Record Keeping – Before and After Divorce (and Separation)
CTV recently released an article about a couple of 15 years who were delayed in exchanging their marital vows. The husband-to-be did not have a copy of his divorce certificate from a previous marriage and the Ontario Government had trouble locating a copy of the 30-year-old record.
While the parties were eventually married, their nuptials were delayed almost two months on account of the divorce certificate – which brings us to the focus of today’s post – record keeping.
Records and documentation are fundamental to most family law proceedings and the failure to retain certain records can delay resolution, increase legal fees and in some cases, be fatal to support and property claims.
Retaining Records Before & After Separation
Given most people are optimistic at the outset of their relationship, many don’t retain documents as a precautionary measure should their relationship deteriorate.
However, diligent record keeping can be extremely beneficial in the long run. Financial disclosure and documentation relating to the acquisition and disposition of assets and debts may be integral to certain property claims under the Family Property Act, RSA 2000 c. F-4.7. Other disclosure, relating to employment and health, may also impact claims for support under the Divorce Act, RSC 1985, c. 3 (2nd Supp.) and Family Law Act, SA 2003 c F-4.5. Indeed, even retaining a copy of your original Marriage Certificate can ensure Divorce proceedings are not unduly delayed.
Examples of important records one might wish to retain include:
- Documentation relating to the purchase and disposition of real property and certain personal property – for example: Certified Copies of Title, Statements of Adjustments, Mortgage and Purchase Contracts and Bills of Sale for Motor Vehicles or other expensive or registered personal property;
- Documentation relating to the valuation of assets and debts including bank statements and appraisals before and after cohabitation;
- Documentation relating to your income including historical Tax Returns, Notices of Assessment, and employment contracts;
- Important Court documents including Orders and Judgments;
- Important government documents including Marriage Certificates, Death Certificates, Birth Certificates, and documentation relating to citizenship or immigration; and
- Other important documentation touching on financial issues such as documentation about inheritances, gifts, or loans.
Remember: Most 3rd parties do not retain records indefinitely unless legally obliged to do so, and many 3rd parties will dispose of their records after 5, 7 or 10 years depending on the service provider. Consequently, individuals should take steps to organize and store important records in case they are required later. Keep in mind as well, that certain documents may be hard to obtain from certain institutions at a later date because of privacy protection laws (such as medical records or police reports which often require formal applications).
It’s also important to retain copies (ideally the original) of any Agreements, Court Orders or Judgments flowing from your family law proceedings after the substantive legal issues are resolved.
While the documents may not be relevant to your day-to-day life, the documents should be retained in case the other party attempts to relitigate, vary, or appeal a previous Agreement or Order. The documents may also be important for tax purposes.
If you have any questions about record keeping, the evidentiary onus in family law proceedings, or any other family law issues, you can set up a consultation by calling our office at 587-440-3070 or by using the contact form on our website. Our office is set up to work virtually and we can assist you with any family or divorce issues you may have during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The above information regarding record keeping does not constitute legal advice. EBL Family is not liable for any reliance on the above information.