Archive for the ‘ family law ’ Category

Unbundled!

 

What’s the deal with unbundled legal services?

 

Unbundled.

 

It’s not just a term used to describe cable tv and phone services. Nowadays it’s also a term used to describe the delivery of legal services, especially in my own area of legal expertise, family law.

 

Let me explain.

 

Traditionally family law lawyers retained by a party in a family law dispute assumed responsibility for everything until the matter was settled, either by agreement or court order.

 

This included responsibility for filing or defending legal proceedings, (called “being on the record”), sending and receiving documents and correspondence, to and from, other counsel, attending all court appearances etc.

 

Retaining counsel also meant being asked to provide a monetary retainer. An inconvenient, and not so insignificant lump sum, with no guarantee usually given that the retainer will be sufficient to settle matters, and often not.

 

And as the cost of legal services has continued to escalate, this traditional model of providing family law services has become simply unaffordable for any, but the wealthiest.

 

Which is the reason that many parties have no alternative but to represent themselves, sometimes referred to as self- represented litigants (SRL’s). But even SRL’s still need access to effective, and affordable legal advice and assistance to navigate an intimidating, and complex, family law system.

 

And also the reason and motivation to provide individuals with the option of using a different, “unbundled” model, to access my family law services. What I refer to as the “pay as you go model”, which can offer significant advantages.

 

These include not having to provide an up-front lump sum retainer since you will be representing yourself, and taking direct control of matters. You simply rent my time and support, as, and when, needed.

 

My range of services could include, helping you to understand your legal rights and obligations, answering questions, assisting you to commence, appear, or respond, to legal proceedings filed by your spouse or counsel, drafting documents, correspondence etc.

 

And as I always mention to anyone who chooses this option, the more effort, commitment, and work you assume, the less you’ll pay for my services. With the added bonus, if you don’t like what I do for you, you can terminate my services easily by not renting any more time!

 

Also, since I am not retained as your counsel any and all documents and correspondence will need to be sent to you rather than me, another legal expense you can avoid.

 

In addition, since you are representing yourself you have the right to deal directly with your spouse’s counsel, whose services are being subsidized by your spouse.

 

There’s also another potential indirect advantage to effectively representing yourself, if your spouse has retained counsel. Since your spouse, no doubt, dislikes the fact they are paying heftier lawyer bills than you, this fact alone can often encourage a sudden, and much more reasonable settlement strategy, on the part of your spouse and counsel.

 

So if you happen to be involved in a family law matter, and you’re concerned about legal costs, (and who isn’t), check out lawyers like myself who provide unbundled family law services.

 

Finally, just think how impressed your ex will be to know you’re taking control, while paying less!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Traumatic Court Disorder

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ve Just Been Served – Now What?

Just been served with court documents by a burly stranger on behalf of your former spouse? Now what?

Follow these three simple, but crucial, steps, and discover what you, and your ex, still have in common.

Firstly, take a deep breath and some time to read the documents. But resist the temptation to respond by angrily calling or texting your ex to express your shock and outrage. There are several reasons for this, namely your ex may have no idea what the document actually says, and further the wording will typically be formal legal terminology dictated by your ex’s lawyer rather than your ex.

Secondly, ignore the natural urge to rip up the documents, or file them away, in the hope that if you destroy it, or ignore it, it will go away. It won’t.

Worse yet, in your absence a court can, and will, make orders. Orders which can be far harsher than they would have been if you had prepared a proper response, and also challenging and costly to overturn.

Next, with documents in hand, arrange a legal consultation with a family law professional – Scott Taylor – #102 – 19610 64 Avenue, Langley, 604-534-6361.  Expect to pay anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or more of legal advice.

Don’t expect a comprehensive review from a harried family duty counsel, or take legal advice from your dentist, or a friend of a friend, whose only family law experience is being divorced multiple times!

Thirdly, following the consultation you will need to prepare , or have prepared ,your  formal written response, possibly also including a claim of your own. If you decide to prepare your own documents, at the very least, have them reviewed by a family law professional before they are filed, to ensure your legal rights are protected.

However, if you follow these three steps there is also another, potentially far more valuable, benefit to you.

By responding in an effective professional manner, both your ex, and their counsel (if any), will know you are taking matters seriously, and intend to take all necessary legal proceedings to vigorously protect and pursue your legal rights.

Consequently, you have just laid the groundwork to encourage a negotiated or mediated family law settlement. That’s because your ex is no more interested in costly, protracted legal proceedings, than you are.

You do have something in common after all, trust me.

It’s called common sense.

Better late than never!

Cruise Control

Protect your assets like a celebrity!

While Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini was recently successful in shielding his financial divorce documents from prying eyes, the same can’t be said for the financial terms surrounding the quickie divorce of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.

According to oneUSmedia source, Katie walked away with no spousal support from Tom, or any share in Tom’s assets, certainly noteworthy considering he’s worth approximately 250 million US dollars.

All of which is not so surprising since the pair apparently inked an ironclad pre-nup, which no doubt specified no support or asset division in the event of divorce.

But before anyone sheds any tears for Katie, she will repeatedly be receiving child support payments of approximately $33,300.00 per month for their daughter Suri, until she turns 18 years of age.

Here in BC, the amount of child support is calculated by using the income of the paying spouse, and the Federal Child Support Guidelines.  I have no way of knowing how they calculated this amount for Tom.  (However, for those curious souls like me, if Tom was here working in BC and paying child support of $33,300.00 for 1 child, he would need to have an income of approximately $4,500,000.00).

However, just like here in BC, Tom is also responsible for additional expenses, such as Suri’s tuition, ($40,000.00 per year), medical expenses, etc.  In BC, Tom and Katie would share such expenses in proportion to their respective incomes, (and adjust annually), or they could simply agree to share them 50/50.

According to the sameUSsource, one of the divorce terms also specifies that Suri not attend any sort of “ residential school,” which has been interpreted by some as meaning a residential school associated with theschoolofScientology.  Not sure if that’s the correct interpretation, although I am fairly certain the exact nature of the “residential school” to be avoided, is clarified in the divorce settlement, otherwise Suri would have a difficult time eventually attending any long distance educational institutions, (such as college or university), and residing in residence.

For those of us non-celebrities contemplating a pre-nup, (also called a Marriage Agreement), it can be an extremely advantageous document to have in your pocket, (or purse), saving you legal costs, stress, and delay, in the event of a separation or divorce.

So take my advice, make like a celebrity, and get one!  Did I mention, I’m a family lawyer who prepares pre-nups and Marriage Agreements……?

P.S.  The family law regarding division of property, (and other matters), on separation are changing in March of 2013.  It’s a good time to review your options!

Breathe!

Three tips to
survive your separation!

Forget the Blame

If, and when, your relationship ends, the initial thoughts of the majority of my
family law clients focuses on blaming the other partner’s misbehaviour,
infidelity, gambling, alcoholism, etc. as the major reason for the failure of
the relationship.

My clients, considering themselves the aggrieved victims, are inevitably surprised
(and disappointed) to hear me tell them that their spouses’ alleged misbehaviour,
while no doubt an emotional minefield, has absolutely no relevance or
importance (with rare exceptions) to a court.

Far better and more constructive to take whatever steps you need to deal with your
own issues, and receive the support you need, since the only person who can
truly make you happy is you.

The first tip, find your own happiness, within.

Zip Your Lip

Readers of this blog know that I encourage parties to work out whenever possible the
basics of their separation. That’s the guiding principle of my
kitchentabledivorce approach.

However there is an important condition precedent. Namely, you absolutely must take the
time to thoroughly understand your legal rights before you have any discussion
with your partner. This does not mean talking with your well meaning friends,
your dentist, your father’s accountant, or cruising the internet.

It means actually meeting and talking with an experienced family law professional,
such as myself. But it doesn’t mean you have to retain a lawyer.

I frequently meet and advise clients on a pay as you go basis. This usually
begins with an initial hour long session, where I identify the key legal issues
in their separation, and recommend a checklist of essential elements that need
to be discussed, and hopefully resolved.

My second tip, zip your lip, until you know your legal rights.

Remember Your Children

Separation is usually preceded by a lengthy period of tension and conflict, which tends to
adversely affect children most of all. Unfortunately, with parties consumed
with their own fears and futures the mental and emotional needs of the children
are often overlooked.

Lastly, but most important of all, remember the children. Find them (and you) the
emotional help and support in their time of need, another key principle of
kitchentabledivorce.

Now, take thetime to take a deep breath, you’ve earned it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “L” Word

THE “L” WORD

Just what do you do for a living?

 

It’sone of the first routine questions asked whenever two strangers meet for the
first time. It’s about as basic and uncomplicated as it gets.

“What do you do for a living?”

But it’s also a question that causes me all sorts of anxiety.

Considering the negative reputation of lawyers these days (has there ever been a time when
lawyers weren’t ridiculed and the subject of some really funny jokes?) ranking somewhere
between politicians (mostly lawyers – not helping) and used car salespeople
(unfair to (most) salespeople) I hesitate to acknowledge that I’m a lawyer.

After all, I’ve already heard all the jokes, (including the ones about the
rats/sharks/ lawyers, etc.)

So rather than just use the “L” word I could mention that I’m a “family lawyer”.

While a “family lawyer” sounds warm and fuzzy, it’s really just a nicer way to say
that you’re a paid mercenary ( ie divorce lawyer) whose task is to achieve
legal victory for your client, and somehow emerge victorious despite the
incredible costs and related emotional trauma.

Besides, chances are ( better than 50%) that the person I’m talking to has either
experienced the ordeal of separation or divorce as an adult, or endured a
miserable childhood as the pawn of an archaic, and confrontational family law
system of justice.

Who do you know who has any kind of fond memories of their divorce, or their
divorce lawyer?

Of course, I could try and soften the “L” word by mentioning that I’m also a trained
and qualified “collaborative divorce lawyer”. That’s a lawyer who’s also
trained as a mediator, and commits to supporting their clients by attempting to
resolve outstanding matrimonial matters through good faith negotiation (ie
collaboration) with opposing counsel, rather than litigation.

But frankly “collaborative divorce lawyer” actually only sounds as oxymoronic as
“military intelligence”.

The consequence of which would no doubt be a bewildered look to what is otherwise a
simple and straightforward question.

All of which explains my standard response whenever I’m asked what I do for a
living.

“I’m looking for work, what do you do for a living?”

 

 

 

That’s a unique (you can also substitute “intriguing” or “interesting”) legal matter,” says your lawyer, smiling wryly.

While you’re sitting there smugly assuming this must mean something good, (after all it appears your lawyer is highly entertained) you’d be wrong, and here’s why.

Words such as “unique, intriguing and interesting” when uttered by your lawyer simply means that he or she is relatively (or completely) unfamiliar with the legal issues raised by your family law case. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this since your lawyers can’t be expected to be an expert at everything.

But this could also mean that your lawyer may need to spend their time, and your money, to get up to speed to understand how to handle this particular issue. Don’t hesitate to ask your lawyer about their particular experience, and if it appears lacking, I suggest that you obtain a referral to another lawyer who has demonstrated expertise in this area.

“Oh”, sighs your lawyer, “your spouse has hired Darth Vader as counsel.”

Anytime your lawyer emits an exasperated sigh upon learning the name of your spouse’s counsel, I suggest you ask for particulars.

It could be that your counsel has a past history with this lawyer which has become personal, never a good thing to have two lawyers who personally dislike each other, it can only end badly for both clients.

It may also mean that the other lawyer has a reputation for being unnecessarily difficult to deal with, such as always favouring litigation over reasonable negotiation or mediation.

If this is the case far better for you to know, and prepare, at the start, for what will likely become a protracted and costly legal proceeding.

We’re looking for trial dates.”

Going to trial is virtually always the worst possible method to resolve legal problems, including your family law case. That’s why it’s a very good idea, long before your lawyer talks to you about trial dates to discuss, and explore, alternatives such as mediation or collaborative divorce.

In fact, far better to see where your lawyer stands on such alternatives before you decide to retain them. Now that you know these “words of wisdom” pass them on!

Improving Your Odds!

When teamwork can reduce the gamble!

When life deals you the crappy cards of separation or divorce you have several options. You can decide to simply fold. Or, you can decide to play the hand you’ve been dealt, and try your best.

In my experience as a family law lawyer trying your best means actually being willing and able to make the most of your partnership with your lawyer. And believe me when I say that if you choose not to, retaining the very best lawyer will not help your case.

Here’s some advice to improve your chances in this all important match.

Early is Best

As I’ve often stressed in the past the sooner you get effective legal advice the better.

Here’s why.

On several occasions I’ve been consulted by parents, who agreed to accept supervised access, in either a consent order or written agreement (usually because it was the only access they were being offered), before seeing a lawyer.

Unknown to them was the fact that changing access from supervised to some other form of reasonable access, can be extremely challenging, squandering significant time, and cost. Expecting any lawyer to change access terms overnight in the face of determined opposition supported by a supervised access order or agreement is virtually impossible.

Always be Prepared

When you are asked by your lawyer to obtain documents or provide explanations there is likely a very good reason. Failure to produce such material or information can seriously jeopardize your lawyer’s ability to properly prepare for, and effectively represent your best interests.

Follow Orders

Some clients, to their peril, treat the terms of court orders more like suggestions, rather than binding conditions. Bad mistake.

There are few things which anger judges more, or hamstring your own lawyer worse, than choosing to disregard a court ordered term.

I recall a former client of mine who chose to overlook a term in an earlier order. Even though we were now in court dealing with an altogether different matter the judge decided, in a not so favourable judgement, to send the message to the client that court orders are not to be trifled with.

So consider your family lawyer as your partner in this potentially life changing gamble.

If you choose otherwise in the biggest gamble of your life there may be no home to go back to.

 

Just Watch Me – Sleep Soundly!

What to do next after you reach agreement with your ex.

If you value your sleep read on!

After lengthy discussion, much frustration, and considerable emotional turmoil, you and your ex have apparently reached agreement on the terms of your separation.

What now?

The best place to start is what not to do next.

This usually involves one of the two parties purchasing a Separation Agreement precedent either on-line or from a retail outlet and simply filling in the blanks. Both parties then sign the Agreement, and have it witnessed, usually by a friend or neighbour.

So what’s wrong with that?

Plenty, and here’s why.

Firstly, in all the many years that I have reviewed such agreements for my family law clients I have yet to see, even one, which was properly completed.

This means that important issues may not actually have been finally resolved or even properly settled, leading to potential (completely unanticipated) future problems.

To illustrate, I recently met with someone and reviewed their agreement. Not only was the critical issue of the waiver of spousal support left unclear, but the parties had also miscalculated the payment of child support.

Secondly, I have also yet to see one agreement which dealt comprehensively with all of the key issues, such as the possibility of the re-location of the child’s residence, or the sharing of certain child related expenses.

Lastly, because these agreements are signed and witnessed without the benefit of independent legal advice there always remains the possibility that a spouse could seek to have the entire agreement set aside on the basis that they did not properly understand their legal interests.

So much for having an agreement which you believed was final!

Which leads me to tell you what I believe is your next best step once you and your ex have reached agreement.

Make an appointment with an experienced family lawyer such as me and give them the details of your “agreement”. (Readers of this blog know it’s an even better idea to meet with counsel before you and your ex discuss and “finalize” the terms to avoid (both likely and damaging) misunderstandings.

The lawyer will be able to advise you (before you sign) if any key issues have been either omitted or misunderstood, and steer you in the right direction.

You can also ask the lawyer to prepare a draft agreement for you to review with your spouse, or at the very least have any draft agreement which you receive from your spouse reviewed before you sign. This is the very best way to avoid future complications.

After all, considering everything you’ve already been through, you deserve a good night’s sleep!

 

 

 

ADDICTED TO LOVE!

 Why love hurts and what you can do about it!

 Love hurts.

In fact, as a recent Suzuki documentary appears to confirm “Addicted to Love” is much more than just a Robert Palmer song title.

Actually the way your brain is wired, being in love triggers the same chemical reaction as any other kind of addiction.

 This is great when things are going well, but not so great when you separate. Think withdrawal, that’s right, your brain handles separation the same way that it does with any other addiction. You become an emotional wreck.

Now imagine while you are already feeling emotionally overwhelmed you are faced with the unknown and terrifying prospect of resolving your legal matters.

In such an emotionally vulnerable state you are in no condition to deal with the stress of protracted legal proceedings.

That’s why I suggest, unless it’s an emergency, to first consider your court alternative options, including utilizing either an experienced family mediator or collaborative divorce lawyer.

As both a family mediator and qualified collaborative divorce lawyer these options offer three key advantages over the traditional court process.

 - Firstly, they are non-confrontational. This means there are no points to be scored through aggressive and adversarial legal proceedings.

- Secondly, they are emotionally supportive. This means they can provide a better and more sympathetic understanding of your and your ex’s emotional states, thus improving your decision making.

 - Thirdly, they are future friendly. You and your partner get to decide your own future, not a judge.

There’s also something else you should do for yourself. Take advantage of available counselling for yourself.

 Also check out my kitchentabledivorce.ca support group which offers group members both legal guidance and professional counselling support.

 Remember love hurts – but your separation or divorce doesn’t have to!