What is PTCD and what’s the cure?
No, you won’t find this particular disorder in the official manual of standard psychiatric disorders. But that doesn’t come as much comfort to thousands of traumatized Canadians, forced to handle their own family law matters. One such self represented litigant coined the phrase to describe her own experience with the family law system.
A recent report authored by Law Professor Julia MacFarlane also documented the widespread dissatisfaction of many others in BC, Alberta and Ontario, including middle class, University educated litigants, who felt isolated, overwhelmed, and abandoned by the system.
So if this condition affects you, or someone you know, what’s my prescription for a cure?
As a family lawyer myself I have made an effort to support those who represent themselves, whether out of financial necessity or otherwise, and there are certain steps you can take to help yourself.
Firstly, PREPARE. Take the time to access available on-line resources to familiarize yourself with the basic legal issues.
But also be sure to access sites from the same jurisdiction, for example, if your family matter is in BC, don’t bother accessing on-line resources in Ontario, or complete a precedent on-line agreement from a different province. That’s because each province has different laws and terminology.
Secondly, CONSULT. Just because you now have a general knowledge of the law, trust me there will be serious legal gaps.
Now’s the opportunity to invest in spending some time to talk with an experienced family law professional, especially before you prepare your own application, or respond to one. If you don’t, and mistakes are made in the paperwork ,your case may be doomed before you start.
Also keep in mind that some family law lawyers, such as myself, will
provide legal advice on a when, and as-needed basis, which eliminates the need and cost of retaining a full-time lawyer. Technically, you are representing yourself, but you still have access to legal support when needed.
Thirdly, VISIT. Most self reps are intimidated, and totally stressed, at the prospect of going into court. This feeling is purely natural, but treatable. If you can, prior to any court date, take the time to visit the courthouse and observe some family trials or applications, which should help to put you at ease. You also don’t need the added stress of getting lost on your way to the courthouse on your first court date!
Finally, HEAL, My last prescription has nothing to do with legal advice, but at the same time will have a profoundly significant impact on both your case and the rest of your life. Being healthy, confident, and emotionally secure radically enhances the prospect that the legal choices you make are the right ones.
If you are an employee, check to see whether your company has an employee assistance program which provides free or reduced cost access to personal counselling. If not, look for other personal or group counselling resources, such as my kitchentabledivorce.ca counselling group.
Lastly, unlike most prescriptions, mine comes with no adverse side effects!