By Paula J. Kinoshita BEd, MA, JD
Lawyers are trained at sorting through problems and finding legal solutions and navigating the legal system. Lawyers also rely on other professionals to help them as they advise their clients. Here are some of the experts that you may need to retain during the lifespan of your family law file.
Counselor or Psychologist
Separation from a spouse or partner can be one of the most difficult challenges of a person’s life. It is important to have the listening ear and advice of a professional who can help you break with patterns of thinking and with feelings of failure, rejection, and guilt. This expert may be specially trained in helping build a positive co-parenting relationship and can assist parents in creating a parenting schedule for their children.
Occasionally, in high conflict matters, the courts may also require parties to attend counseling sessions so that parties and the court are better able to recognize the needs of the children.
In and around Edmonton, some counseling clinics offer services for free or at a reduced rate. Also, many healthcare plans include counseling, usually to a prescribed maximum amount per year.
We would be happy to provide you with a referral list to some counselors in your area.
Real Estate Appraiser
What is your house worth if you had to sell it? What is your house worth if you transferred it to your spouse, and he or she “bought you out”? The value of your property does not change depending on the purchaser (even if the final deal looks different).
Some clients will rely on a realtor to provide an opinion of the market value of a property. This may be of valuable assistance where the matrimonial property is to be sold to a third party. However, if there is any dispute as to the value of a property, individuals may need to obtain a formal appraisal by an accredited appraiser who has met the requirements of the Appraisal Institute of Canada. A formal appraisal is useful in court to determine the value of a property and maybe a convincing settlement tool.
An actuary considers statistics and crunches the numbers to find the value of a thing. For instance, an actuary may be needed when determining the value of a pension. A pension that is a defined benefits plan, for example, is not equal to the balance in a member’s account at a specified date. One cannot simply take the annual statement of a defined benefits pension to know what its value would be at any given date (as opposed to a defined contributions plan). An actuary considers personal data of the member, data about the plan itself, and certain assumptions in order to provide a present-day value of the pension at the specified date (such as the date of separation).
As pensions are most often part of the property that is subject to division between spouses or partners, knowing the value of that property is essential in almost every family law file. If it is a defined benefits pension, hiring an actuary to assist in determining the value of the pension may be a necessity.
Chartered Business Valuator (CBV)
A chartered business valuator may be needed to determine the value of one’s interest in a business. There are three levels of valuation reports that may be generated by a CBV. A Comprehensive Valuation Report provides a value based on a thorough examination of a business and other factors. An Estimate Valuation Report values a business based on a limited review with some corroboration of relevant information. A Calculation Valuation Report provides a value of a business based on the minimal review, with little or no corroboration of relevant information. Further, within the report, the valuator must outline the information relied upon and provide the valuation methodology.
A business valuator is an essential part of any settlement process or court process if there has been a family business or if one of the spouses has been part of a business.
Accountant or Tax Lawyer
When dealing with complex tax considerations that involve matters such as farm income, business income, foreign income, foreign property, outstanding liabilities to Canada Revenue, and tax implications on transfers of property, you or your lawyer may need to retain an accountant or tax lawyer. While some lawyers do have experience and training in tax law, most do not. Those that do not rely on these experts to provide advice as to how to obtain the best tax outcomes for their clients.
It is also important to note that pursuant to both the Federal and Provincial Child Support Guidelines, disclosure of information about a business, whether it is a sole-proprietorship, partnership or private corporation, is essential for determining child support. Working closely with an accountant, a client can most easily provide the type of in-depth information needed to fulfill their disclosure obligations. (For more information about the importance of disclosure, please see our blog post, entitled “Why do we ask for your financial documentation?”)
Retaining a qualified and skilled expert will cost you at the beginning. However, it can be one of the wisest and most prudent financial decisions that you make in coming to a fair and wholesome and final solution in regard to your family law matter.
NOTICE TO READER: The summaries of legal rights and remedies described above are general references to the Alberta laws existing at the date of the publication and may not apply to the reader’s individual circumstances. Also, the laws may change. These legal summaries are not to be relied upon as applicable to your individual circumstances and are subject to a complete review of the facts and applicable laws in every case.
- (Don Tettmar, Pensions in Family Law (Paper delivered at the Legal Education Society of Alberta, Edmonton, October 23, 2014), online: Legal Education Society of Alberta http://www.lesaonline.org.
- Chartered Business Valuation Institute, Practice Standards, Standard No. 110, online: CBV Institute https://cbvinstitute.com.
- Federal Child Support Guidelines, SOR 97 – 175, s. 21 and Alber