Family law matters have become increasing complex as the standard disclosure practices become more in-depth and issues such as mobility can make parenting matters very hostile. Previously, disclosure obligations were put more on the client to determine what they felt comfortable giving and receiving in terms of completing financial disclosure. Now, lawyers are extremely cautious about reviewing all the disclosure included in a settlement to ensure agreements are fair and legally binding. As well, it has become extremely common for parties to retain experts to assist them with disclosure and parenting issues. Family law matters can become very complicated, very quickly and this is why we are seeing an increase in the need to retain multiple lawyers or experts on a single-family law file.
Expert Reports for Disclosure Matters
In certain situations, your family law lawyer may recommend that you hire an expert or forensic accountant to assist you with specific issues. For example, if you or your partner are self-employed, an expert can assist in determining guideline income or completing a valuation on a business/company. The expert can be jointly retained by both parties or retained by one party alone, depending on the circumstances. Expert reports can be filed as evidence in court and experts can be used during trial to assist with your position. In family law, expert reports are given substantial weight by the court.
Psychologists and other Parenting Experts
In addition to financial experts, your lawyer may also propose that you hire someone to assist with parenting matters. Especially, if parenting is a contentious part of your divorce. Different types of parenting experts can include psychologists, psychiatrists, parenting coordinators, and others. If parties are unable to resolve their parenting matters, the court may order them to a parenting expert under a Practice Note 7. Parenting experts are different from lawyers as they act as a neutral party to help the courts determine the best interests of the children.
What About the Cost?
The idea of having two counsel is a multifaceted issue. In one instance, having both a junior and a senior counsel can assist in keeping your costs down. The more junior lawyer can assist in the day-to-day management of the file while the senior counsel can then step in to attend trial or assist in any other capacity when needed. On the other hand, having two lawyers can become costly if you are paying them both to attend at court or to do the same tasks. The first scenario noted above is actually very common in family law files. At Jones Divorce and Family Law we often have our junior lawyers assist on files to ensure our clients costs are kept down. However, only one lawyer will attend court at a time, and you will not be double billed for the same tasks being completed by two lawyers. In the second scenario, the courts have taken a very cautious approach. In Iacobelli v Iacobelli, 2020 ONSC 6128, Justice John P.L. McDermot stated that “the matter must be extremely complex for the court to find that there is need for second counsel, and this is particularly so in family law matters where the affordability of trials and cost of representation for matrimonial client is increasingly in issue.”