Frequently Asked Questions

Where are you located?

Our offices are located at 34 Cumberland Street North, Suite 600, Thunder Bay (in the James Whalen building).

Is there parking?

There is metered street parking on all sides of the building. There is unmetered street parking two blocks north, on Villa Street, near the LCBO.

What are your hours of operation?

Our office is open from 8:30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

How do I choose which lawyer to represent me?

When you first contact our office, one of our trained law clerks will ask some confidential questions about the nature of your case and the issues involved. The clerk will help you decide on the type of lawyer and level of experience required for your case, and then assist you in choosing one of our skilled lawyers who is best suited for your situation. At your initial consultation, you can see if the lawyer you’re meeting with has the personality and values that align well with yours. The right fit is important because you’ll be working closely together. The final decision is always yours!

I want to come in for a consultation. What should I expect?

The Law Society of Ontario requires that you bring your government-issued photo identification (driver’s license, passport or Ontario Photo Card, but not a provincial Health Card) to your appointment. The ID has to be valid (not expired). You are welcome to bring a friend or family member with you for support. It’s a good idea for you or your companion to bring a notepad and pen to take notes. Bring any prior paperwork relating to your matter (for example, if you have been separated from your spouse before this). Lastly, it’s helpful to bring a list of your questions. At a consultation, you simply pay your lawyer’s hourly rate, plus HST, for the time you are with the lawyer. So, if your consultation takes 30 minutes, you pay for 30 minutes of your lawyer’s time. You do not need to pay a retainer at this point.

How does a retainer work?

After your consultation, you can decide if you want to retain a lawyer at Henderson Family Law. You and your lawyer will decide the appropriate retainer, or amount of money to be deposited, that’s required for the lawyer to take the case and when it will be paid. Retainers are paid in full and upfront, and that money is held in trust until you use your lawyer’s services. If the matter is resolved or you terminate your agreement with your lawyer, whatever money has not been used is returned to you. Depending on the situation, you can also opt for a “limited scope retainer” where your lawyer only provides certain agreed-upon services.

How much will my matter cost?

There are many variables involved, including whether the other party chooses to contest the matter. Taking a matter to court generally increases the cost significantly. For an uncontested divorce alone (that is, if all other issues have already been resolved), we offer a flat fee of $1,950.00, which includes filing fees (that we must pay to the court), legal fees and HST. Wills and Powers of Attorney are also usually charged by a flat fee, determined in advance, depending upon what you want. In other matters, our lawyers charge by the hour, and the rate depends on years in practice and level of experience. You can choose the lawyer that best suits your needs.

What are my chances of winning? Will my lawyer be aggressive and fight for me?

In family law, we don’t tend to talk in terms of winning; rather we focus on successful outcomes for the family. We try to avoid court and litigation because it is expensive, stressful, time-consuming and has unpredictable outcomes that are often less beneficial to both parties. Whenever possible, we look to alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation or negotiation. However, in or out of court, our lawyers are trained to match the appropriate level of assertiveness to your case. Being tactical and strategic is much more productive than being unnecessarily aggressive.

Is your office accessible?

The James Whalen building (via the Van Norman Street entrance), the public washrooms and our office on the 6th floor are fully accessible.

What are the first steps in getting a divorce?

Determining the date of separation is usually the first step in the divorce process. While your lawyer can help you determine this date—it isn’t always clear cut—your separation date is generally when you stop living together as spouses, and there is no reasonable chance of reconciliation. It’s important because several factors in divorce and separation are influenced by the date of separation. The majority of people who divorce use the grounds of living separate lives for a year, although that could still mean living in the same home. Either party can file for divorce, or the parties can file jointly. You must be resident in Ontario for at least one year to proceed with your divorce in Ontario. Your lawyer will go over the process with you in detail.

How long will my matter take?

The length of time it takes to resolve a legal matter depends very much on the issue and if you meet with opposition from the other party. If matters are contested or you enter into the court process, it could take months or more than a year to come to an agreement or other imposed resolution such as a court order. However, an uncontested divorce, where both parties agree on the issues, tends to be resolved much more quickly, in about three to four months. (Remember, though, that at times there are issues beyond your control or your lawyer’s control, and it may take the court longer to grant your divorce.) If you require a Will and Powers of Attorney, these can be prepared very quickly, if necessary.

What is mediation? Does it keep me out of court?

Mediation is a service offered by Timothy Henderson, the lead partner of Henderson Family Law. In a mediation session, you, the other party and Tim meet, with the goal of resolving issues in a way that is fair to both parties and helps you work out a resolution that is in the best interest of the whole family, especially where children are involved. Both parties must be willing to meet. In mediation, Tim is an impartial mediator and does not represent either party. While he does not give legal advice in a mediation session, he draws on his training as a lawyer to guide you and the other party through the legal issues. Before any agreements are signed, each party is encouraged to get independent legal advice. If you and the other party can’t come to an agreement about an issue, you would then end mediation and pursue other options, including negotiation through individual representation or going to court. About 80% of Tim’s mediation cases are successfully resolved, without needing to go on to a further process.

How are children represented in family law matters?

There are two common kinds of representation. The Province of Ontario has the Office of the Children’s Lawyer (OCL), which provides free services to represent the interests of the children where there are contested issues such as custody, access or child protection. This representation is first requested by the court and approved by the OCL before it goes ahead. A social worker could be assigned to the case to impartially look at the whole situation to see what is best for the children, meeting with family members, new partners, schools, doctors and other professionals such as counselors. The social worker then makes a report to the court to help the court make its decision. For older children (generally above age 8), the OCL could appoint a lawyer to meet with the child in a non-court setting to hear their concerns and opinions. The lawyer then provides the court with the child’s views and preferences so the child doesn’t have to be in court. Your lawyer will be able to give you full details about child representation.

If you have any other questions, we’d be happy to talk to you. Please contact us.


This content is provided as a general informational source by Henderson Family Law, and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, or establish a solicitor-client relationship. Every situation is complex and fact-specific, and appropriate advice will vary accordingly. Do not rely on this information for legal decision-making under any circumstances. Please consult with us and obtain proper advice and strategy concerning the specifics of your particular situation.

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