Lenehan Musgrave’s First Annual “Soothe the Winter Blues” Networking Event

Lenehan Musgrave is proud to have hosted our first annual “soothe the winter blues” networking event on February 23rd, which saw a nice cross section of local business people attend.

Guests enjoyed themselves over delicious appetizers, a few cheers, and good conversation with other business people in the community eager to create reciprocating goodwill and support each other’s growth.

We appreciate those who took time out of their busy lives to attend. We also want to give a special thanks to our caterer, Kitchen Door Catering, who added an air of elegance to the evening with their exceptional hospitality.

Now more than ever it’s important for us to put down our smartphones and do business the old fashioned way - face to face communication. Lenehan Musgrave is pleased to have provided such an opportunity and we look forward to providing similar opportunities in the years to come. We have already begun planning next year’s networking event, which will take place on Thursday, February 21st.  So save the date!

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Deducting Your Legal Fees: A Guide this Tax Season

As tax season approaches, it is beneficial to be aware of what expenses you may be entitled to claim as deductions.

If you incurred legal fees for the purpose of collecting, receiving, or securing child support or spousal support, you can claim those legal fees as a deduction at line 221 of your income tax return. It’s important to note that only the receiving parent or spouse can claim their legal fees as a deduction.

The tax deductible legal fees may relate to collecting late support payments, establishing an amount for support payments, or efforts to vary support to a higher amount. Unfortunately, legal fees paid to get a separation or divorce, or to establish custody of or visitation arrangements for a child cannot be claimed at line 221.

Every January we review our clients’ accounts and determine the percentage of time and effort spent on their file that relates to their claims for child and/or spousal support.  We then send our clients who qualify for a deduction letters outlining our opinion of the percentage of their legal fees they are entitled to deduct. The client can provide their letter to CRA as a receipt.

We offer these letters free of charge to our clients because we believe that individuals and families should enjoy the maximum income and benefits available to them through law.

Further information can be found on Canada Revenue Agency’s website: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/tpcs/ncm-tx/rtrn/cmpltng/ddctns/lns206-236/221/menu-eng.html.

Winter Road Safety

In Canada, 30% of car accidents occur during the Winter, and insurance providers see an almost 50% increase in claims during the months of December and January. This substantial increase in accidents is attributed to hazards such as bad weather, low visibility, and especially ice and heavy snow on the roads.

The responsibility falls on drivers to take extra precautions when traveling in poor Winter road conditions.  This often means driving slower with heightened alertness, allowing twice the stopping distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you, and staying off the roads when you can!. In adverse conditions, it’s important to make sure that your headlights are always on.

Here are some more tips to help you travel safely on Winter Roads:

-          Give your vehicle a complete checkup and pay special attention to the electrical system, brakes, tires, exhaust system, heating and cooling systems, windshield wipers and fuel.

-          Pack a winter driving kit with a bag of sand, traction mats, snow shovel, snow brush and ice scraper, tow rope, first-aid kit, booster cables, and warning devices such as flares or a “Call Police” sign, and fuel line de-icer.

-          Ensure all mirrors and windows are clear of ice and snow prior to driving

-          Accelerate and decelerate slowly on icy or snowy roads

-          Slow down when approaching a bridge, because it could be icy even when the roads are not.

-          Slow down when going up or down hills.

More information can be found from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS): http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/safety_haz/icesnow.html

Please call us if you have been hurt in an accident! 

Happy Holidays!

During the holiday season, the lawyers and staff at Lenehan Musgrave look forward to working with Phoenix House Centre for Youth in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and coordinating an office donation drive to donate from the Phoenix holiday wish list.

This year injury lawyer, Sean Layden, Q.C., joined our staff members to deliver our donations to the Coburg Road location, and meet with Case Manager, Andy Langille, Housing Support Worker, Marsha Tanner and Coordinator, Michelle Poirier. This year may have been our biggest haul yet!  

At Lenehan Musgrave, we understand foundations and not-for-profits such as Phoenix House play a crucial role in giving back where our community needs it most, starting with our youth.

 Marsha Tanner, Andy Langille and Sean Layden, Q.C. with the Lenehan Musgrave holiday donations

Marsha Tanner, Andy Langille and Sean Layden, Q.C. with the Lenehan Musgrave holiday donations

 

To our colleagues, clients, and community members, happy holidays from the lawyers and staff of Lenehan Musgrave LLP! 

Sean Layden, Q.C. Moves Successful Personal Injury Practice to Lenehan Musgrave LLP

Our team is pleased to announce that Sean Layden, Q.C. has relocated his successful personal injury practice to the offices of Lenehan Musgrave. Sean has been practicing law in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia for 25 years, and is now head of the personal injury team at Lenehan Musgrave.

When representing plaintiffs, Sean recognizes the challenges people might face when attempting to negotiate with insurance companies, corporations and government institutions, and helps individuals from all walks of life level the playing field against these entities.  

“I love having a very diverse group of clients. I have below-poverty-line clients, the majority of my clients are middle class, and I have a handful of upper-middle class to rich clients. It keeps me grounded and it is a great way to make a living doing something where you sleep at night because you feel like you are making a difference and you feel like you are living up to the Weldon tradition.” Sean believes word-of-mouth and doing an excellent job for a client are the best forms of marketing as a lawyer. “Providing good service pays its own dividends and on the flip side of that is that bad word-of-mouth can kill you. You start taking short cuts, botching cases, not returning phone calls, in a small navy town – that gets around.”

Sean’s work as a personal injury lawyer is done on contingency, which means Sean does not get paid until the claim settles, thereby providing the injured person with true and affordable access to justice. 

To learn more about Sean, please view his bio in the Our Team section of our website.

The ABC's of Section B

 Section B Benefits

The benefits available through Section B of an individual’s automobile insurance policy are also referred to as no-fault benefits. This is because these benefits are available to the driver of the vehicle as well as any passenger injured as a result of a motor vehicle accident, regardless of who caused the collision. If you are a pedestrian or on a bike at the time of the accident, you are able to access Section B benefits from the insurance company of the car which hit you.

There are five categories of Section B benefits:

1)      Medical and rehabilitation expenses;

2)      Weekly indemnity payments;

3)      Funeral expenses;

4)      Death benefits;

5)      Principal unpaid housekeeper benefits;

We briefly describe the most common two benefits below.

Medical and Rehabilitation Expenses  

These benefits include all reasonable medical treatment and rehabilitation expenses within four years of the accident date up to a maximum of $50,000 per person.

Treatments covered include physiotherapy, massage therapy, chiropractic treatment, dental services, surgical services, and psychological counselling among many other. Some expenses covered include the costs for prescription and non-prescription medications, and mileage for travel to and from treatment. . If your family physician determines a treatment to be necessary for your recovery, you are entitled to coverage under Section B.

If you have private medical insurance, you have to use the benefits available under that plan prior to accessing your Section B medical and rehabilitation benefits.

Weekly Indemnity Payments

There are also benefits for income replacement if you are unable to perform the essential duties of your occupation because of the accident. You are eligible to receive weekly indemnity payments, which total up to 80% of your net income loss or $250 per week, whichever amount is less.

To qualify for Weekly Indemnity payments, you must have written documentation from your doctor placing you off work as a result of your accident injuries.  Your doctor must have placed you off of work for at least seven days within the first 30 days after the accident.

There are no weekly indemnity payments in excess of 104 weeks (two years) unless you can establish that you cannot work in any occupation or employment you are reasonably suited to perform by education, training or experience.

If you are eligible for Employment Insurance benefits you are required to apply for those benefits before accessing your Section B weekly indemnity payments.

If you have questions regarding your section B benefits, or any other issues relating to a motor vehicle collision, please call one of our personal injury lawyers for a free no risk case assessment. 

Supporting Trans* and Gender-variant Clients

The team at Lenehan Musgrave is committed to all facets of access to justice. Our commitment to access to justice is shown in part through the flat rates we offer for certain family law services, and the low contingency fee rates we offer our personal injury clients. Our commitment to access to justice is also shown in our ongoing efforts to learn how to best serve and support our community, which includes clients of diverse backgrounds.

As a part of Pride this year, associate lawyer Daniel Wood attended a workshop held by the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society called “Supporting Trans* and Gender-variant Clients, Colleagues and Employees.” The workshop included an introduction to transgender issues, providing an understanding of proper terms and definitions, and discussions on how to be respectful when assisting transgender clients. The workshop also highlighted some of the unique challenges transgender people face in the legal system.

An example of a challenge transgender individuals have faced in the family law context is the other party attempting to use an individual’s gender transition as a reason to deny or reduce custodial rights and/or parenting time.

Litigants have made negative allegations about transgender parents despite the fact that the law recognizes that transgender parents have the same parental rights, and that a parent being transgender does not negatively impact the best interests of the child(ren). In Forrester v Saliba, 2000, CanLII 28722 (Ont. Ct. J.), which has been referred to by the Nova Scotia Family Court, Justice Wolder on the Ontario Court of Justice stated:

“[T]ranssexuality, in itself, without further evidence, would not constitute a material change in circumstances, nor would it be considered a negative factor in a custody determination.” [para. 19]

In all situations, our role as lawyers is to be a staunch advocate for our clients’ rights and interests, as well as ensure that our clients feel supported throughout their legal disputes. When representing a transgender client this may require us to educate the court about our client’s circumstances to fight unfair stigmas and show that a parent’s Trans identity has no negative effect on their children.

At Lenehan Musgrave we welcome the opportunity to serve members of the Trans community, as well as other members of the LGBTQ+ community.

We hope that everybody enjoyed a safe and happy pride this year!

Disputes over Pets: A Dog’s Chance at Achieving the Cat’s Meow

Pets are very loved by their owners and often viewed as family members akin to children. However, the law does not treat family pets the same as it does children for the purposes of custody and access.

For children, the court is always guided by the “best interests” of the child.  In contrast, under the law, animals are considered personal property. As such, disputes between people claiming the right to possess an animal are determined on the basis of ownership, or agreements as to ownership, rather than considerations of “the best interests” of the pet.

That being said, the law in jurisdictions outside of Nova Scotia may be starting to recognize a more nuanced approach for addressing possession of pets in separations involving married couples. Courts are able to treat a pet’s status as family or matrimonial property to ground an order for possession of, or essentially access to, that pet by a former spouse.

With respect to common law couples, in the recent Nova Scotian decision of MacDonald v. Pearl, 2017 NSSM, Adjudicator Richardson noted: “…the fact that people in a common law relationship may view their pets as akin to children gives rise to the possibility of agreements—whether express or implied—as to what might happen to the animals in the event the people separate”.

In MacDonald v. Pearl, the Small Claims Court addressed a dispute over two Yorkshire Terriers, brothers Henry and Daniel. Essentially the court determined that Henry was purchased by Mr. MacDonald as a companion for Ms. Pearl because Ms. Pearl was lonely. Accordingly, Ms. Pearl was awarded Henry.

The other dog, Henry’s brother Daniel, was purchased by Mr. MacDonald because Mr. MacDonald did not want to leave Daniel, the last of the litter, alone.  Mr. MacDonald was awarded Daniel, which somewhat ironically separated the siblings.

In a case involving sibling children, the court will heavily consider the children’s bond to each other when analyzing their best interests. As indicated above, because pets are classified as personal property, the court is not able to consider their best interests, and so the court cannot consider the relationship between animal siblings.

With the state of the law as it is now, working out an agreement on pet ownership or access directly between the parties is the best way to properly recognize the love and companionship people share with their pets, as well as what arrangements are in the pet’s best interests after separation.  

 

Parenting and Support Act Coming into Effect May 26, 2017

On May 26th, 2017, the provisions of the Parenting and Support Act will come into effect throughout Nova Scotia. This is a new piece of legislation that will update and replace the Maintenance and Custody Act. This Act governs family law issues relating to child custody, and child and spousal support for unmarried couples or married couples who have separated but have not initiated divorce proceedings.

The Parenting and Support Act maintains some of the provisions of the Maintenance and Custody Act. There are a number of key updates and additions that affect law in Nova Scotia. These changes are shown in the wording used by the Act relating to parenting. For instance, the definition of who qualifies as a “parent” or “spouse” has been broadened, and terms such as “access” have been replaced with “interaction” and “parenting time.” The Act has also adopted more gender neutral language throughout.

The significant change is that the Parenting and Support Act now includes provisions on child mobility and relocation. The Act imposes presumptions in favour of certain parents who wish to move with their child, or those who oppose the move. These presumptions are based on the custodial and parenting arrangements in place at the time.

If the parent who wants to relocate with the child is considered the child’s primary caregiver (or the parent the child lives with for the majority of the time), then the other parent would have the burden to show the court that the proposed move would not be in the best interests of the child. If parenting time is shared between the parents, then both parties need to show the Court what is best for the child.

The new Parenting and Support Act sets out a list of factors for the court to consider when seeking to determine what would be in the best interests of the child in relocation cases.

Cases concerning mobility and relocation are some of the most difficult family law issues that come before the court. The Family Law Lawyers at Lenehan Musgrave LLP are knowledgeable in these new provisions of the Parenting and Support Act, and experienced in child mobility and relocation cases. Please contact us at: http://www.lenehanmusgravelaw.ca/consultation/ or 902-466-2200 for more information or to schedule an initial consultation.

Welcome Amber Penney as our new Associate Lawyer

Lenehan Musgrave LLP is delighted to announce that Amber Penney has joined our firm as a senior Associate Lawyer.

Amber articled in Newfoundland, was called to the Newfoundland and Labrador bar in June of 2012 and called to the Nova Scotia bar in July of 2012. Since that time, Amber has been practicing family law with the following areas of focus:

  • Separation and any resulting agreements;
  • Divorce – both contested and uncontested proceedings dealing with custody, access, child and spousal support, and property issues;
  • Cohabitation Agreements and Marriage Contracts;
  • Child Protection Matters; and,
  • Adoptions. 

In and out of the Court room, Amber serves as a grounded and respected family law lawyer. To learn more about Amber, please view her bio in the Our Team section of our website.

Deducting Your Legal fees: A Guide this Tax Season

As tax season approaches, it is beneficial to be aware of what expenses you may be entitled to claim as deductions.

If you incurred legal fees for the purpose of collecting, receiving, or securing child support or spousal support, you can claim those legal fees as a deduction at line 221 of your income tax return. It is important to note that only the receiving parent or spouse can claim their legal fees as a deduction.

The tax deductible legal fees may relate to collecting late support payments, establishing an amount for support payments, or efforts to vary support to a higher amount.

Every January we review our clients’ accounts and determine the percentage of time and effort spent on their file that relates to their claims for child and/or spousal support.  We then send our clients who qualify for a deduction letters outlining our opinion on the percentage of their legal fees they are entitled to deduct. The client can provide their letter to CRA as a receipt.

We offer these letters free of charge to our clients because we believe that individuals and families should enjoy the maximum income and benefits available to them through law.

Further information can be found on Canada Revenue Agency’s website: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/tpcs/ncm-tx/rtrn/cmpltng/ddctns/lns206-236/221/menu-eng.html.

Minor Injury Cap

The Nova Scotia government has placed a limit on the amount of compensation an accident victim can receive for pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life caused by certain injuries.  This limit is called the “minor injury cap”.

The minor injury cap applies to accident victims suffering from strains, sprains or whiplash associated disorder 1 or 2.

The minor injury cap increases incrementally each year based on the Consumer Price Index published by Statistics Canada. The Nova Scotia government has announced that the minor injury cap amount for 2017 is $8,486.  This is an increase of $102 from the cap amount in 2016, which was $8,385.

Even if you have only been diagnosed with sprain, strain or whiplash 1 or 2 as a result of an accident, it is possible to obtain greater compensation for your pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life than the minor injury cap.  To do so, you have to show that your accident injuries cause a “serious impairment”. This is a complicated legal and factual issue and it is beneficial to have the assistance of a skillful personal injury lawyer.

It is important to note that the minor injury cap does not affect claims relating to loss of household services, loss past or future income, loss or earning capacity, or past or future expenses incurred as a result of the accident.

If you were in a motor vehicle accident and are wondering whether your claim falls under the minor injury cap, or whether there is any compensation available to you for other claims or losses, you would benefit from a free case assessment with our accident and personal injury team leader, Daniel Wood.  

Call 902-466-2200 to book your free no risk case assessment with Daniel.

Living Wage

The living hourly wage is the rate necessary to pay for the basic needs of a family of four with two working parents. This amount is calculated by the Centre for Canadian Policy Alternatives. 

For 2016, the living hourly wage in Halifax is $19.17 for a 35 hour work week, which amounts to $34,889.00 annually per full-time working parent.  The current living hourly wage is nearly a dollar lower than it was in 2015 thanks to the Canada Child Benefit introduced by the federal Liberal government.

At Lenehan Musgrave we believe all employees are entitled to earn a living wage and that all families should benefit accordingly. These beliefs are reflected most strongly in our staff compensation packages and in our unique approach to providing legal services.

We recognize how difficult it can be for many individuals to earn a living wage in our current economy, so we offer limited scope legal services for clients and families on tight budgets.  One such limited scope service that we offer a flat rate fee for are applications for child support: http://www.lenehanmusgravelaw.ca/set-price/

We also offer flexible hours for appointments on request so that our clients can meet with us without having to sacrifice income they could be earning.

Spousal Support: Obligations to a disabled spouse

Recent case law in Nova Scotia makes it clear that one spouse’s failure to attain self-sufficiency should not automatically result in a continuing obligation for the paying spouse.

Judges frequently acknowledge that society as a whole has a responsibility to individuals who are unable to work that must be balanced with the responsibility of the supporting spouse.  The Court looks to find a balance between one spouse’s need for support and the other spouse’s need for certainty with respect to their obligations and right to have a “clean break”.

There has been reluctance from judges to order indefinite spousal support awards for disabled spouses in medium length marriages (6 to 19 years). However, cases where the receiving spouse is suffering from an ongoing disability typically result in longer-term spousal support awards than what is generally awarded to receiving spouses who have decent employment prospects.  

The spousal support awards for disabled spouses are generally around the length of the marriage. This is the top end of the range for duration contemplated by the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines for medium length marriages.

Like all spousal support orders, orders for disabled spouses can be varied if circumstances later change.  For example, if the receiving spouse recovers and is able to return to his or her occupation or some other form of employment then support can be varied or terminated depending on all of the other circumstances. The support award could also be varied if the receiving spouse begins receiving CPP disability or other disability benefits.

In some disability cases, what is called “restructuring” can be applied.  Essentially this where the quantum of spousal support is reduced but paid for a longer duration. The benefit with this approach is that in certain situations it can guarantee the receiving spouse some income until they can access CPP, a private pension, or Old Age Security at 65.

Spousal support is one of the most complex aspects of a divorce or common law separation.  The quantum and duration of the award depend heavily on the specific facts of each case.  Whether you are the payor or payee, it is recommended that you discuss your case with a lawyer. The Divorce and Family Law Lawyers at Lenehan Musgrave LLP are experienced in spousal support applications. Please contact us at: http://www.lenehanmusgravelaw.ca/consultation/ or 902-466-2200 to schedule an initial consultation.

Our Artwork

You may have noticed that our lawyer profile pictures feature artwork in the background. At Lenehan Musgrave we are proud to celebrate and support local talent and all 23 paintings contained within our office are original pieces by Nova Scotian artists. In particular, we have works from such artists as Jeremy Vaughan, Leya Evelyn, Kelly Mitchelmore, Jim Darley, Sarah Conklin, Lynda Shalagan, and Louise Baker, among others.

We are always pleased to show clients, friends and family our collection of art and welcome the opportunity to discuss our artwork and our desire to support local artists and entrepreneurs. Our commitment to showcasing the paintings is reflected in the careful placements selected by our interior designer, Carey Morris, and in the lighting specifically designed to highlight the artwork done by Steven Meiklejohn of Halifax Lighting Solutions.

Lenehan Musgrave Now Offers Limited Legal Services

Lenehan Musgrave is now offering limited legal services in addition to our traditional full service. Our team at Lenehan Musgrave has been working hard to create opportunities for all clients to access family law services with prices and options that best suit their needs.

 We are pleased to offer the first of a number of services we are developing, that will be offered for a set price, inclusive of fees, disbursements and HST.

Our first set price service is an Application for Child Support, when parenting is not an issue for the all-inclusive price of $747.50.

 We understand that parents are often capable of starting the Application for Child Support on their own, but want to ensure that their documentation is completed properly, and wish to avoid the long wait for appointments with an intake worker at the Supreme Court (Family Division).

In addition, we recognize that some clients also want to be able to do specific tasks on their own, and may require assistance from lawyers on a limited basis only. At Lenehan Musgrave we are pleased to offer limited retainer services that are tailored to you.

In tailoring a retainer to you, we discuss your needs, what services you require to ensure your needs in the process are met, and we then arrive at a fee for those services. This allows the client to determine exactly the services they need and the level of involvement they want from their lawyer, while ensuring the same quality of representation as hiring a lawyer to deal with all matters.

Should you have any questions in regards to our services, please contact us at 902-466-2200 or reception@lenehanmusgravelaw.ca to see what ways we can assist you in determining what services best suit to your needs.

 

 

Lenehan Musgrave Welcomes the Expansion of Daniel Wood's Personal Injury Practice

Lenehan Musgrave is well regarded throughout Nova Scotia for the excellent quality legal representation offered to clients in divorce and other family law matters. Our firm is active in other areas of legal practice including Wills, estate litigation, administrative law, and white collar criminal law.

Daniel Wood came to Lenehan Musgrave at the beginning of 2015 from an exclusively personal injury and insurance law background. Daniel has offered representation in personal injury matters since that time.

After Daniel achieved high success in his accident victim representation, Lenehan Musgrave has decided to focus more of the firm’s attention and resources on personal injury law.

Daniel makes it his mission to maximize the compensation his clients receive. He is willing to commit the extra time, attention, and resources necessary to accomplish this. Daniel also offers a lower contingency fee than the industry norm. If you look around, most law firms in Nova Scotia charge 25% of their injury clients’ settlements as their base legal fees.  In comparison, Daniel charges 20%. Daniel believes the services he and his team provide to accident and injury clients reaffirms his and Lenehan Musgrave’s commitment to access to justice. 

Please view the personal injury section of our firm’s website at http://www.lenehanmusgravelaw.ca/overview/ and Daniel’s brief team bio at http://www.lenehanmusgravelaw.ca/our-team/

If you have been injured in an accident please contact Daniel at 902-466-2200 or daniel@lenehanmusgravelaw.ca to schedule a free case assessment.

Our Open House was a Big Success!

We would like to thank everybody who joined us in making our open house a great success! On Thursday, June 16 we opened our doors and welcomed friends, family and members of the legal community to tour our new office space and meet the members of our growing team here at Lenehan Musgrave LLP.

We enjoyed a wonderful evening of networking and great food provided by local catering company “Kitchen Door Catering”. Again, we would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to all who were in attendance, and we look forward to working with you in the future.

Please enjoy some photographs of our event taken by local photographer, Judith Morris, below!

$70,000.00 Cost Award!

Lenehan Musgrave LLP is pleased to report that a client of the firm has received a $70,000.00 cost award. Cost awards are ordered to contribute to the successful party’s legal fees and disbursements.  Costs are in the discretion of the Court, but a successful party is generally entitled to a cost award.

Trial lawyers Diana Musgrave and Daniel Wood achieved a successful result for their client after an eight day trial, which was heard in May, June and August of 2015.  Justice Jollimore of the Supreme Court (Family Division) considered the complex nature of the case when deciding that a $70,000.00 award would do justice between the parties.

The trial decision is linked below:

https://www.canlii.org/en/ns/nssc/doc/2016/2016nssc74/2016nssc74.pdf