Does Having a Cohabitation Agreement Make Sense?

Does Having a Cohabitation Agreement Make Sense?

More and more couples are choosing to live together before marriage. In fact, between 2006 and 2011, the number of common-law couples rose 13.9%, more than four times the 3.1% increase for married couples. Still, married couples still remain most common family structure despite the decrease in numbers over the years. There are a lot of misconceptions about cohabitating couples when it comes to the law and their rights, and even more when it comes to them separating.
1. Provincial variances

Not all provinces treat common-law partnerships the same. For example, in British Columbia it was recently ruled that if a couple is living together for two years then they have the same rights as married couples. In Alberta, only couples living together for three or more years or has a child a child together and live together are considered common-law. In order for a couple to be considered common-law in Ontario or Manitoba, they must live together for three years or more, or one year with a child.
2. Spousal Support

Not always, but in some cases, it is possible that someone in a common-law union is awarded spousal support based on their circumstances. For example, if one party had to take care of a child or children and therefore forfeit a career it might justify spousal support. Also, in unique cases where one person was financially dependent upon the other regularly and would suffer financially from separating then they too might be granted spousal support. However, it’s important to know that granting spousal support at all in most common-law cases is not common.
3. Property & Division of Assets

In most provinces, because common-law couples aren’t considered married there is no matrimonial property, and therefore no legal rights to it. The only exception would be if there was a cohabitation agreement in place and in that agreement the property and assets are addressed. Otherwise, without a cohabitation agreement in place the law looks at how each party has contributed to the home. Maintaining the home or any improvements and renovations done are all considered as contributions. But there are variances across Canada because the legislation around common-law couples is different. British Columbia considers common-law couples married after two years of living together, whereas Quebec doesn’t acknowledge common-law couples at all. So in B.C. common-law couples have the same rights as married couples, whereas in Quebec, common-law couples are seen as common roommates and whatever one party owns, they keep.

If you are considering living together with someone before getting married or instead of getting married, it helps to know your rights. Cohabitation agreements, especially in Ontario, can help protect your rights and those of your partner’s in the event of a relationship ending, like financial assets, investments, debts, as well as property. It can also provide peace of mind especially for couples that just started living together and don’t meet the criteria necessary to be considered a common-law in the eyes of the law.
At Mazzeo Law we have helped many people prepare a cohabitation agreement to protect their rights and those of their partners. In order for an agreement to be finalized, each partner has to obtain his or her own lawyer. Give us a call or request a free consultation and one of our representatives will get back to you promptly to set up a meeting.
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5 Things You Should Consider Before Filing for Divorce

5 Things You Should Consider Before Filing for Divorce

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It’s one of the most special and important moments of your life – saying “I do” in front of your closest family and friends. No one thinks that their own marriage could end in divorce, but the sad reality is that many do. Each year approximately 70 000 married coupes divorce. One silver lining? 95-99% of divorces settle outside court. Far more often than not, the dissolution of a marriage can be handled outside a courtroom and only the most extreme cases end up going to court.
If you do plan on moving ahead with divorce proceedings, keep these five factors in mind.
1. Property Division

Property cannot always be divided equally. In cases where it can’t, one spouse is often issued what’s called an equalization payment, and/or an equalization of net family property. Both of these terms refer to a payment that is issued to one spouse as a compensation for the equal division of a joint property. There are some exceptions, especially if you are in a common law relationship. It’s best to seek legal advice for more accurate information about your own situation.
2. Child Custody & Access

Divorce can be an extremely stressful time for children. Routines change, daily life is disrupted. It’s important that they be provided with as much stability as possible. The best way to do this is to have a clear plan for their proper care and support. Deciding who will care for them, where they will reside, who will make important decisions and whether custody will be shared or awarded to one parent are all important decisions to be made.

3. Child Support

Child support payments are based on many factors – the number of children, their age, region, annual income and more. If you live in Ontario, you can use the Department of Justice’s online calculator to estimate what support payments would be by following this link: df/child-enfant/look-rech.asp. You can find many resources online, but each situation is different and it’s always best to contact a lawyer to assess your own.
4. Spousal Support

A marriage is the same as a financial partnership or union in the eyes of the law. If a marriage breaks down or ends in divorce the more financially established person may need to provide financial support for the less established. How much and for how long are complicated questions and depend on how much is required and how much the other party is able to pay. For more certainty and clarity it’s best to speak to a lawyer.
5. Prenuptial Agreement

A prenuptial agreement will outline exactly what will happen in the event of a divorce regarding your property, children, child and spousal support. In order for the contract to be valid both parties need to sign and consent to the contract. Some people are against this process and find it unromantic, while others believe having a contract in place protects everyone’s interest and can provide peace of mind. A lawyer can answer any questions you may have about creating one.
“The other big one is if the marriage wasn’t consummated,” Mazzeo says. “But that’s not being claimed here.”
If you and your partner are headed for divorce, consider engaging a divorce mediator or coach to help you navigate. Having a neutral third party can provide clarity in a difficult and emotional time. A lawyer only needs to be engaged for legal matters – they can become the mediator or coach but come with a much bigger price tag. Engaging a lawyer to handle the legal proceedings alone is ideal and cost effective.
At Mazzeo Law we have handled numerous divorce cases and are here to help you navigate this very stressful time in your life. Give us a call or request a free consultation and one of our representatives will get back to you promptly to set up a meeting.
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Do You Have a Will? If Not, Here Are 7 Reasons Why You Should

Do You Have a Will? If Not, Here Are 7 Reasons Why You Should

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Something I see all too often as a family lawyer are people fighting over the estate of a loved one that has recently passed because there is no will left behind with instructions. Emotions and hurt can still occur even when there is one because family members sometimes feel the division of assets and such is unfair or disagree with the instructions. Still, having a last will and testament will minimize family disputes.
When you don’t have a will in place, your estate is tied up in the courts and eventually they end up deciding how to divide your estate without your direction.
While there are more reasons than not, here are seven reasons why having one is a good idea.
1. Family Protection

One of the most important reasons for having a will is protecting the interests of your family and loved ones after your passing. Sometimes depending legal challenges beyond what you would imagine occur and a portion or your entire estate may be awarded to someone you would not have wanted to inherit it. For example, in a wrongful death lawsuit the father of a son who had passed suddenly was awarded over $1 million even though the father had not been part of his life for over 32 years. His mom and siblings who were part of his life received nothing.

2. Estate

In creating your will, you and only you decide how your estate is to be divided and distributed. It is a legally binding document that instructs exactly how you want your assets and such to be handled when you pass.
3. Inheritance

Controlling who gets what is an important part of your will. In fact, sometimes disinheriting certain family members to ensure they do not receive any inheritance is even more important. But if you don’t have a will, you have no say and sometimes your full inheritance can be passed on to someone you would not have wanted to receive anything like an ex-spouse.
4. Children

Needless to say that if you have children, especially if they are minors, you would want to have a say in who will look after them should you pass away before they are able to care for themselves. Without any instructions, the court will have to appoint a family member or guardian to care for them.
5. Taxes

Appropriating your estate by dividing it among family members or donating to a charity of your choosing can minimize the taxes on your estate. It’s unfortunate but without one, the estate is taxed and the government will still get its share in taxes. Avoid being overtaxed on your estate by having a will in place and all assets properly divided.
6. Executors

This is quite a responsibility for the executor as their role will be to pay all bills, close accounts, cancel credit cards, and notify any and all banks and business establishments of your passing. Having someone you can trust that is reliable and organized handle these things makes the most sense. It also doesn’t have to be a family member, so choose this person wisely.
7. Gifts & Donations

Leaving a gift or donation behind is like leaving a legacy that can make a positive impact that lives on even when you are gone. Not to mention, that gifts and donations up to a certain amount are excluded from taxes.
None of us are guaranteed tomorrow and the only guarantee in life is that one day, whether sudden or not, we will pass on. Having a will can put our minds at ease and allow us to better enjoy our days while here knowing that our family’s interests will be protected and taken care of.

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Big financial implications if McCain annulment granted

Big financial implications if McCain annulment granted

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Frozen foods heiress Eleanor McCain could have a difficult time proving marriage fraud as she seeks an annulment, Toronto family lawyer Paul Mazzeo says.
“Based on what I have read, she’s saying she was tricked into marriage by the former Toronto Symphony Orchestra CEO because he skillfully hid his true self,” says Mazzeo, principal of Mazzeo Law.
McCain, a singer and daughter of Wallace McCain, the late co-founder of McCain Foods Limited, has asked the Ontario Superior Court to annul her marriage to Jeff Melanson, according to court documents obtained by the Globe and Mail.
In another document filed last month, McCain says Melanson is not entitled to the $5 million set out in their prenuptial agreement or to any share in the increase of value to their marital home during the brief marriage that began in April 2014 and ended in January 2015, the Globe says.

McCain alleges that Melanson married her and took a job at the TSO because he faced administrative problems and harassment allegations while he led the Banff Centre.
“The motivation is pretty clear — there are big financial implications if it were an annulment and not a divorce,” says Mazzeo, who comments generally and is not involved in the case. “An annulment is pretty strict and defined. Under the law, an annulment is granted when there wasn’t capacity to marry in the first place.”
That lack of capacity would include somebody being already married and hiding it, somebody being so intoxicated they didn’t know what they were doing or somebody being forced into a marriage by fraud or duress.
“The other big one is if the marriage wasn’t consummated,” Mazzeo says. “But that’s not being claimed here.”
To get the marriage annulled, McCain’s lawyers would have to prove in court that Melanson had committed fraud, Mazzeo says.
In the documents, McCain argues there was no “free and enlightened consent” to the marriage as she would not have married Melanson “had she known the truth about him,” the story in the Globe and Mail says.
“Fraud is criminal deception designed to result in financial or commercial gain,” Mazzeo says. “But I don’t think this would qualify. She was an adult with the ability to make decisions and the ability to ascertain who she was marrying.”
If the marriage is annulled, the couple would simply walk away without the legal obligations — such as equalizing family property — of a divorce, Mazzeo says.
“It’s like the marriage never happened,” Mazzeo says. “If there was intermingling of assets — like if you put all of your money into your spouse’s account — that would have to be sorted out.”
In family law, annulments are extremely rare, Mazzeo says.
“I’ve been practising for eight years and it has come up only once and I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t come up again,” Mazzeo says. “The reason people are talking about it here is because it’s outside-of-the-box thinking by her legal counsel — if it proves successful, it could save the woman a lot of money.”
And, although Mazzeo says it’s unlikely, he believes if McCain is successful, the decision could change family law by making it easier to obtain an annulment by claiming fraud.
“It might change the landscape of our practice,” he says. “But, this is not the first time someone has tried this.”
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Saved time, stress makes hiring a family lawyer worthwhile

Saved time, stress makes hiring a family lawyer worthwhile

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“I’ve seen it done somewhat effectively, but it is not for everybody”, says Mazzeo, principal of Mazzeo Law.
“There are many people who would have a hard time speaking before a judge and getting a point across in any persuasive manner”, he says.
“At the end of the day, I think this will be a better arrangement for my clients”, he says.
Navigating the court system, meeting deadlines and preparing for appearances can be difficult for people on their own, especially when they have competing demands from work and family life while going through a separation.
“People hire family lawyers for a reason”, Mazzeo says. “This kind of work keeps me busy every day.”
According to the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, more than 57 per cent of Ontarians did not have legal representation in family court in 2014-15.
“Navigating the family law system without the help of a qualified legal professional can be a daunting task, yet so many Ontarians feel they have no other choice,” Madeleine Meiller, Ontario’s Attorney General and Minister of Francophone Affairs, says in a press release.
The large proportion of unrepresented litigants has prompted the Ontario government to partner with the Law Society of Upper Canada to conduct a review to consider whether a broader range of legal services providers, such as paralegals, law clerks and students, should be allowed to handle certain family law matters.
Mazzeo says he doesn’t support the proposal to expand legal service to professionals other than lawyers. He says he is concerned about qualifications of other legal personnel and possible issues with giving clients improper advice.
He says while the abundance of unrepresented litigants is being recognized more as a problem, there are no clear solutions.
“The biggest problem that the self-represented people identify is money. What is the alternative? The alternative may be lawyers offering things at a more affordable rate, but most feel they are underpaid as it is so I don’t know if that’s an option.”
Mazzeo says he also has an issue with unbundling services as a way to reduce costs for family law clients.
“It’s not something I promote or offer because I believe the best way I can help a client is to represent them from start to finish, as opposed to doing one task-oriented thing and then forgetting about it.”
Instead, Mazzeo believes lawyers should do a better job of informing and educating separating spouses on how a lawyer can best serve their needs.
It’s also important for clients to realize it might be worth the money to save possible prolonged, confusing court involvement, which may not garner the result they had hoped for, he says.
“If there are two lawyers involved and you are not dealing with self-represented parties and you are able to get things done more quickly and efficiently, and save on stress and time, that could even be more important, and more valuable, than money”, Mazzeo says.
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New firm Mazzeo Law provides family law, real estate expertise

New firm Mazzeo Law provides family law, real estate expertise

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Greater Toronto Area family lawyer Paul Mazzeo is pleased to announce the launch of his firm Mazzeo Law, focusing his expertise on assisting clients with family law litigation, real estate, and wills and estates issues.
Mazzeo tells that hanging out his own shingle was a logical step. Prior to setting up shop on his own, Mazzeo practised with a couple of boutiques in the GTA.
“At the end of the day, I think this will be a better arrangement for my clients”, he says.
Mazzeo was called to the Ontario bar in 2009 after receiving his LLB from Osgoode Hall Law School. Prior to that, Mazzeo obtained an honours bachelor degree in Psychology and Law & Society from York University, graduating as a member of the Dean’s List.
The new firm, which opened its doors Jan. 1, is located at 3300 Highway 7, Suite 904 in Vaughan.
Email for more information.
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Tips for Selecting the Right Divorce Lawyer

A divorce can be quite a difficult process for both partners involved. The divorce process can be long and emotionally tasking. Moreover, when kids are involved, things can get even more complicated. For example, your partner may not want you to see the kids but still support them. Given the way a divorce process can affect your emotions, it is easy to do things that can put your case at risk.

If you are filing a divorce, it is best to look for an attorney to help you. The lawyer will work hard to ensure you end up with the least damage from the case. The attorney will work hard to ensure that both you and your partner end the divorce in good terms.

When you are filing for a divorce, there are various lawyers you can hire to help you. However, to find the right lawyer, you should research well. Choosing the right attorney is not just a matter or going for one that is well known. The divorce case can drag on and may require you to divulge private information. Therefore, you need an attorney that you can trust. Do not rush to settle for an attorney. Consider the various lawyers you will come across and evaluate them to determine which one will be right for you.

To find the right divorce lawyer for your case, you have a number of options. Here are two easy ways of finding a good lawyer.

Search Online

Search for divorce lawyers on the internet. You will come across hundreds of law firms and attorneys that handle divorce cases online. You should come up with specific requirements that you ideal attorney should meet. This will help you narrow down the lawyers you come across to a select few that meet your requirements.

For example, you want an attorney that practices in your state. You want an attorney that practices in your state since the divorce laws may be different across various states. A good lawyer should be conversant with the divorce laws of your state. You should also hire an attorney that you can easily reach. Ideally, the attorney should live in the same city as you. You should not have to travel for hours just to meet the lawyer.

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