There are a few questions we get asked relatively frequently, so here are the answers. If you have any other questions, our assistants would love to help. Give them a call today and they will get you set up with the lawyer best suited to assist you.
Do you offer free appointments?
We don't. The reason is that we want to offer you something valuable right from the first appointment. At Mountain Vista Law, client service is key, so we are always looking to ensure we are planning for the most appropriate resolution for your case. We will either be taking essential information from you to enable us to act in your best interests right away, or we'll be sending you home with a clear plan so that you can proceed with your next steps on your own. We have also found that offering free appointments leads to an increase in "lawyer shopping" which results in conflicts of interest, and therefore the inability for us to assist prospective clients. This can be particularity problematic in a small town environment.
We are however pleased to offer you a 50% discount on your lawyer's hourly rate for the first hour of your initial consultation.
How long are your appointments?
As long as it takes. Truly. We are here for you and we know that each individual has unique needs. If we had to estimate, initial appointments generally last around one hour. They may be much shorter if your matter is simple, or longer if your case is complex or you have additional questions.
At Mountain Vista Law we are happy to accommodate you. Your appointment is about you. We will take as long as you need.
Do you offer after hours appointments?
Yes! If you are unable to meet with one of our lawyers during office hours we will work with you to try to schedule an appointment time that works for you. Please feel free to call our front desk and advise of your availability. Our assistants will try their best to schedule an appointment that suits your needs.
Are there any steps that need to be taken before I am able to book with a lawyer at your office?
Before we are able to take you on as a new client we have to do a client search to ensure we do not have a conflict of interest. This is typically called a “conflict check”. If we are currently acting for the other party, or have acted for the other party in the past, we would not be able to take you on as a new client as our ability to represent your interests would conflict with our ability to represent our client or former client. It is against the Law Society Code of Conduct to act on a matter to which there is a conflict. Find more information on conflicts here: https://learningcentre.lawsociety.ab.ca/mod/page/view.php?id=171
My spouse or former partner and I are amicable, can we both use the same lawyer?
No, it is a requirement of Alberta’s Matrimonial Property Act that each party receive their own independent legal advice when dealing with matrimonial property. Further, it is a conflict for the lawyer to act for both spouses in a divorce situation, even when they are amicable, as the lawyer would not be able to provide full loyalty or have the best interest of one client in mind, being that they would be representing two clients with adverse interests.
While there is no similar legislation for unmarried parties, changes to the Matrimonial Property Act (soon to be called the Family Property Act) are coming in January of 2020. See paragraph 10, below. Once these changes are in place we expect similar requirements for unmarried parties seeking to enter into a property agreement.
However, if you and your spouse or partner are not in a position of needing to go forward with a Divorce Judgment, you just need some assistance to sort our issues between you, our senior lawyer, Erin Barvir, is trained and experienced in Mediation and Arbitration and may be able to assist you in coming to a resolution without the need to enter into the Court process. Find out more about our Mediation & Arbitration services here: https://www.mountainvistalaw.com/mediation-arbitration/.
What do I have to bring with me to my initial appointment?
Most importantly, in accordance with the Law Society Rules, you must bring in a piece of government issued photo identification to your initial appointment so that your identity can be verified.
If you are meeting with your lawyer regarding a family law issue, it is a good idea to bring any documentation you think may be relevant to your matter. If you have recently been served with documentation, it is important that you bring this with you for the lawyer to review. It is also a good idea to bring in any previously filed Court documents related to your matter. It is not necessary to bring all of your financial documentation with you to your first appointment. Your lawyer will provide you with a list of required documents for your next appointment.
For a divorce or separation, typical required documentation includes your marriage certificate (if married) and a photo of your spouse/partner, your tax returns and notices of assessment (for the 3 previous years), and recent paystubs. If you will also be dividing matrimonial property you will need to provide statements from any accounts, investments, or pensions in your name, as well as statements for any debts. Again, your lawyer will provide you with a list specific to your situation.
Is there a way to get some legal advice from a lawyer without having to commit to moving forward with them?
Absolutely! In most circumstances your initial appointment with your lawyer is simply a discussion between yourself and the lawyer. It allows the lawyer to collect information on your specific situation and provide you with several paths for moving forward. You are never required to retain the lawyer, and there is certainly no pressure to do so. Because these meetings are an opportunity for you and the lawyer to find out if you are a good fit for each other, we offer 50% off of the first hour of this first appointment.
We do not offer the 50% discount in cases where independent legal advice is required on a contract or agreement, or if your matter falls within an unusual circumstance. Please feel free to contact our receptionist at 403-981-0700 to briefly discuss your matter and determine if your matter would fall outside of the consultations that receive 50% off.
What if I change my mind on how to proceed?
You are always allowed to change your mind. If you are in the middle of Court proceedings that you initiated, there may be a few extra steps to take, but you will never be told you must proceed. If you are defending Court proceedings that were initiated by your former spouse or partner, you have to continue but may change your approach by offering a settlement option. Every situation is unique. It is our job to advise you of your legal rights, responsibilities, and options, ensuring you have the tools and knowledge to make informed decisions.
If you choose to put your file on hold with our office you can either leave your money in trust with us, or we can return the unused portion of your retainer to you until such time as you are ready to move forward. At our office there is no direct fee associated with putting your file on hold.
Why do different lawyers have different hourly rates?
The lawyer’s hourly rate usually corresponds to their years of experience. A higher hourly rate does not mean that one lawyer is better than another, but rather that it may take them less time to prepare materials or prepare for Court due to their experience. Upon your first phone call to Mountain Vista Law a legal assistant will ask for some general information about your situation and use it to match you with the most appropriate lawyer based on your needs and their areas of practice and expertise. You are also encouraged to go on our website and look at our lawyer’s biographies to see if one may be a better fit for your situation that another. Each lawyer has their strengths, and the goal is to find the best fit for you.
Are there any options that allow me to save costs but still have a lawyer retained?
Yes, you and your lawyer can discuss a “limited scope retainer.” This allows you to determine exactly what aspects of your file you would like your lawyer to handle, and what you would like to do on your own. Your lawyer will ensure your expectations are laid out in a very clear and straightforward manner so that there is no confusion as to who is doing what. For example, your lawyer can be on file to help draft documents and answer your questions, but not attend Court. Not all file types are appropriate for a limited scope retainer, but it may be worth asking your lawyer about.
I am not married but am in a relationship. What is considered “common law”?
This question is one that often comes with much debate; however, when considering the definition of “common law” in a family law context we look to the Alberta Adult Interdependent Relationship Act. Section 3 of the Act is very clear; a person is the adult interdependent (common law) partner of another person if the couple has entered into an adult interdependent partner agreement or lived together as a couple for a continuous period of at least 3 years, unless there is a child of the relationship, in which case the length of time only has to be “of some permanence.”
If my common law partner and I separate, will I have to split my property with them?
Currently there is no legislation in Alberta dealing with property of unmarried couples. That means that if there is property in the name of only one party that you both contributed to or improved, unless you can agree on the division, you have to embark on a long and costly court battle to determine whether or not you would have to divide that property with your former partner. Fortunately, changes have been passed in the form of Bill 28, the Family Statues Amendment Act, that will streamline the process for dividing property in the wake of a relationship breakdown of unmarried parties. These changes will take effect on January 1, 2020. Essentially, parties in an Adult Interdependent Partnership (defined above) will have the same rights as spouses with respect to property division.
Family Law Changes: https://www.alberta.ca/family-law-changes.aspx
How much child support will I have to pay?
While there are many facets at play when determining child support, a good starting point is to look at the Federal Child Support Guidelines. If you are a T4 salaried employee, and your ex-spouse/ex-partner has custody of your child(ren), it is likely that you will pay the amount as calculated by the guidelines.
Federal Child Support Guidelines for Alberta: https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/fl-df/child-enfant/2017/look-rech.asp
Do I have to pay spousal/partner support?
Unfortunately, spousal/partner support is a grey area in family law and therefore a bit unpredictable. Multiple factors have to be considered in determining whether you or your spouse have a valid claim to seek spousal/partner support from the other, such as whether there is a child of the relationship, the length of the relationship, what roles each of you played during the relationship, the division of matrimonial property (in some cases), etc. A starting point may be to look at the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines to determine if any amount may be required based upon your and your ex-spouse/partner’s income.
Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines: https://www.mysupportcalculator.ca/calculator
Always remember, monthly spousal/partner support payments are tax deductible to the payor and taxable to the recipient.
I don’t really own anything valuable, do I still need a Will?
It is always a good idea to have a Will, even if you don’t think you own anything valuable, or have any “assets”. Keep in mind, assets are not just a house or investments, they can include a vehicle, bank account, etc. Your Will specifies who will be able to deal with your assets and debts upon your death. If you do not have a Will, a friend or family member may have to apply for a Grant of Administration to be able to deal with your estate. This can be burdensome, confusing, and costly.
I have found a draft Will, Power of Attorney, or Personal Directive on-line, will one of the lawyers at your office sign it with me?
No. We have carefully researched and drafted our own Wills, Powers of Attorney, and Personal Directives and are certain that they meet not only the requirements of Alberta legislation, but the recommendations and requests from experienced estate litigators and government figures that often deal directly with these documents. When a lawyer signs a document such as this, they are not simply a witness to the document, they are providing legal advice on the document and putting their name and reputation behind the document. If there is a mistake, the lawyer may be held responsible.
Where can I go to find general legal guidance if I am not ready to speak with a lawyer?
The Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta website, specifically Publications and Resources, is a great place to start when looking for general information on a variety of legal topics.
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta: https://www.cplea.ca/publications/
What is your firm's philosophy?
At Mountain Vista Law we want to bring you the level of experience and knowledge you might expect from a big city firm, and deliver it with a local community compassion that we think you will appreciate during stressful times in your life.
The information provided on this web site is meant for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal or other professional advice. You are advised to seek legal advice specific to your situation. Mountain Vista Law does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy and completeness of the information provided on this web site. Use of this web site does not create a lawyer-client relationship. The links on this web site are provided for convenience only, and Mountain Vista Law does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in the linked we sites.
If you would like more information, or have a specific question you would like to discuss, please contact our office at 403-981-0700.
*Disclaimer for Blog
The information provided in these articles are accurate at the original date of publication, but should not be relied on as accurate and up to date. The opinions expressed are the opinions of the individual author.