of the most common reasons we have found over the years.

Here are the top 5 reasons for divorce in Alberta, and, not co-incidentally, nationwide:

  1. Finances – The majority of Canadians surveyed cite fighting over money as a top reason for divorce. Notably this is also a major point of conflict during divorce proceedings. Typically when budget-planning does not go well, resentment and finger-pointing start to arise and can devolve into constant arguments and ultimately divorce. A disparity between how each partner contributes to household finances and career-earning potentials can also become a point of contention over time. We see this as the most common reason for divorce which is why a marriage agreement prior to getting married is very beneficial as it outlines the financial responsibilities of each spouse and/or partner.
  2. Infidelity – Infidelity is a complex topic and the sense of betrayal, anger and resentment can often be too difficult to overcome for most people. This is typically one of the most emotionally charged reasons for divorce and can dramatically affect the nature of the separation and divorce process. Luckily, for spouses who have been cheated on – there are forms of restitutiuon available. Contact a divorce lawyer to see what your legal options are if you have been cheated on or have cheated on your spouse.
  3. Disconnecting emotionally and mentally from each other – After the honeymoon period is over and the lives of couples get busy with work, children, etc. it is common that couples stop investing the time and work required to maintaining a healthy meaningful relationship with their partner. More often than not, it’s a fading emotional connection which can result in a serious disconnect. In some cases, a couple can focus on their children so greatly their marriage becomes secondary, without recognizing or appreciating it. The same phenomena can occur with one or both partner’s careers.
  4. Incompatibility – Couples may learn over time that they were either never aligned in the first place or have evolved with different positions on core principles (e.g. wanting children, work priorities, etc.) Failing to be on the same page for critical lifestyle decisions can fester resentment and discontent. This can extend to different values and interests driving them to live separate lives.
  5. Domestic abuse – Experts know that rates of all family violence are under reported. For instance, the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics cited in 2014, fewer than one in five (19%) who had been abused by their spouse reported abuse to police. Nevertheless, of all reported Canadian violent crime in 2016, 26% resulted from family violence. Unfortunately, alcohol is one of the biggest contributors to such negative spousal behavior with 25-50% of domestic abuse occurring when alcohol has been consumed. No surprise here that this is another major reason for divorce and separation.

Legal Basis for Divorce

In Canada, divorce laws were streamlined and modernized in both 1968 and 1985 facilitating a greater number of divorces. The federal Divorce Act provides only one legal ground for getting divorced – the breakdown of the marriage – which can be proven three different ways.

  1. One-Year separation (e.g. the “no-fault” divorce);
  2. Adultery; and
  3. Cruelty (mental or physical).

Typically, regardless of the true root cause, the “no-fault” divorce is the most commonly cited reason due to its straightforward nature. In Alberta, Statistics Canada shows 98% of divorces in 2005 cited one-year separation as the grounds for divorce.

At Verhaeghe Law Office – we always advise our family and friends to prepare marriage agreements or cohabitation agreements before getting married or moving in with your significant other. It’s a great way to safeguard your individual interests in the event of a breakdown in the relationship. You may benefit from marriage counselling or couple therapy prior to making a final decision regarding separation or divorce, depending on the circumstances. If your differences remain irreconcilable, you should speak with a family law expert to know your rights.

Regardless of the reasons for your divorce, speak with an Edmonton family lawyer today regarding your family law needs.

Our Edmonton family lawyers at Verhaeghe Law Office our divorce lawyers have helped thousands of people across Alberta with their divorces. To better discuss how we can assist with your legal needs please contact our law firm today by calling 587-410-2500 and speak directly with one of our divorce lawyers.

Note: This blog offers general information for your convenience and does not constitute legal advice. Family law can be complex and you’re encouraged to seek legal advice to better understand your rights and responsibilities as well as the rights of your children.

What does Joint Custody mean in Alberta?

What does Joint Custody mean in Alberta?

What does Joint Custody mean in Alberta?

Joint custody disagreements are very common during divorce proceedings and can be emotionally charged discussions. We recommend hiring a divorce lawyer if you and your spouse are having disagreements regarding your child custody arrangements. This article is not intended to act as legal advice but briefly goes over what joint custody means in Alberta.

In Alberta, a child is any person under the age of 18 and their custody or access are governed by

  1. The federal Divorce Act when the parents are legally married and have started divorce proceedings under the Act; and
  2. Alberta’s Family Law Act is available to both married and unmarried couples with children.

Sorting out the legalese

The legal jargon varies between Canada’s federal laws and Alberta’s provincial laws. The terms “access” and “parenting” refer to rights for parents to have time with the child in federal and provincial laws respectively.
Whereas custody relates to the ability of a parent to make daily and major decisions in relation to their child including their living arrangements and parenting schedules. The overarching principle in both laws are that all decisions involving the child are made in the child’s “best interests” factoring in their physical, psychological and emotional safety.

Joint custody: The most common arrangement

Joint custody is the most common arrangement in Alberta and ensures both parents have a clear voice in critical decisions regarding their child. The success of joint custody arrangements is highly dependent on the co-operation of both parents.

In most cases, joint custody is agreed upon by parents where the child’s best interests are always placed as the priority. In the absence of a parenting agreement or order, “joint custody” is the de facto arrangement where both parents make decisions about the child together and are entitled to spend time with them.

The parent with whom the child(ren) spend most of their time has “primary care and control” and from a practical perspective makes day to day decisions involving them. The other parent has “access” which means they spend time with the children and is responsible for day to day decisions when they are with them. For instance, the child could live with one parent 90% of the time and both parents still have joint custody, based on a joint decision to enable the child going to one school.

There are some rare situations where sole custody may be preferred. Even in such cases, the parent without custody may still have access to the child.

Determination by the Courts

If two parents can mutually agree on guardianship arrangements after separation, it is always helpful to document this understanding in a legally-binding parenting agreement. This written contract will address a variety of decisions including where the children will live and how each parent will care for and make decisions for the child, in their best interests. It takes into account practical considerations. It’s recommended each parent seek independent legal advice before signing a parenting agreement and the agreement can be made enforceable by filing a Consent Order with the Court.

In cases where parents cannot reach a mutual agreement or scenarios involving family violence and abuse, a judge can issue a Parenting Order. The Courts can determine custody according to a few key factors including but not limited to:

  • Primarily, the best interests of the children;
  • Each parent’s physical, mental and emotional health;
  • Child’s wishes, particularly after the age of 12;
  • If one guardian is intimidating the other or preventing them access to the child;
  • Potential for abuse or harm; and
  • More

The judge will apply the law depending on the circumstances of both parents and their ability to take decisions in the best interests of their child. Typically, even if one parent is granted “primary care”, the other parent can see the child and enquire about their care and well-being, depending on the circumstances.

Speak with an Edmonton family lawyer today regarding your parenting arrangement needs

At Verhaeghe Law Office, our Alberta family lawyers are experienced in assisting families navigate the legal complexities surrounding joint custody disputes. To better understand how we can assist with your parenting arrangements – contact our law firm today by calling 587-410-2500 and speak directly with a member of our legal team.

Note: This blog offers general information for your convenience and does not constitute legal advice. Family law can be complex and you’re encouraged to seek legal advice to better understand your rights and responsibilities as well as the rights of your children.

Child Custody: What the Courts Consider When Applying for a Mobility Application

Child Custody: What the Courts Consider When Applying for a Mobility Application

Child Custody: What the Courts Consider When Applying for a Mobility Application

While divorce proceedings and child custody disputes can be emotionally taxing – this process can bring about significant changes to each spouse’s lifestyle post-divorce. In fact, more often than not, we’ve seen many instances where one spouse may choose to relocate to another city, province or country following a divorce due to their change in economic or financial status and take the children with them.

In a situation like this where one parent wishes to pursue a significant relocation with a child – a mobility application is required. The Alberta Courts will always put a child’s best interests first and as a result – the parent seeking to relocate with the child will be required to offer reasons as to why relocating with the child is in their best interests. For more specific examples of what items are taken into consideration by judges during a mobility application, read the decision made by the Supreme Court of Canada in Goertz v. Goertz.

Some of the things Alberta courts will investigate include, but are not limited to:

  • What the child wishes to do
  • Schooling
  • Where the child will live (residence)
  • Whether childcare requirements will be sufficient
  • Support system that will be available including extended family
  • Employment opportunities and/or new income
  • In some cases psychological assessments
  • And more

If a mobility application is requested and granted – the stay-behind parent will still be granted access to the child(ren) providing he/she is entitled to child custody as well.

Mobility applications and pre-existing child custody court orders

In some cases there may be a pre-existing custody court order that enforces the parent who has primary custody and intends to relocate with their child to notify the other parent within a specified time frame of the upcoming move. The Divorce Act requires that the notifying parent outline the proposed change of residence, the time when the change will be made as well as the new place of residence of the child.

Be mindful though these court orders can be contested by an opposing parent and if you’re in a similar situation we encourage you to seek legal counsel from an experienced Alberta divorce lawyer regarding this. For example, if you are against your children relocating with your former spouse there are legal options that you may be entitled to. You may be eligible to file an application to oppose the proposed move and commence court proceedings asking for a judge’s order to prevent your former spouse from moving with the children.

If no such court order exists, then we recommend speaking with your spouse to come to an amicable arrangement and if that doesn’t work out – then definitely seek legal counsel so that both sides can come to an arrangement that works for both parties.

What happens if one parent moves the children without consulting the other parent?

In a situation like this – it is possible to start a court application to have the children returned to their original place of residence and to have child custody arrangements changed over to the other parent. A family lawyer can assist with this process and will make sure that the presiding judge will be equipped with all facts and that the children’s best interests will remain a priority throughout the proceedings. In most Canadian legal jurisdictions – child custody is seen more as a child’s right to access the parent as much as a parent’s right to access the child. Having a family lawyer involved can make sure you are informed of all your legal rights as a parent and help you navigate the complexities of Alberta’s family law guidelines.

Speak with an Edmonton family lawyer today regarding your mobility application

At Verhaeghe Law Office – our Alberta family lawyers are experienced in assisting families sort out their divorce and separation needs. To better understand how we can assist with your child mobility application needs – contact our law firm today by calling 587-410-2500 and speak directly with a member of our legal team.

Note: This blog offers general information for your convenience and does not constitute legal advice. Family law can be complex and you’re encouraged to seek legal advice to better understand your rights and responsibilities as well as the rights of your children.

When can a child decide which parent to live with in Alberta?

When can a child decide which parent to live with in Alberta?

When can a child decide which parent to live with in Alberta?

Divorce can be a complex and emotional process especially when involving children who are old enough to be aware of the circumstances and potential impacts to their own living situation. They often have their own perceptions of life after divorce driven by what they have observed or heard and often times their emotional needs are not placed as a priority when their parents are separating or divorcing. Because the nature of divorces can be quite tumultuous and riddled with disagreements – it is highly recommended to involve an Alberta divorce lawyer when it comes to dealing with parenting plans or child custody arrangements.

BONUS: Information For Children

EXTRA BONUS: Because Life Goes On…..Information For Parents

Relevant framework in Alberta

In Alberta, a child is considered to be any person under the age of 18 and only their parents or the Court can make the decision on where they live. The federal Divorce Act governs custody and access whereas Alberta’s Family Law Act addresses parenting times and other items. The Family Law Act states the Court must takes the child’s wishes into account and more weight is given the older the child is.

Canada has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which dictates that children who are able to formulate an opinion on the matter have a right to express their views freely in legal proceedings. There are various examples of Canadian family law decisions which cite this obligation. In cases where child intervention is required, including adoption by a third-party guardian, Alberta’s Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act applies.

However, the Canadian legal framework enforced by Alberta Courts will always prioritize the child’s best interests as the determining factor for which parent a child will reside with. Although the child’s wishes can be given weight these are not the only factors taken into consideration. Judges will always consider may other factors as well when debating who the child gets to live with and what type of access will be given.

Some of the key elements Alberta courts will consider regarding the child’s best interests include, but are not limited to:

  • Child’s physical, psychological and emotional needs;
  • Child’s access to school and healthcare;
  • Opportunity for least disruption to the child’s lifestyle (stability);
  • Opportunity to learn their heritage (language, culture and religion);
  • Degree of attachment to each parent;
  • History of family violence and criminal behaviour; and
  • more

Living arrangements after divorce: The role of the children’s voice

Oftentimes, children can vocalize a preference of which parent they would prefer to live with. Their preference can evolve over time, driven by a variety of factors (e.g. wanting to live in their childhood home, stay at the same school, etc.) and this is something the Courts will take into consideration when finalizing child custody arrangements.

The weight of the child’s voice in the Court’s decision depends on the child’s maturity level and age. Although the legislation does not define a minimum age, there are numerous reported case law that implies that a child’s wishes should “definitely be considered” at 12 years old according to Albers v Albers, 2011 ABQB 456. A child as young as 10 years old can at times have a voice as well according to RM vs JS, 2013 ABCA 441. Typically, when a child is aged 14 to 17, their opinion is an important factor in the Court’s consideration.

It is important to have evidence demonstrating the child is mature enough. If appropriate, this can be accomplished by a “Voice of the Child” report, where a qualified psychologist or counsellor meets with the child and documents their views and preferences. In some cases, this may not be appropriate if the child is placed in an uncomfortable position or if they are too young to express their views effectively.

The judge will apply the law depending on the circumstances of the family and ultimately decide whether the child’s preference is in line with their best interests (or not). Ultimately, even if one parent is granted “primary care”, the other parent is typically allowed to see the child and enquire about their care and well-being depending on the circumstances.

Speak with an Edmonton family lawyer today regarding your parenting arrangement

At Verhaeghe Law Office, our Alberta family lawyers are experienced in assisting families resolve their divorce needs and specific circumstances as amicably as possible. Especially when children are involved – it remains our priority to ensure their best interests are placed first. To better understand how we can assist with your parenting arrangement – contact our law firm today by calling 587-410-2500 and speak directly with a divorce lawyer regarding your child custody arrangements.

Note: This blog offers general information for your convenience and does not constitute legal advice. Family law can be complex and you’re encouraged to seek legal advice to better understand your rights and responsibilities as well as the rights of your children.

What is a valuation date?

What is a valuation date?

What is a valuation date?

During a marital breakdown there are a number of issues that need to be addressed before both spouses can move on to the next chapter of their lives. Depending on the length of your relationship there may be a number of assets that require equitable division. In most cases, matrimonial property can include all property accumulated during a marriage including both assets and debt. A variety of assets are captured including bank accounts, savings, RRSPs, the matrimonial home and other assets purchased during the course of the marriage.

In Alberta, Canada’s federal Divorce Act handles the legal landscape for both child and spousal support as it relates to divorce whereas Alberta’s Matrimonial Property Act outlines the division of matrimonial property. On January 1, 2020 amendments will come into effect changing the name of this Act to the Family Property Act and extending property division rules and criteria to adult interdependent partners. As a starting point, if the couple has a pre-existing agreement in place (e.g. pre-nuptial or co-habitation agreement) the division outlined in this agreement applies.

In the absence of such an agreement, the married couple has the option of coming up with their own property settlement contractual agreement outside of courts, however this legislation provides a fallback solution for the Courts to decide. Regardless of the pathway used the couple requires independent counsel and full, accurate financial disclosure to ensure the agreement’s enforceability.

Family law can be complicated and its always advisable to contact a local Edmonton divorce lawyer to understand your legal rights. Divorces and separations can be lengthy processes, especially if handled in court as opposed to mediation or collaborative law settings. As a result, a “snapshot” date has to be selected in order to assess a monetary value of all matrimonial property, also known as the valuation date.

Ideally, the separating couple secures as much supporting documentation as possible regarding income, property and debt values at the time of separation to facilitate monitoring changes that occur during the course of separation. Ultimately the valuation date is decided by the court after hearing both sides out. Although some assets are fairly straight-forward to value (e.g. bank balances) other assets can be challenging such as real estate or family-owned businesses. Certain assets may not qualify as matrimonial property.

Both parties have an obligation to be honest with one another by fully sharing financial information regarding all property each party owns. Even if the property is owned with someone else or located outside Alberta, there exists a duty to inform your spouse of it. This includes sharing any information on a property you may have gotten rid of in the past year. Typically this process is accomplished by a Notice to Disclose Court Document and results in a complete listing of all assets along with current values and dates and value when they were originally purchased at. These assets may fall into a variety of categories as per the Matrimonial Property Act. The debts acquired during this period are listed as well.

The Alberta Rules of Court also outline additional ways to secure financial disclosure through questioning under oath or through written questioning or in person. Not all property will necessarily be divided equally as certain categories are distributed based on what is fair in the circumstances.

In order to ensure compliance with the law and understand what you’re legally entitled to, it is advisable to retain the assistance of your family lawyer to help in populating your list. Once this information is submitted, the court will hear legal arguments and identify assets that qualify as matrimonial property and deliver the verdict on both asset value and division.

The judge will decide what is fair based on a variety of factors outlined in the legislation including:

  • Any pre-existing agreements between the spouses;
  • Income and earning capacity of each spouse;
  • Roles and contributions of each spouse during marriage;
  • Length of marriage; and
  • Prior court orders

The full suite of considerations is outlined in section 8 of the Matrimonial Property Act.

Speak with an experienced family lawyer today to better understand your legal rights as it relates to property division.

At Verhaeghe Law Office, our Edmonton divorce lawyers have experience in effectively dealing with matrimonial property issues and finding a timely resolution that is fair and equitable for both sides. Please contact us for a consultation today or by calling 587-410-2500 and speak directly with our legal team.

Note: This blog offers general information for your convenience and does not constitute legal advice. You’re encouraged to seek legal advice to better understand how family law may be applied in your specific situation.

Medical Assistance in Dying — Know Your Rights

Medical Assistance in Dying — Know Your Rights

Medical Assistance in Dying — Know Your Rights

The Parliament of Canada passed federal legislation in 2016 that allows Canadian adults who meet certain criteria to request medical asosistance in dying (MAID). If you or a loved one is suffering from a serious, debilitating conditin with no chance of improvement, you may be eligible for MAID. Are you being told you don’t meet the requirements? Contact one of our knowledgeable lawyers at Verhaeghe Law Office for assistance.

The Amendments

To ensure that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was satisfied, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the sections of the Criminal Code that prevented medical assistance in dying were made invalid. Federal legislation was passed in June 2016 that allows Canadians who are eligible to request medical assistance in dying.

Who Can Help

Under the law, physicians and nurse practitioners (in certain provinces) can assist people who meet the legal requirements for MAID. Pharmacists, family members or others asked by the individual in question, and healthcare providers operating under the supervision of the physician or nurse practitioner can help without fear of criminal charges.

Note that the physician, nurse practitioner, and others who are directly involved must abide by the rules in the Criminal Code as well as provincial and territorial laws.

What If My Doctor Refuses?

Under the law, healthcare providers do not have to provide MAID. If they are uncomfortable with the practice for any reason, they cannot be forced to provide help. To find a provider who will assist with end-of-life MAID services, refer to the care and coordination systems developed in each province.

Eligibility

All of the criteria, as set forth by the law, must be met in order to be eligible for MAID. The individual must:

  • Be eligible for health services funded by the government, province, or territory
  • Be at least 18 years old and mentally competent (capable of making healthcare decisions)
  • Have a grievous and irremediable medical condition (meet all of the following)
    • Have a serious illness, disease, or disability
    • Be in an advanced state of decline that cannot be reversed
    • Experience unbearable physical or mental suffering from the illness that cannot be relieved
    • Be at a point where natural death is reasonably foreseeable (not a specific prognosis)
  • Be able to give informed consent

Please note that you do not have to have a terminal illness to qualify.

The Process

To initiate the process, the person must discuss end-of-life options with their physician or nurse practitioner and submit a written request. This request must be signed in front of two witnesses, and everyone must date the request. Once the request is submitted, the individual must undergo medical assessments to ensure eligibility. A ten-day waiting period is mandatory after a request is submitted to ensure that the individual has time to reconsider. Exceptions to the waiting period may apply. You may withdraw your request at any time during the process.

Your Rights

Canadians who are eligible have the right to medical assistance in dying. If you or a loved one is considering this option or if you have run into difficulty obtaining the services you are entitled to, please call Verhaeghe Law Office at 587-410-2500.

Tech Companies & Politicians Talk Privacy

Tech Companies & Politicians Talk Privacy

Tech Companies & Politicians Talk Privacy

The International Grand Committee on Big Data, Privacy, and Democracy is meeting in Ottawa this week. The members of the committee represent those concerned about the effects of information technology in the social and political spheres in their countries. Some of the represented nations are Argentina, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Singapore, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. During the discussions, the committee will question representatives from Google, Twitter, and supposedly Facebook, regarding user privacy, data security, and foreign influence.

Facebook Declines Invitation

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg failed to appear before the committee when called to testify. The panel of international politicians viewed this as disrespectful to legislators everywhere. At this time, Canadian lawmakers have voted to serve a summons on Zuckerberg and/or Sandberg, declaring them in contempt of Parliament. Facebook has been the subject of many scandals surrounding privacy violations, spreading fake news, sowing dissension, and manipulating election outcomes. These are the main topics of this committee’s discussion.

Technology as a Main Influencer

Digital media platforms are becoming the main source for influencing public opinion, bypassing print, and broadcast media. The question is how to best protect people’s privacy and maintain democratic fairness with the extreme power of social media.

Before the meeting in Ottawa began, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft agreed to a declaration that promised 12 initiatives to protect the integrity of Canada’s upcoming fall elections. This agreement included the removal of fraudulent social media accounts and fake content. While this is promising, Twitter and other tech giants declined to commit.

Are We Looking at the Right Problem?

Some experts say that fake news, hate speech, and election manipulation are merely symptoms of a larger problem. Is it the actual business model used by the digital media giants that is at the center of the issue?

Let’s Look at Facebook Again

In the last few weeks, it came to light that a Facebook quiz app built by a Cambridge University researcher leaked the Facebook data of over 50 million people — four years ago. Facebook apologized this week after threatening to sue the reporters who broke the story. Many have expressed that the apology would be more meaningful if FB had actually done something about it when the data breach occurred. The data was obtained in this breach by Cambridge Analytica was sold to the Trump campaign to help determine voting tendencies.

The report of this scandal prompted Android phone users to give more credence to the rumor that Facebook has been collecting call history and SMS data from their phones for quite some time. Downloading all of the data that Facebook stores on their accounts has proven enlightening, and frightening to these Android users. The files contained every single phone call and text for at least a year. Facebook responded by saying that the data collection is opt-in, but has yet to clarify what it needs the data for and why it is part of a contact upload prompt.

Taming the Beast

Social media is made for connecting people with similar interests. This has led to data collection and its use in marketing based on users’ data. The enormous database is a powerful tool for advertising and political influence. So how do we tame the social media beast?

Hopefully, The International Grand Committee on Big Data, Privacy, and Democracy can come up with some real plans and policies that can be implemented at the root of the problem.

If you aren’t sure if your online data is safe, or if you believe someone has exploited your data, call Verhaeghe Law Office at 587-410-2500 for advice.

What to consider when making a parenting plan

What to consider when making a parenting plan

What to consider when making a parenting plan

A parenting agreement offers a framework for how parents will raise their child(ren) after separation or divorce and can often reduce or prevent conflict by establishing clear guidelines to manage expectations. For now, here are some considerations when creating your own parenting plan.

Firstly, the approach to your parenting agreement can be simple and doesn’t have to use fancy legal terms. It should balance having enough details to be useful while remaining flexible enough to be reasonably applied. You must consider how well you are able to work with the other parent when deciding how much detail is required to clarify expectations. After all, these guidelines are intended to prevent or reduce future disputes and a child has greater chances of coping with their parents’ separation or divorce if parents co-operate with each other.

Secondly, put your child’s best interests first and reflect on their age and current/future stages of when designing your agreement as it relates to the following key topics:

1. Living arrangements and Parenting Schedules

Is it in your child’s best interests to live mainly in one home or move between the two? Consider the proximity of both parents’ homes and handling of child’s belongings (e.g. who will purchase 2 sets of items at each home vs. moving items in between). Also address the scenario where a parent moves (e.g. 30 to 60 day advance notice and consent requirements if they’re interested in child moving with them). Details that may seem trivial now should also be pro-actively addressed, regardless of how amicable and co-operative your relationship, to ensure clear guidelines and avoid future resentment or frustration. Consider:

  • Drop-off/pick-up logistics to establish reliable habits from the outset (i.e. time windows, days, location, person responsible). The daily routine of each parent should be practically considered to avoid being overly rigid such as unpredictable working hours.
  • Documenting rules on how to handle changes to schedule due to illness, lateness, or unforeseen events (i.e. advance notice, make-up time?) can alleviate conflict.
  • Rules on communication when the child is with the other parent (i.e. phone, digital, pictures, etc.)
  • Childcare and babysitting arrangements
  • Managing your child’s social life (i.e. who chauffeurs to birthday parties/sleepovers and purchases gifts for child to give, etc.)

2. Vacation/Special Days and Travel

For the child’s sake its often best to decide and agree early on how statutory and religious holidays, summer vacation and other school breaks will be handled to help manage their own expectations. Consider whether child spends certain holidays with one parent every year (e.g. Mother’s or Father’s Day) versus holidays which alternate between households. You may also consider other significant days such as their birthdays or milestone events (e.g. graduation, family weddings).

Travel is another important topic. Does one or both parents desire advance notice and consent for travel (e.g. local and out-of-province) beyond what may be required by law when travelling out of country? Decide who will maintain and store the child’s passport. Each parent should have a copy of their passport number.

3. Health Care

Parenting involves taking care of your child in sickness and in health. To ensure the continued quality of care your child enjoyed before your separation, consider pro-actively addressing topics such as:

  • Who is responsible for holding and maintaining child’s health card? Will it follow the child’s movement between homes?
  • Who takes time off work when child is ill?
  • How decisions and consent will be approached on dental and medical treatment including vaccinations, preventative procedures vs. emergency situations
  • How will each parent notify each other in case of medical emergencies?
  • How will access to medical records be managed or shared?
  • Managing costs of special needs that may appear over time (e.g. orthodontic braces, speech therapy, dietary restrictions, prescription eyewear, counselling)
  • Logistical arrangements for medical or dental check-ups
  • Medical costs including insurance (who secures and maintains policy, submits claims, co-payments)

4. Education

To ensure a seamless transition with your child’s school consider how to approach decisions such as:

  • Choice of school and additional needs like tutoring
  • Logistics (pick-up/drop-off)
  • Access and sharing of school records
  • Attendance of parent-teacher conferences and school events
  • Signing permissions forms for school events versus payment and attendance
  • Absences (illness and other circumstances)

5. Other parenting topics

There are many other key conversations to be had in the parenting world. Why not consider documenting them in your Parenting Plan? A non-exhaustive live includes:

  • Decisions on religious and cultural education and activities including second-language instruction
  • Policy on child’s use of electronic devices and phone since consistency is required from both parents
  • Dietary and nutritional preferences and restrictions
  • Gifts (both to their child and their social circle)
  • Decisions on family pets and whether they move between homes
  • When it’s appropriate to introduce and involve a new partner or sibling to your child
  • Handling visits from extended family

Lastly, your parenting plan may want to contemplate how parents should communicate (frequency, method, type of info required) and a process for reviewing and making changes to the plan if special circumstances arise (e.g. parenting schedule, etc.). Also, many couples use an app to help manage co-parenting schedules such as Our Family Wizard or feel free to click here for a list of some of the more popular co-parenting apps.

Speak with an Edmonton family lawyer today regarding your parenting plan legal needs

If you are considering entering into a parenting agreement - contact us today because our family lawyers can assist you with its development, facilitating agreement between both parents and ensuring its enforceable in Court. Contact usfor a consultation today by calling 587-410-2500.

*Please note the content in this blog offers a general overview and does not constitute legal advice as every case is unique from one another. We encourage you to seek legal advice for answers related to developing a parenting plan suitable to your specific situation.

What are the Alberta Child Support Guidelines?

What are the Alberta Child Support Guidelines?

What are the Alberta Child Support Guidelines?

Children have a legal right to financial support from both parents and a separation or divorce doesn’t change the ongoing legal obligation for either parent to support them. In a divorce or separation in Alberta, both parents are expected to share the cost of raising their child(ren). If parents can’t agree to the amount of child support, a judge will decide in accordance with the established Guidelines.

In Alberta, there are two relevant Guidelines and your situation will dictate which one to use:

  1. Federal Child Support Guidelines (under Canada’s Divorce Act) apply in all divorce cases in Alberta since Alberta is not a “designated province” (i.e. it has not made arrangements with the Government of Canada to use their own guidelines in lieu of federal guidelines if both parents live there).
  2. Alberta Child Support Guidelines (under Alberta’s Family Law Act) are highly aligned with the Federal Child Support Guidelines and apply when the parents were never married to each other or when married parents have separated but neither has applied for a divorce

Both are binding laws that Courts follow to help ensure all of Alberta’s children are treated equally and fairly across the province, regardless of the legal standing of their parents’ relationship. The Guidelines help reduce conflict and tension between parents by making the calculation of child support orders more objective by establishing a base or “table” child support amount for a child under the age of majority (i.e. 18 years in Alberta) via a set of tables.

Alberta’s Child Support Guidelines refer to the federal tables which set out basic child support amounts that depend on the payor’s guideline income, the number of children the payor’s obligated to support in the recipient’s custody and the province the payor resides in.

A key principle of the Alberta Guidelines is that child support be based on a parent’s ability to pay a determined amount based primarily by the most recent income as shown on line 150 of their personal tax return. In certain situations, a different amount may be used such as when the payor’s annual income varies greatly on a yearly basis, if they’re self-employed, or are intentionally unemployed or under-employed, etc. The basic child support amount generally depends on the following parenting arrangements:

  1. Sole custody
    In cases where a child spends more than 60% of the time with one parent over the year, the federal table for the province where the paying parent lives is used to identify the amount of support matching the paying parent’s income and number of children being supported.
  2. Shared or split custody
    In cases where a child spends at least 40% of the time with each parent in a year (shared) or in cases where each parent has sole custody of at least one child (split) – the guidelines confirm payments which account for the income of both parents and the anticipated expenses of the child.

The guidelines do allow for Court discretion when the payor earns more than $150,000 annually and when one parent is suffering undue hardship. To claim undue hardship, the recipient or the payor must first prove to the Judge that they or their children are suffering an undue hardship such as:

  • Parent has children in multiple households owed support;
  • One parent took on responsibility of high debts incurred while together; or
  • One parent lives far away and cannot afford the resulting higher access costs

Secondly, the person requesting undue hardship has to demonstrate to the Court they have a lower standard of living than the other parent.

There is also the possibility for the Court to make an order for the payment of special expenses, also known as section 7 expenses such as:

  • Child care expenses;
  • Medical and dental insurance and expenses not covered by insurance;
  • Extraordinary school and extracurricular expenses; and
  • Post-secondary education expenses

In December 2018, Alberta’s Family Law Act was amended to ensure children 18 years or older are eligible for child support if they’re still under their parents’ charge and unable to withdraw from their parents’ charge or obtain the necessaries of life (e.g. due to illness, disability, full-time student status, etc.)

If you wish to change an existing child support order granted under Alberta’s current or former provincial legislation you must do so under the Family Law Act. The court may consider changing a court order if the personal circumstances of each parent have changed significantly since the time the previous order was made such as:

  • Number of dependent children
  • Long-term change in income due to employment
  • Special or extraordinary section 7 expenses incurred for children
  • Travel/access costs for visits between parties and their children

Speak with an Edmonton family lawyer today regarding your child support needs.

At Verhaeghe Law Office – our Alberta family lawyers have helped numerous clients address their child support needs. We can help you prepare and work towards an expeditious and reasonable payment arrangement. Contact us for a consultation today or by calling 587-410-2500 and speak directly with a member of our legal team today.

Note: This blog offers general information for your convenience and does not constitute legal advice. Family law can be complex and you’re encouraged to seek legal advice to better understand your rights and responsibilities as well as the rights of your children.