Family Law and Divorce


Legal conflicts involving family relationships and children can be complex and emotionally charged. That’s why you need representation from a lawyer you can trust. MacQuarrie Whyte will handle your case with the utmost compassion and professionalism while working to protect your best interests.

There have recently been some new changes to family law which have further complicated marriage and cohabitation, and the issues arising upon a separation of the parties. We offer experienced, professional assistance to help you with the matters of separation and divorce, spousal support, and child support in Ottawa. We provide a free initial consultation during which time we can often complete a very general review of your circumstances and provide you with an indication of your options and the significance of each choice. Our family law practice includes:

The Interview Process
In reviewing your particular circumstances, our first consideration will be to identify exactly what your concerns are. Once we have identified the difficulties, we will then explain to you the significance of the matter in terms of the law and how it affects you. We then lay out for you the most effective approach to the resolution you seek.

In representing your interests, we believe that it is important that every reasonable effort is made in order to resolve matters in an effective manner, protecting your interests and seeking to resolve matters by agreement if that is possible. We make an effort to keep you involved in the process at every step, so that you can see how your matter is progressing, and you can participate as much as you wish.

Many times, with our help, these matters can be resolved out of court, saving you time and money. Contact MacQuarrie Whyte today to schedule a consultation with one of our lawyers.

Child Custody & Access

The law requires that child custody and child access matters be determined upon what is considered to be in the best interests of the child. Generally the court is concerned with the established ties the child has with the person that is claiming custody or access, the existing arrangements, the child's wishes, and the plans for the child.

To help decide custody and access cases, the court will sometimes appoint a lawyer to represent the child's views. In other instances, a court may order an assessment of the child and the parties by special trained professionals who then provide a report to the parties and the court. The report is not binding on the court although it is often very persuasive.

Some couples can negotiate a written Parenting Plan which is a comprehensive written arrangement the parties have made for the care of their child, and in which various responsibilities can be assigned to one parent, the other, or both.

If the parties have joint custody of the child, both of them together will make the decisions relating to the child's health, education and life in general. If one party has sole custody and the other party has access, the custodial parent has the sole right to make the important decisions concerning the child. The access parent still has a right to be informed of the decisions. Whether the parties have joint or sole custody arrangement, the child may reside primarily with the custodial parent, or the child's residence could be also be shared.

Perhaps the most typical form of access for a non-custodial parent consists of a visit every second weekend from Friday evening to Sunday evening, as well as a share of holidays and other special occasions.

Collaborative Family Law

Collaborative family law, or CFL, is an alternative approach to family law disputes, including divorce. The objective of CFL is to resolve family law disputes without adversarial actions or court proceedings. The clients and their lawyers agree to resolve conflict using cooperative strategies which benefit everyone involved. They work with their lawyers to reach an agreement which will not leave either party feeling like a loser or a winner. 

CFL was started in 1990 by an American attorney named Stu Webb. Since then, this novel approach has grown throughout Canada and the United States. Today, in some Canadian communities, the majority of lawyers practice collaborative family law.

In a collaborative family law case, the parties and lawyers specifically agree that they will not participate in court proceedings. In fact, CFL lawyers will withdraw should court be necessary. Clients attend settlement meetings with their lawyers and sometimes with other professionals who can provide assistance (accountants, parenting counsellors, etc.). 

The goal of CFL is to reach a final settlement at a reasonable cost with minimal stress to parents and children.


Divorce in Canada is a federal responsibility and the basic law is found in the Divorce Act. Although there are several possible grounds for obtaining a divorce set out in the Act, most people rely on the grounds of having been separated from their spouse for a period of at least 12 months prior to the date the divorce is to be granted. The Divorce Act also contains provisions dealing with child custody and access, child support, spousal support, as well as making changes or variations to existing terms of a divorce judgment or order.

The Province of Ontario has jurisdiction over the property issues associated with marriage breakdown, and the basic law is found in the Family Law Act. A person could bring a court application for child custody and access, child support, and spousal support without bringing a divorce action.

Married Vs. Common Law

Both married persons, and persons who live together in a common law relationship, may have rights to seek support from the other. Generally speaking, only married persons have a right to share their property at the end of their relationship. Married persons do not need to divorce in order to address the issues of support, custody, access and their property, but they do need a divorce in order to re-marry. Parties who live together but who are not married to each other will not need a divorce to end their relationship.

Spousal Support

The area of spousal support is a very complex one. Unlike child support, there are no hard rules for determining spousal support. Some general spousal support guidelines have been formulated by the Government of Canada, which can assist in determining the appropriate amount of spousal support. In addition, some reported court decisions have attempted to set out general principles for the determination of spousal support, including the entitlement, amount, and duration of any spousal support obligation. There are many cases, however, and it can be difficult to draw clear rules from a review of these decisions.

Child Support

The Government of Canada has produced The Child Support Guidelines, a series of tables and rules for determining the amount of child support to be paid to the parent having care of the child. The guidelines have also been adopted by the Government of Ontario, and they often make the determination of the basic level of child support very easy to calculate. The guidelines also recognize that it is intended that certain special expenses for a child such as childcare, are to be shared between the parties in proportion to their incomes, in addition to the amount calculated from the tables.

Generally speaking, child support continues until a child is at least 18 years of age and is no longer in need of financial support. Child support will also carry on if the child continues in school, if he or she has attained the age of 23 years, or has attained a first post-secondary degree or diploma.

Adoption Law

It is a very rewarding experience adopting a child. If you have decided to adopt, you must be aware that it is a major legal commitment, and the process can be long and frustrating along the way if you don’t understand the legal steps that are needed. This is where an experienced lawyer in adoption law can help. Whether you’re trying to adopt a child through an international service, a local adoption service, or through a private arrangement, an adoption lawyer can make the process as smooth as possible. At MacQuarrie Whyte law firm, we can help with your adoption decision by:

  • Communicating with adoption agencies on your behalf
  • Representing you at court hearings
  • Arranging proper immigration in the case of international adoption
  • In private adoptions, negotiating fair terms with the biological parents and preparing and reviewing adoption agreements